Relocating with Kids
As an expat family that moves every few years, we think long and hard about the impact of transitions on children. We are almost done with our Relocation Workbook for elementary children and look forward to sharing it with you here. This is our cover for the book:
How experienced are we? Well, experienced enough to know we don’t have all the answers. In the last ten years we have lived for six months or more in seven places (four countries). Our list of moves is much higher thanks to problems with houses, maternity medevacs (from foreign countries) and shorter training stints. Like most parents in this lifestyle, we worry constantly about what we are doing to our children.
In the Family
I grew up on a farm in Ohio and never moved for one single second. My parents are still living on that farm! But, my mother grew up with a family that moved frequently, spending most of her time in Egypt, London, New York, and Washington DC. After she got married, she moved to the previously mentioned farm and hasn’t budged since. My husband great up with frequent moves and is one of those who has a hard time explaining where he is from or exactly where his un-accent grew on him. Of course, being a nomad is much easier than it used to be. Instead of infrequent “airmail” envelopes, we Skype, email, Facebook, text, and send pictures on a daily basis. My kids feel like they know their grandparents well because they talk to them every Saturday morning on the computer. But, there are still challenges, especially when changing residence. We love articles about what gives kids a sense of place and of “home.”
Building “Place” during transition…
From our readings and observations, we think these are the five best tips for creating a sense of place in children.
- Emphasize that “home” is family, not a place.
- Share family history. Talk about adversity, successes, challenges, and flexibility found in your family. Build a sense of place around a history of stories. Share who your ancestors were, where they came from, and how they faced challenges.
- Say a proper good-bye. When leaving a place, visit your favorite spots, take lots of pictures, hug the people you love. Allow sadness and mourning. Cry. Rant. Buy some expensive thing as a parting gift. Go eat at all those favorite restaurants. Take a farewell tour.
- Say a proper hello. When arriving at a new home make a list of places to visit. Find a new favorite restaurant as soon as you can. Introduce yourself to people and places. Introduce yourself to the manager at your grocery store and your dry cleaner. Say “hello, here I am, I’m new” to everyone and everyplace. Explore. Be excited and enthusiastic.
- Live in the moment. Mourn for your old place, celebrate your new place, and then live where you are. Try to really avoid the “when we lived in….” statements. Try not to compare. Try to say as many positive things as you can about your new home. Ask for help. Ask people to be your friend. Appreciate where you are.
There are many more tips and tricks, these are but a few. Another key point to remember, especially for me, is that moving is hard. It takes awhile to put down roots. Remind your kids that the first couple of months are tough. Commiserate, but look forward. Things will get better. Good luck. We are in this right now and looking for the light at the end of the tunnel.