Moving to a new country can be an exciting time for any family, but the ongoing success of the transition often depends on the support and welcome from the new community
Here are a few tips to help ease this transition:
- Think through the entire process - a good transition will require time and preparation and your children should be involved and included in a good part of this process.
- Let your children be a part of your move – involve them in decisions, so they can begin their mental transition. If possible take them to view their new home and school, so they are aware of where they will be moving to.
- Make sure the transition does not interrupt their favorite activities – children need to know that their interests can relocate with them. It is important to identify potential places where they can continue their favourite activity.
- Research potential schools – their school will be the portal into their new life. Their new school will become the centre of their social world. The chosen school can be instrumental in the success of your relocation, and identifying one which understands the importance of a smooth transition can be of great value.
- Transition Assistance – relocation programmes are important, some of the international schools provide opportunities for parents to meet and get involved in their communities.
- Start school on the same day as everyone else – if possible, let your children start school on the same day as all the other kids. It is when most new students start school, so your kids will feel part of the normal rhythm of the school. If this is not possible, ask the school how they will help your child adjust to the transition.
- Listen to your child – Some children are eager to meet new friends and explore their new environment, whilst others need more time to feel comfortable. Listen to your kids needs and concerns and let them set the pace.
The late David Pollock, an authority on third culture kids (TCK) and transitions, has designed a helpful acronym to help children prepare for moving to a new location.
Prepare the RAFT
Reconciliation: Don’t leave unfinished issues with the people left behind. Children can start to pick fights with their friends or act in uncharacteristic ways once they find out they are leaving. This is how they distance themselves emotionally before moving. Help your kids deal with this behavior and try to heal these rifts. Leaving happy allows them to arrive happy.
Affirmation: Recognise people, things and places that have had a positive impact on your children. Take the time to thank them and spend time with them.
Farewell: Find the best way for your children to say goodbye to those that matter to them. It can be a farewell party or a picture book of all their friends and family that are important to them. Right before leaving make sure to pack their favorite items in their carry-on luggage, so they have something familiar and comforting when they arrive in their new home.
Think Destination or Transition: Begin integrating aspects of your old life into your new home. However, there needs to be a balance between thinking of the past and integrating the present and future. Social media makes it easy to keep in touch, but don’t let that stop your kids from connecting with people in your new place.
Languages and educational Matters
Special Needs: If your child has special educational needs, this should be your first consideration in your move. Your new school may not have the same range of services or programmes available as their current school. Be prepared when you visit a potential school, bring your child’s educational psychologist reports, school records or reports from the last few years. Be open and straight forward with the new school so they are aware of what is required, thus establishing a good relationship of trust from the outset.
English as an Additional Language: Make sure to think about language transitioning. Supporting mother tongue language literacy helps your kids with a smoother transition into their new environment. Research demonstrates that continuing language and literacy in their first language alongside development of the new language is in the child’s best interest. Children then develop academically and cognitively at an age-appropriate level and are more successful in their academic achievement. They learn new language faster and have greater breadth and depth in their additional language learning. Continuing the mother tongue language and literacy in the new school ensures family connections are maintained and that the students maintain language flexibility.