How to help your children settle into expat life

Expat family life is an excellent opportunity for you and your loved ones to enjoy new adventures overseas and experience the many exciting aspects of living as part of a different culture.

However, with your family accompanying you, you will need to consider their thoughts, feelings and wishes, particularly if you have children.

As an adult, this experience can seem a little intimidating — not only do you have to get to grips with a different way of life, but you may also have to find a new home and job, as well as complete all the accompanying paperwork and permits that go with it.

If your children are accompanying you on this big life move, a new expat lifestyle can potentially be just as disorientating for them. It’s likely that your children will be leaving family, friends and support networks behind. While moving overseas is obviously a great opportunity, it also represents a big shift and therefore it is important to consider how you are going to prepare your younger family members to settle into this new expat life. Generally speaking, the younger the child, the less impact this will have, but for older children, such a move can be challenging. Here’s our guide on how to help your children settle into (and hopefully enjoy) their new life abroad.

Ahead of leaving the UK

Before you leave the UK to enjoy your new family expat life, it’s important to do as much preparation as you can and as far in advance of your move as possible.

You need to give your children plenty of time to adjust to the big change to their lives. From the very start, you should strive to communicate clearly about why and when this will happen and constantly keep them updated in order to keep surprises to a minimum. Children like routine and order, so offer them this by ensuring they are part of the planning process. This means be as inclusive as possible with your children when it comes to making decisions about your move. Ideally, you want them to see this change as a positive one, so the more involved they are in making this happen, the more likely they will be to enjoy the move.

Give your child some control over their future

Uncertainty can be the main cause of worry when deciding to move abroad. Although you and your family might have previously visited a foreign country for long periods, it’s unlikely that you will realise what it truly means to be a resident until you’ve moved there. This is the same for your children too.

Help them feel in control of this move by involving them in choosing a rental property, letting them decide what extracurricular activities you will engage in once you’ve arrived, allowing them to unpack and let them make decisions, such as what colour to paint their room. By doing this you are giving them influence over their new life. This will help them feel more settled and willing to embrace what comes next.

Seek out social opportunities with other expats

It’s important that once you’ve arrived, you go out of your way to engage in social situations for your children and yourselves by meeting other people and creating a network of friends.

Remember that school is an important icebreaker but it’s not the only way to make friends. You should also look out for social groups, sports clubs and activities you’re interested in. If your child likes football or tennis then perhaps enrol them in a local club or group. There may well be specific activities aimed at the expat community, so do some research online and keep an eye out for any social opportunities. At the same time, it is also important to seek interactions from outside your expat peers.

Embrace the new but retain the old

You may be in a new country but you can try and minimise disruption to your child’s life by maintaining previous routines. Perhaps they always have a favourite food for breakfast or a particular bedtime practice. If so, try and stick to these schedules while also making your new home comfortable and full of familiar items as soon as you arrive. It’s also important to give your child enough time to adjust and allow them the space to take in the change. This is a huge move for them so if they are struggling, make things easier by doing this as gently as possible.

Help them acclimatise to school

Choosing a school is very important for expats. Not only is it crucial for the education of your children but it can also lead to a new social group for you. As with the rest of your new life, this new school experience can be challenging for your child as they will have to adapt to a different set of rules and processes. They will need to orientate themselves within the school, make friends and try to get the most from their studies, all at the same time.

You can aid this by visiting the school ahead of your child’s start date. This could be a virtual tour or via a Zoom conversation with a teacher. After they have started, you can ask them about the school, a typical day and the new routines and procedures they need to follow. Try to engage with other parents and their children to establish new friendship groups from the get-go.

Focus on family health and wellbeing

We all know that health and wellbeing are an increasing priority in our hectic modern lives. This is especially important when faced with a significant challenge such as moving to a new country and beginning a life overseas.

We need energy and mental space to adapt to this new world so remember to be mindful of your lifestyle and what you need to make the most of your new home.

Consider exercise, including engaging in local team sports, and remember to eat well. Take advantage of fresh produce you might not be able to access as easily back in the UK. If you’re living in a hot country, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and try to get as much rest as possible. Be kind to yourselves and each other wherever possible.

Keep communicating

Even after you have lived in a new country for a while, you and your family may still feel homesick or unsettled. Remember that it does take time to adapt to a new way of life so continuing to communicate with each other can be effective in working through this and allaying any worries. You should ask your child specific questions about their day, what the best or worst experiences have been and who they’ve been speaking with.

Remember that this is a conversation so listen to any concerns or worries, show you understand and try to focus on the positives. Staying engaged with you children other can go a long way to making this new normal enjoyable.

Moving abroad with your family is a big change of lifestyle for you and your loved ones. This means it is more important than ever to ensure you and your family have the right financial protection in place in case anything goes awry while you are away.

ExpatRoute is here to provide the necessary information to access the best policies for you. Contact a financial adviser today for more information based around your personal circumstances and specific needs.

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