By Diane Lemieux, co-author of the book The Mobile Life
In The Mobile Life: a new way of moving anywhere, we describe the process of moving abroad like an expedition. Parents on this family journey to an unknown land are the captains on the ship, each with their own role to play in the success of the mission. Your children are your crew.
We all know intuitively that you have a better chance of succeeding in your mission if your team members support the project: you want everyone rowing in the same direction, and with some level of enthusiasm. But it is never easy to move children from the world they know to a vague promise of a new life elsewhere.
Judging by the streams of happy faces in the international schools in the Netherlands, parents do a great job of helping their kids resettle. Sometimes, we aren’t conscious of the skills and techniques we use for helping our children adjust. Below are four skills borrowed from leadership theory that provide an approach to consciously supporting children through an international move.
- Evaluate each child in terms of their motives, perspectives, needs and attitudes to the move. Each has different needs: the age and character of each child will influence how they react to, and how you can help them deal with, the enormity of the change they face with an international move.
- Communicate openly with each child individually, and collectively as a family: explain the reasons for the move and the team’s common goal (which should be something like creating opportunities for everyone to have a good life at their new place). Describe the process of change that the family faces, being realistic with the fact that some aspects of the move are good, and others may be less so. Yes, they will miss friends, no, they can’t take their room with them. Most importantly, listen without judgement to their feelings, desires, hopes and fears.
- Investigate your new environment, like you would explore a new planet, to find the activities that make each child’s life there worthwhile. What is special about the Netherlands that will make the experience of living here memorable for the rest of their lives? How will their new environment contribute to their growth and development as individuals?
- Motivate your children by being a source of answers to question and solutions to problems. Help them be curious about their new home, and, especially with older children, stimulate them to take responsibility for the way they experience their life here.
Remembering that the family is a team also gives a role to children in the success of the expedition. Children are quick learners and may gain a good command of the Dutch language way before you do. They may get a hang of local habits and be able to explain things to you. Using the skills of this team-oriented approach to moving will avoid having a family member turn to you at some point and say ‘I am unhappy and it is your fault because I moved because of you.’ Children may not have control over the decision to move, but they can contribute to the choices about how to move and what the end result looks like.
For more tips and ideas buy the book at www.themobilelife.eu
Diane Lemieux has lived in 11 countries on five continents during which she collected 4 languages, two passports and several cultural identities. She is a journalist and author of four books including The Mobile Life: a new approach to moving anywhere.