When I was studying Communications for my B.A, I was asked to write a paper about my experience of growing up overseas. Little did I know then about my life, because as it turned out I was a Third Culture Kid growing up without even knowing that. A Third Culture Kid (or TCK), is basically one that grows up in a foreign culture and experiences a sense of not fully belonging to their country they live in, nor to their passport country when they return to it. In fact, TCK’s feel mostly at home in a ‘third culture’ that they create uniquely for themselves in their new surrounding.
Relocating might be one of the most difficult things for young kids for endless reasons: they might sense a feeling of strangeness, they could experience a culture sock, they will have to adapt to a new environment and sometimes even learn a new language, will have to make new friends that they know in advance they will say goodbye to one day and on top of that they had left everything familiar behind. It’s pretty much a long and youthful version of Survivor: What’s My Home?
However, despite all the hardships (the emotional and logistical ones) for both parents and their children, the abundance of advantages and positive-life-lasting-diverse outcomes – are simply priceless. Sure, it’s going to be hard in the beginning, but once they settle in and find their place, it could turn out to be the most amazing experience of their lives and they could literally enjoy the best of all worlds.
Preparing your kids, though, before getting on the plane, is just as important as when you finally arrive at your new destination. If relocating is in the stars for your family, here are some tips that could hopefully help you ease that big move for your little ones:
Talk That Talk
As obvious as it may sound, you pretty much can’t avoid it and you’ll have to have ‘The Talk’ with your kids before you embark on a new journey. Just sit down with them and explain to them like young adults what they will be expecting, how life will look like in the new place, emphasize all the good points of relocating and the ‘cool’ things that they can expect to even if it sounds childish to you, to them it’s everything. Most importantly, try to have that talk not too ahead of time and not too close to when your departure date is. They need enough time to mentally prepare themselves, but not too much time to experience anxiety attacks.
Packing It Up
Get your kids to help with the packing, if they are still a little young, they can help with bubble wrapping their favorite toys. Make them a part of the process from beginning to end so they will have a continuation of one thing that started in one place and later with unpacking the memories and the stuff from in their new home.
Cry It Out
As heart wrenching as it may be to watch your kid cry, keep in mind that it’s a totally normative response. It could be like a rollercoaster of emotions for them. They might be excited and then a minute later they’ll remember they are separating from what they know. Just give them a big hug, tell them you’re here for them and most importantly that you understand what they are going through.
Keep In Touch
Another way that could ease the transition is by letting them stay connected with their friends and family from back home. These days it’s pretty much the easiest thing to do with all the different communication media. Connect them with their grandparents at least once a week and help them keep in touch with their friends in any possible way. That way they will also have something to look forward to should you ever decide to move back. It will also give them the feeling that they have roots somewhere.
The New Room
Once you arrive at your new home, let your kids arrange their new room. It’s based on the same concept of packing their own stuff. That way they will feel like they are part of the ongoing process and will feel more confident in their new space that they have helped create.
Walk That Walk
There’s nothing like touring the new place by car, by foot or any way you’re comfortable with. Take your kids on a tour at the new environment, introduce them to their new school, the local ice cream shop and just anything that could be fun for them to get to know in their new neighborhood. It could really help them with wanting to hang out outside of the house, and not just in their familiar environment.
Give your kids as many opportunities as possible to meet new friends and people. There’s nothing like interacting with the people who are already settled in. You’ll be surprised by how welcoming new people can be and how they can make you feel so much at home away from home. At the end of the day, that’s all your kids really need.
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