1. Spend time with your child
It is advisable to spend as much time as possible with your children. Explore the city with them in order to familiarise them with their new surroundings. Be enthusiastic about the places you visit—your enthusiasm will have a positive effect on them. Introduce yourself to families that live nearby and join as many clubs as you have time for. If you have arrived before the school term starts, make sure your children are kept busy with activities and try to get them to interact with the other children in the neighbourhood. Describe each new experience they will encounter as an adventure and involve them first hand in planning daily activities.
2. Establish routines
When you arrive, it’s not just the children that have to adapt. Whole families do too. Often children can be upset because they don’t have the same routines at home. When you arrive in your new country it will be very important to establish a routine as quickly as possible. Children feel much happier and secure with routine so the quicker you do this the more quickly they will begin to accept their new home. Small steps such as getting them into bed and giving them meals at their usual time will help them to adjust to their new life. Keep as many habits as possible that you had before the move. This can be as simple as a story in bed or a trip to a park on a Sunday morning.
3. Make friends
For some, it is quite easy to make new friends. Others struggle to get in touch with children their own age. You can help your children by meeting other families in your new neighbourhood. Your school or people from your expat community may be able to help you with that.
Organise play-dates, join playgroups or even have a welcome party and invite your new neighbours over. Remember that in some countries it is easier to get in touch with locals than in others. If you invest time in trying to make friends, sooner or later you will make yourself at home in your new neighbourhood and your children won’t feel so foreign anymore.
4. Discuss daily experiences with your child
Clear time on a daily basis to discuss your child’s day at school and learn about the challenges and experiences they have faced. If your child is unhappy or confused about issues relating to their new educational environment try to identify these and talk them through it. If you feel that an issue is becoming serious, such as bullying, isolation or poor behaviour, take the time to visit the school and discuss your concerns with the teacher. Together you may be able to solve any problems before they become more serious. You may also wish to encourage your children to discuss their experiences with other children who are going through similar experiences.
5. Keep in touch with home
It is important for your 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 programmes such as Skype.
Also try to encourage your family and friends to visit you abroad. This helps children understand that these people have not disappeared completely but are in fact still a big part of their lives. Try to take a holiday once a year to visit your home country, too. A year can be a very long time for a child. Visiting their home country and seeing the people they love can have a very comforting effect on children.
6. Learn the language
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 they 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.
7. Join support groups
A good first step to settling in and living overseas with children is to contact different expat groups who can offer help, advice and support. Expat groups will be able to give you contact details for all mother and baby groups, toddler groups, playgroups and nurseries, all of which will help you to settle in and will offer a good opportunity to meet other families. The network you will form through these groups will also help you to integrate into the community.
We are here to support you:
Our school has a strong community of local and expat families. Your child’s school often becomes a major focus of your family’s social life.