As you probably know by now, successfully moving abroad with your children requires a lot more than merely involving them in the process. Upon arrival, you will have to find new ways of helping your kids adjust to the new environment. After all everything in your host country may look or even smell differently, not to mention the fact that people talk “funny”!
While your family has lived an ordinary life so far, you may now stick out like a sore thumb. Your language, nationality, and maybe the color of your skin will set you apart from the locals. This is not necessarily a bad thing for your kids. Expat children adapt to new situations with greater ease than adults. Other children may be curious about your expat kid because of all the things which distinguish them from the locals, not in spite of them.
Children pick up foreign languages easily. You can, however, still help your expat children learn the language of your host country by teaching them a few words and phrases. It is always a good idea to begin early with this, ideally before the move. Get them a basic phrasebook or picture dictionary in the new language and look at it together. You can practice common phrases together over dinner, for instance. That way, learning the language will be less of a chore. Once your kids arrive, it will be easier for them to fully pick up on the new language.
However, keep in mind that learning a language becomes harder for expat children the older they get. If your little ones are not so little anymore, they will have to be prepared for a higher academic standard at school and need to become advanced speakers quickly. It may be necessary to take a language class or receive private lessons in order to be sufficiently prepared – or to attend an international school catering to expat children.
For some kids, it is quite easy to make new friends. Others struggle to get in touch with children their own age. You can help your expat children by meeting other families in your new neighborhood. Your HR department or people from your expat community may be able to help you with that.
Organize play-dates, join play groups or even have a welcome party and invite your new neighbors over. Remember that in some countries it is easier to get in touch with locals than in others. But if you don’t give up, sooner or later you will make yourself at home in your new neighborhood and your kids won’t feel so foreign anymore.
It is important for your expat children not to lose touch with people at home. You can help your children contact family members and friends at home frequently. Once you have set up an Internet connection, you can show your children how to use online messengers, webcams, and programs such as Skype*.
Also try to encourage your family and friends to visit you abroad. This helps expat children understand that these people have not disappeared completely but are in fact still a big part of their lives. Try to take a vacation once a year to visit your home country, too. A year can be a very long time for a kid. Visiting their home country and seeing the people they love can have a very comforting effect on expat children.
*InterNations is in no way affiliated with this company.