How to explain to children you’re moving to another place

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How to explain to children you’re moving to another place

Any parent has a fear of having certain talks with their children, often connected to significant changes. When moving to another country for a work assignment, the talk is often something dreaded by parents themselves, because the relocation includes many changes together: new office and colleagues, new prospects, moving to another physical house, having new neighbors. And for children, it’s usually going to involve a new school or kindergarten, new teachers, new friends, and a move from all the familiar comfort they were used to. It’s basically starting a new life for a kid, while you are building your career.


Many people who have moved for work assignments admit that family issues are the worst and can have a real effect on completing an assignment abroad. So let’s discuss how to make the transition easier. Of course, every child is unique and different ages require different approaches, so we tried to gather the most popular, and, more importantly, helpful tips on the topic.


Be fully clear and open 


While it may make sense to introduce familiar analogies for kindergarten-aged kids, school-age children will prefer a clear understandable talk. Tell them what will happen, why, when, and how. Afterward, give them three reasons why they should be excited about the move.

For example:

Kids, I have something important to tell you. We’re moving to Australia because mommy got an amazing new job. We’ll be moving sometime in September. It’s going to be really great for us because:

  1. The weather is warmer there and we can spend more time in the sun. 
  2. Our backyard will have big trees where we can use a zipline.
  3. We’ll be near the ocean so we’ll get to go swimming a lot.

It’s going to be a fun adventure for our family!

Surely any country will have some advantages for your current one. Don’t be too lazy to spend some time on research and positively shape everything for your loved ones.

Let them ask a million questions, but at the same time be ready for tears and storming off to their room. Show your openness and let them know you are ready for communication whenever needed.


You’re a team and children are full-fledged members


First of all, you need to make it clear that you’re all in this together, so you will need their help at some point and you are ready to offer your help as well if they’re feeling worried or frustrated.

An interesting fact: when children are moved to another place, one of their main worries is that they don’t have any control over their environment. This was discovered by a military sociologist Jacey Eckhart, who has relocated with her family 16 times in 27 years due to her husband’s Navy career. She emphasizes the importance of giving some control to children so they feel involved: “Our kids would get the idea that we were putting stuff in boxes, so they would put a whole bunch of stuff in their boxes. And we let them pick their own rooms in their new house. A lot of times, letting the kid feel a sense of mastery, that makes the difference in the move.”


Stay positive


It is crucial to be in a good mood when preparing to talk with your kids. They are attuned to your emotions so if you feel worried they will feel the same. As it was mentioned in the first tip, try to introduce positive changes you will have after moving, but at the same time do not exaggerate and make false promises to generate excitement.

Doctoral student Sarah Rasmi promotes the idea of focusing on the positive first: ‘There is always a positive aspect to every move – whether it means that you’ll be moving “home”, exploring a new place, or taking advantage of a great opportunity. Outline the positive changes that you are anticipating before talking about how sad or difficult the move might be.

Another professional, Tammy Gold, a founder of Gold Parent Coaching, says: “Your kids look to you for cues. So if you’re positive, they’ll have a sense that everything will be okay.”  


Be clear that the decision is final


Make sure they understand it’s not a game and you cannot cancel this decision even if someone wants you to. You need to be sure of this and remain firm and cold. Expressing doubts will make your kids worry and feel even more uncertain about the move. You might need to rehearse it with your spouse, but make sure you’re away from the house. Keeping secrets and whispering at night can make things even more dramatic.


Embrace kid’s social skills


Younger kids tend to make friends based on proximity, whereas school-age children choose them based on similarities. It makes sense to talk about socializing at the new place and even have a small fun roleplay, like: ‘Hi, I’m Anna, I just moved here because my mom has got a new job’. Let your kid know that wherever they go, they can make friends easily because they are such a friendly boy/girl. If they still hesitate, remind them how they made friends at nursery school; it seemed scary but it was easy and it will be like that again. Bolstering confidence will keep both you and your kids feeling steady.


Be ready for a compromise 


Kids are smart and have a good sense of weakness. What happens when you are nervously explaining some change and you’re not sure of how they will take it? Right,  children will try to negotiate (if not manipulate) you. Have they always wanted a puppy? An expensive video game? The fact is: be prepared to negotiate and think in advance on what you can offer without hesitation; keep your aces up your sleeve. And of course, don’t promise anything unless you’re fully aware of the consequences, because otherwise, you will cause another disaster.


We will not pretend that moving is completely easy. There can be substantial changes involved for everyone and it’s particularly harder on children. However, it can help them flourish, make friends, and develop resilience to change too, setting them up for life. Nonetheless, while you need to be prepared for the challenges with moving children around the world, Clearmove will help with everything else.

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