Travelling with your children in tow can, at times, be challenging.
Especially if taking to the skies. Ah, the times I have asked myself, as our youngest little darling screamed and wailed for no apparent reason, why we can't just put them in the hold with the luggage and pick them up from the carousel at the other end - but then I remember that I would surely fall foul of the inevitable air crèche investigation... Sorry, I know that was as painful as flying with Ryanair but I just couldn't resist it.
Down to serious business. If you are relocating there is a fair chance that, as parents, unless you put them into boarding school you will bring your children with you. This brings with it a unique set of challenges - both for the parents and the children. When I say "children", I don't just mean little kids of 5 or 6 - I mean children up to the age of 18. I know it can be difficult to consider an 18 year old as a child - perhaps I should have used the word "offspring" instead - but you get the idea.
When relocating with children, the most important point to consider is that they are not relocating as a result of their own choices. If your company asks you to relocate to Singapore for two years, this will impact your children - and they didn't ask for that. It is easy to dismiss your children's feelings throughout the process but taking a little time to understand their pain points will help alleviate any concerns they have, and make life a little easier for the parents at what is bound to be a busy and potentially stressful time.
To help you through this process and to try and make the transition as smooth and pain-free as possible, we have put together a few pointers to help you and your children stay sane throughout the process.
1. Be honest and open
Your children trust you - or at least they should do. You need to maintain that trust throughout the relocation process by being up-front with what is happening. Tell them about the plans as soon as you can as this will give them time to think through any issues they may have. They will appreciate your honesty. Listen to their concerns. Your child will feel some uncertainty, which is only natural, so show them you care about their feelings by listening and discussing their anxieties.
2. Involve them
If your children believe that you have considered their feelings and attitude towards the process, they will naturally be more receptive to it and give you less grief. How about doing some research on the new area together? There are so many resources online now, so you can investigate the country, the local area, the city, specific venues... Look for schools, clubs, shops and plan travel routes.
3. Learn a language
If you are moving to a country whose official language is not your mother tongue, you may find that your employer may pay for language lessons. If not, give your children a head start and get some language lessons for them. This will also help them start to understand a little about the new country, its lifestyle and customs and being able to communicate at even a basic level with the natives will help them to integrate.
4. Draw up a packing list
Let them decide what of their own items they want to take. Allowing them to make decisions will help them feel involved in the process. If they have to leave any items behind (e.g. they are too costly to transport or there just isn't room) check to see if they are available in the new location. At the other end, let your children unpack their stuff - this will be a distraction for them and will also include them in the process.
5. Enrol them in school
There will no doubt be concerns that your child will be the "new kid on the block" and be the subject of much attention but this will soon pass. Getting your children into school as soon as possible will give them a focus and allow them to make friends and integrate into the new way of life sooner. You will find that most schools will use a buddy system to help your children settle in. At international schools, this is usually somebody from a similar origin so that there is some degree of familiarity and common ground.
6. Seek out hobbies and clubs
Whilst school may offer some suitable extra-curricular clubs for your children, it can also be worthwhile searching beyond the school for clubs and organisations where your children can continue their hobbies (or even take up new interests) and make new friends.
7. Remember home
For a child to uproot and leave behind friends and family can be a traumatic experience. For younger ones, leaving Flopsy the rabbit with granny will reduce them to tears. Your teenage daughter is in pieces because she has to leave the boyfriend she's had for 3 months. He's much too cool to get upset, of course, but she is in meltdown. Your son's devastated because granddad won't be able to watch him and his mates play football in Singapore.
It's all so unfair.
Thankfully, in our modern era, such separation is not as painful as it used to be. When I was a kid, we would have to write and post letters as the internet didn't exist, and the land-line phone was for emergencies only, said mother. Just for the record, mobile phones didn't exist, either. But look, today there are international calling tariffs for your smart phones, email, Facebook (if you want to check on your friends' cats or eating habits), Twitter, Whatsapp, Snapchat (whatever that is), Instagram, Pinterest, blogs, and good old Skype. They're free to use, so jump on frequently and the world becomes a much smaller place.
Need any help with your move and getting your kids or spouse settled? Drop us a line here.
Image by Shardayyy