4 Gentle Ways To Help Your Child Adjust To A New Country

Getting used to new surroundings, cultures and language may be a lot to take in. Here are gentle ways to make your child moving to a new country a smooth one.

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Getting used to new surroundings, cultures and language may be a lot to take in when migrating to a new country. Young children, while mostly easily adaptable, can subconsciously have changed behaviour due to the struggle from an out-of-country move.

Olga Mecking, a Polish woman blogger who moved to Germany, states on her website: “A move of any sort, far or near can change the way children behave. They may regress to bed wetting, refuse to eat certain foods, become very clingy or have trouble separating from a parent, refuse or fight to leave the house, use more back talk or flat out refuse to cooperate with requests.”

Mecking stressed that your child’s changed behavior is natural. She writes, “This misbehavior is often a developmentally appropriate, in other words, totally expected and quite normal way, for children to express their confusion, dislike, fear, excitement about the move. While you don’t need to excuse the bad behavior, instead of punishing it, try to see it as a signal that your child is trying to express his needs and thoughts about the move and look for opportunities to listen and find solutions.”

So what’s an expat mum going to do? Here are gentle ways to make your child moving to a new country a smooth transition:

1. Address and emphatise your child’s feelings

Remember that any change in the familiar will either have a positive or negative impact to a person. Put yourself in your child's shoes; leaving all his friends behind, being the new kid school, and trying to blend in the local culture are not exactly the things that won’t exactly excite them.

If you’re happy and contented about the move, don’t forget to acknowledge your child’s differing feelings. Make your son or daughter feel that you are aware of their sadness or disappointment, and assure them that you will be there for them whenever you need them to. Empathy and validation helps kids realise that all feelings are normal and therefore they will be able to go through them and conquer them.

2. Maintain old routines

As much as possible, continue everyday rituals you did prior to the move. This may require some adapting due to cultural norms, yet most children feel more safe when they see certain routines still continued. In most cases, the little things you do are the ones that will help them carve out a familiar haven in a new environment.

3. Retain the family language

Language is not only about enunciating a bunch of words; it’s a foundation of understanding from birth to safety and trust. A family that speaks the birth language within the family members creates the feeling of home. Mecking also writes, “Even if you are fluent in the language of the country you have now moved to, avoid suddenly refusing to speak your family language just so the children will learn the new language.”

4. Seek help from fellow expats

Talking to a person who is going through or has gone through a move to another country is one of the best helps you can find in your new environment. Fellow expats who have settled earlier than you and your family can give you valuable tips on making your child comfortable. Don’t know where to look? You can find parent expats in online forum, your neighbourhood or your child’s school PTA meetings.  

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[Source: The European Mama]

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