Easing the Transition
In my last post we talked about what to expect when moving with kids. Now let’s talk about how to make these transitions easier on your kids. I sent a survey to US Foreign Service families and I got some great responses on what has helped get kids through these time periods.
While the physical aspects of a move might not take that much time, the planning, preparing, settling, and adjusting do. For those of us raising TCK’s, this isn’t a one-time thing; this is a lifestyle. Personally, it seems as though I am just getting comfortable in a place, and then it’s time to pack up for yet another move. With this in mind implementing strategies to use with your kids can be very helpful during the transition period so that they adjust faster.
Before I get into all the great advice from many expat families, there are two things that I think are particularly important to help your children navigate moves. The first is to let your child grieve what they are leaving. Normalize the experience for your children. Let them know it is ok to be sad; it’s ok to cry. Let them talk about their feelings. If they are too little to verbalize their feelings ask them to draw you a picture or try using puppets to talk about feelings. Make a point of saying goodbye to things. Take pictures of everything that is important to them. Children don’t understand what grief is or what they are experiencing and need your help getting through it emotionally.
Second, remember to empathize as much as possible with yours kids during this time. I know this as therapist, but I have to remind myself as a parent. It is very likely that your child may experience some regression, sadness, or anger. Empathize and accommodate and these emotions and behaviors will likely pass sooner. You are not spoiling your child by accommodating, you are providing them with the support needed to get through this transition, a transition that they have little control over and results in their entire world being turned upside down.
Foreign Service Family Tips
As I mentioned, y’all gave some really great tips that I have found helpful and interesting. Many parents discussed the importance of providing love, patience, understanding, hugs and cuddles throughout this process, while many also provided tangible tips. Based on what I collected, I’ve already implemented some with my family and I know some would never work for us. So, read through the list and look for the suggestions that might work for you and your family.
Before the Move
- Talk about your current home and what you will miss about it.
- Include children in talks about upcoming move; allow their input if possible.
- Research your new post, read books, look at websites, try to find activities you can do soon after arrival.
- Have teacher at school create a lesson about the new country you will be moving to.
- Make a countdown calendar detailing what will be going on each day up until the move.
- Allow your kids to determine which of their stuff should go in UAB/ HHE or in their suitcase.
- Bedding is something a lot of parents talked about. Some people specifically kept their kids old bedding for consistency and a feeling of home. While others let their kids pick out new bedding to get them excited about their new room. Either way, send it ahead so it is there when you arrive.
- Order decorations for room, wall decals, window treatments, rugs, etc.
- Encourage your child to pick up a hobby that they can bring from post to post (i.e. musical instrument, boy scouts, sport).
- Create a “social story” drawing pictures of what will happen on each day during the moving process and put them on the wall in sequential order so kids would know what to expect.
- Put post specific presents for your kids in UAB.
- Have a goodbye party.
- Keep them as busy as possible.
During the move
- Bring toys and stuffed animals for home leave.
- Let kids be in the house while the movers are there, let kid color on the boxes, something to look forward to when they arrive at post.
- Save UAB boxes for playing until your HHE arrives. Pinterest has great ideas. https://www.pinterest.com/explore/cardboard-box-crafts/
- Send one parent ahead to setup the house and smooth the transition.
- Bring a jigsaw puzzle in your suitcase to your new post so your family can work on it before UAB/HHE arrives.
After the move
- Get back into schedule as soon as possible.
- Unpack kids bedroom first, then kitchen.
- Maintain traditions- pizza night, movie night, family dinner time, game night, etc.
- Look at pictures of old post, talk about old post, let kids know it’s ok to talk about former post.
- If kids are having difficulty in the new school, talk to school counselor or switch schools if necessary, consider home schooling or online classes.
- Obtain tutoring if needed.
- Visit restaurants or cook foods from former culture.
- Many families talked about church and family prayer and how it helps ground their family in their new community and provides tradition and ritual wherever they are in the world.
- Discuss likes and dislikes about new post.
- Allow more time with parents, sleep in bed with parents as a reward.
- Family meetings to talk about feelings.
- Involve teachers and ask them to communicate frequently how the kids are doing the first few months at a new school.
- Set schedule that includes daily school time, outdoor time and family time.
- Encourage and create opportunities for communicating with friends and family: skype, email, letter-writing. Keep kids connected to other TCKs, FS kids.
- Create opportunities for kids your kids to make friends as soon as you arrive, have play dates, invite kids over to your house, involve them in activities, attend church.
- Ask for help.
- Accept that it might take time for them to consider your new post home, if ever.
- For kids having a hard time, meet them after school or have lunch with them.
- Eat the local food.
A few other things to consider at any stage of moving….
- While some parents were adamant about not allowing screen time, others were more open to allowing extra screen time during this period, helping kids to set up social media accounts in order to stay in touch with friends, and/or downloading apps to help with the transition. Suggestions included:
- Sesame Street’s Big Moving Adventure App https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-big-moving-adventure/id740679545?mt=8
- Make a personalized moving book online with Twig Tales https://www.twigtale.com/books/my-family-is-moving
- The importance of positivity was discussed a few times. One respondent shared ”After being the CLO* for two years, I noticed that the kids who had the hardest time (consistently) often had really negative parents.” Personally, I agree that it is important to be positive, however, it is also important to model to your children healthy ways of dealing with emotions. Not everything is going to be positive during a moving experience and that is ok. Showing your kids that you are sad about leaving a post for example, lets them know its ok to be sad too. You can balance that by letting them know that you are still really excited for your next post. It’s important to strike a balance.
Thanks for reading. Please let me know what techniques and tips have worked for you. In my next post I am going to discuss making coping boxes with your kids. They are great tools for stress management and can act as fantastic transitional objects for moving. Please subscribe below if you are interested in learning more.
*CLO: A community liasion officer at a US Embassy, charged with maintaining morale for the embassy community.
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