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Effective Communication Is the Key to a Successful Family International Move

Moving, and especially moving internationally, is one of the most transformative experiences a person can have in life. When you add in the element of moving with children, this is even more the case. However, moving presents a multitude of opportunities and challenges and for expat families, especially those from diverse cultural backgrounds, the transition involves unique dimensions when children are part of the equation. So, how exactly do you prepare your little ones for the adventure of a new country, a new culture, and possibly, a new language?

In this post, we’ll uncover key strategies and insights to make the transition smoother for you and your children and a more enriching experience for your family overall. Whether relocating for work, seeking a different lifestyle, or fulfilling a long-held dream of adventure abroad, going through the family international moving process with thoughtfulness and foresight can make all the difference.

Communicating with Your Child About the Move

The first and most important step in the process is fostering open and transparent communication with your child. Clear and consistent communication is the bedrock of preparing your child for an international move. Therefore, it is vital to tailor your conversations to their age and development stage, ensuring they feel heard and included.

How to Frame the Conversation – Be honest about the reasons for the move. Whether it’s an opportunity for growth, exploring new horizons, or another reason, help your child see the positive aspects of the change, and how it fits into the larger family plan.

Ease Anxiety Through Understanding – For young children, use simple language and concepts. For older kids, you can involve them in the decision-making process for aspects like choosing housing or school, giving them a sense of ownership and control amidst change.

Maintain a Supportive Environment – It is normal for you and your children to feel a range of emotions when facing an international move. A great way to process these emotions is to create an environment where it’s okay to express fear or sadness. Be sure to encourage discussion about the exciting new adventures awaiting in the new home.

Language and Learning – If the new country speaks a different language, consider learning the basics together as a family. This not only eases anxiety but also demonstrates a collective commitment to the move.

Things to Do When Communicating with Your Children About the Move

Portrait of happy black family playing and celebrating relocation, laughing daughter riding her brother in carton container, preparing for family international move
Image: iStock

Helping your child cope with an international move involves effective and empathetic communication. Here are some helpful tips to guide you through these conversations.

Active Listening – Listen to your child’s concerns and joys about the move. Active listening helps develop solutions and shows empathy, reassuring them that their feelings are normal and valid.

Share the Bigger Picture – Relate the move to your family’s values and goals. This broader perspective can help children see the move as a meaningful part of the family story.

Encourage Emotional Expression – Expat (or soon-to-be) children face a unique set of emotions. Create a safe space for them to feel and express all the feelings related to the move, without judgment.

Things To Avoid When Communicating with Your Children About the Move

While it’s crucial to communicate effectively, it’s equally important not to overwhelm or create undue stress for your child. Avoid these pitfalls in your communication strategies.

Information Overload – Children can feel overwhelmed if they receive too much information at once. Timing and content are key. Break up the information into bite-sized pieces and provide additional context as needed.

Dismissing Their Concerns – Never belittle or dismiss your children’s worries about the move. Their concerns, no matter how small or seemingly trivial, are significant and should be addressed with care and respect.

Ignoring Their Input – Your child’s life is about to change dramatically, and it’s important to involve them in the process. Ignoring their input can lead to feelings of powerlessness and uncertainty.

The key to a successful transition for your child during an international move is clear and open communication and an understanding of their emotions and concerns. At the end of the day, this is a learning opportunity for both you and your child and the start of a new chapter in the family’s life. With the right approach, an international move can empower your child to be adaptable, culturally rich, and more globally engaged.

Lia Miller

Lia Miller, is an award-winning writer, foreign policy expert, and clinically trained social worker with emphasis on childhood and family dynamics. Her work has been featured in Parents, Business Insider, Essence, Ebony, Huffington Post, Griots Republic Travel Magazine, Group Travel Leader, Blavity, and many others.
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