Most expatriations start on a high for adults. But some kids might feel quite down on arrival, already missing their friends, or feeling fearful in an unfamiliar place. How can a parent lessen their pain?
Plenty of team spirit
Make sure both parents have time for the children during this initial phase. Forge a family team spirit. Make sure the kids (especially older ones) feel involved in all the little decisions you are taking, even if it’s what to have for dinner. Don’t place too many demands on them. They have just arrived and kids need to be eased into this new life, especially if they’re feeling homesick from the get-go.
Get them involved
Nowadays it’s easier than ever for them to avoid reality with computer games, smartphones and iPads. On arrival, keep them occupied in family affairs. There’s unpacking to do and a house to be decorated. If they make a face, ask them to choose some music.
Something old, something new
Around the house, try to balance the reassuringly familiar with the excitement of the new. For example, go shopping for furniture and let them choose something fun/cool for their room, while also finding a nice place to hang pictures of family and friends from home.
It can be fun for everyone to play the tourist, trying the food, seeing some sights or just cruising around. But it can also be very helpful just to explore your new neighbourhood. Get on the internet and make a note of the nearest family-friendly cafes/ restaurants or recreational zones and visit them together.
Remember to go easy on them. Adjusting to life in a new country can leave them disoriented, if not exhausted. It can even undermine their confidence. Exploring your surroundings is less important as just being there for them. You can’t rush or micromanage them into adjusting more quickly. So be patient and, if needs be, more lenient about screen time, too. Playing a computer game might help them relax and that’s a good thing.
Don’t take it to heart if your child gets completely frustrated or shows resentment toward you for putting them in this situation. You have to stay positive for their sake. Fear not. In the long run, the new country will start to feel like home for your children, possibly sooner than it will for you.
This article was originally published for the thousands of expat partners that Global Connection supports around the globe. It is reproduced here in its original form.