Making a Big Move with Little Children


Moving overseas can be scary for adults, but an international move can be downright terrifying for children. Remember, they don’t understand the world the same way we do. Children don’t understand logistics or distance or finances. They can struggle to see how moving to a different country is not like a holiday. Expect to field the same questions over and over as they try to make sense of what is happening. You can also take some proactive steps to help your children understand the big move and what will and will not happen.

Remind them frequently that you will be together. Explain that your family will be living in a new house together in a new country. They can focus on one aspect such a parent’s new job or talk of their new school and fear that only one of you is going away. Keep them in the loop about the moving process, but be clear with them that this is an adult decision that they cannot veto. Avoid being drawn into debates about why you are moving or what to include in your personal shipping.

Show and Tell about the Overseas Move

Children tend to be visual thinkers. One way to help them understand is to explain it using visuals. You can prepare them for both the process and your new home with story books and the internet. Look for tourism sites with good photos of the area, including places you will go such as beaches and parks. Show your child the website for the local library and school; those often have photos of the buildings that will give your child a concrete idea of what to expect. You can also find video tours of many places on YouTube, but always preview these to make sure they are suitable for children.

Many parents have found having a visual schedule of what to do helps their child get ready for school in the morning. You can adapt that idea as you prepare for your international move. You can draw a plane to show your family travelling and a ship or truck to show your personal items being shipped.

It’s tempting as a parent to view a big move as a golden opportunity to clear out all the toys our children have outgrown but still cling to. While you certainly can do this, try not to go overboard. Allowing your children to choose some comfort items will help them feel at home in the new place. They have no control over the move, but being able to pick a few familiar toys to bring can make it all less frightening.

Consider how you can make your new place more familiar when you decide what to including in your personal shipping. Bringing their bedding will help them sleep in a new place. Seeing their familiar dishes on the table at meal time can ease their stress. (And you might find it decreases your stress to have a few familiar kitchen things too.) If you have framed artwork and photos in your home, hanging them up in your new place will instantly help your children feel right at home.   With a little planning, you can take much – but not all – of the anxiety out of an international move for your family.