What a whirlwind and emotional rollercoaster the last few months have been for our family! After nine years of school abroad, my son graduated from high school in May and we’ve spent the last few months getting him repatriated. This included getting his driver’s permit, teaching him how to drive, how to set up a bank account, how to find a job, driving him to work because he didn’t have a license yet, having his wisdom teeth pulled, hosting a graduation party and now I am getting ready to drop him off at college on August 16th. I am exhausted, but proud and he is ready! All this while working hard to put the finishing touches on my elementary-age product line for international families. It is finally ready and I hope you will take the time to visit the ‘store’ and check them out. If this is your first move abroad, I think you will find the booklet, ‘My New Country, My New Home’ particularly helpful in getting your elementary-aged children started off on the right foot. No matter how old your children are, I hope you will find the following article, ’10 Tips for Terrific Transitions’ helpful. If you would like to include a hard copy of this article in your International School Admissions packet or at a New Family Welcome coffee, follow this link: 10 tips for terrific transitions.

10 Tips for Terrific Transitions

Welcome to your new international school! If you are like many new expatriates, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed and that is to be expected. But did you know that you are not alone? According to an October, 2015 study by the International School Consultancy, there are over 8,000 international schools teaching over 4 million children? This means that every year, there are thousands of families around the world going through the same process you are.

Moving overseas can be a stressful experience for children but there are many steps you can take to help them navigate this change in their life. Research shows that actively involving them in the process can reduce stress and greatly influence their ability to adapt to their new environment. With this in mind, I’d like to share ten tips to help with your child’s transition, settling in, and moving forward so that they can not only survive, but thrive, from the experiences they will have while living abroad.
1. First Things First: As parents we know that without enough sleep and food that they enjoy, our children become less ‘enjoyable’. Things can be pretty hectic during the first month or so after a move, so make sure your child is getting plenty of rest. Take them with you to the grocery store to find some familiar foods they like as well as some new ones they want to try.
2. Health & Safety: Depending on where you are in the world, your comfort level with health and safety resources will vary. If possible, work with your employer or relocation agent to address any safety concerns. If this is not an option, talk with school staff and other expats to get advice. No matter where you are, one of the first things on your agenda should be to find a primary care doctor, locate the nearest hospital, and provide the school with any necessary medical information about your child. An injury or illness is stressful enough, you don’t need the additional stress of trying to figure out where to go or how to get medical attention if your child is sick or injured.
3. Routines and Rituals: Children thrive with routines and rituals provide comfort and stability. Unfortunately, the moving process disrupts most of them. Think about what routines are important to your child and do your best to establish them quickly in your new home. Maintain family rituals if possible or consider starting new ones. Helping your child to begin and maintain predictable routines will allow them to feel more comfortable and settle in more quickly.
4. Get to know your new family: Those parents you see at the ‘New Parent Coffee’ or in the hallway at school- these are the friends you haven’t met yet. This is your new family. Over the course of this school year and beyond, many of the people you see will become dear friends for life. Their children and your children will be best buddies. So don’t be afraid to say hello, invite someone for coffee, schedule a play date, or even take a family trip together. Your life and those of your children will be richer as a result of knowing the people in you new school community.
5. Get to know your new community: Invest the time in helping your child to get to know their new community. This might include taking a tour, going for a walk or bike ride, and visiting stores and restaurants. Allow your child to find some favorite places and go back to them frequently during the first few months. After you get settled, continue to explore what your community and those surrounding you have to offer.
6. Use your resources to get involved: Thanks to globalization and the Internet, resources to support expatriate children and their families are more abundant than ever- so be sure to use them. Your school’s Parent-Teacher Group is a great place to start. There are also community centers, women’s groups, tour companies, sports organizations, and houses of faith. Each of these resources offers you an opportunity to help your child and family get settled and established in their new community. So don’t be afraid to ask around, expats love to help other expats!
7. Try new things: One of the biggest mistakes you can make as an expat is to try to duplicate your child’s life (and your own) in your new country. It is just not possible. Remember, this experience is about growing and learning new things, and while your child may still be able to play soccer or violin in your new country like they did at home, I strongly encourage you to help your child discover a new interest or develop a new talent. Whether it’s dance, music, sports, hobbies, or charity work, exploring new interests outside of the school day will help them connect with their new country and culture.
8. See the world: Forget saving money for college! OK, maybe don’t forget entirely, but be sure to take full advantage of the travel opportunities around you. See the cities, learn the history, enjoy nature! Teach your kids to read a map, navigate the airport, ride the subway and hail a taxi. Not only will you make wonderful family memories, your children will learn more about the world and how to move around safely in it.
9. Preserve your memories: You will have so many new experiences with your children while living abroad so give some thought to how you might want to remember them. Of course, you will want to take many photos and video, but you can also collect souvenirs or jewelry items, make a blanket out of t-shirts, or collect holiday ornaments. Be creative! Whatever you decide, get your children involved in the process.
10. Grow where planted: As you meet new friends who have been expats for a while, one of the things you will likely hear about is how much they and their children have grown as a result of this experience. Research shows that living and growing up abroad helps children become more adaptable, resilient and confident while developing intercultural competence, leadership skills and a global perspective. So on those days that you question why you made the decision to move abroad (and trust me, you will have those days), just remember you will all be better for it!

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Best wishes for a smooth transition and priceless family memories! -Mindy