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Telling the kids

Posted: Fri Mar 10, 2017 8:56 am
by CanChi4
We will be telling our middle schoolers soon about our move overseas. I have done a lot of research online about the timing, wording, etc, but would love to hear what did and did not work for the parents here on the forum. Our kids are seasoned travelers and are familiar with the country we are moving to. Also, what did you bring that brought the most comfort? We plan on bringing the stuffed animals, some special artwork, pets, etc.

Re: Telling the kids

Posted: Fri Mar 10, 2017 1:43 pm
by Thames Pirate
I won't presume to tell anyone what to say to their kids, but I do have a thought. Consider telling their teachers/current school and any other important adult support figures (friends' parents, coaches, club or youth leaders/mentors) at least something so that they can help you. Your adult allies can help you pump up the enthusiasm, let you know if there are any negative emotions or fears they haven't shared, and reassure the kids that they will be missed and welcomed home when they visit. I mean, we all like to know if there is potential upheaval in our students' lives so we can be supportive!

Are they old enough to have a blog or something? That could allow them to share their experiences with their buddies back home and gives them an outlet for any feelings. You could start early on so that they get used to the idea--blogging about how they are feeling, what they are most excited about, etc. You can make them restricted access.

I am sure it will go well, especially if they were already aware that this was a possibility. Good luck, and congrats on the job!

Re: Telling the kids

Posted: Fri Mar 10, 2017 2:29 pm
by Dredge
I'm not sure how open your family is to technology at their age, but you could let them create a Whatsapp account for keeping in immediate contact with their friends. Also, after you have told them, I would encourage them to be the ones to maintain contact with their friends back home. Often, culture shock becomes overwhelming if we feel that the people we left behind are not contacting us and that they don't like us or care about us anymore, but we have to remember that WE ARE THE ONES WHO LEFT and it is our job to stay connected to our friends, family, and culture.

I have a toddler and infant so this hasn't really been an issue, but it will be in the near future. Good luck and let us know how you handled it.

Re: Telling the kids

Posted: Fri Mar 10, 2017 9:00 pm
by aburr
Hi CanChi4,

I will take Thames Pirates approach and not tell you what TO say, but what not to say/do. I don't have any first-hand experience with this, but second-hand through my wife who moved from the States to China as an 8th grader and unequivocally her parents handled it the wrong way (this is her words, not mine). Basically, for a variety of reasons, they told her only 3 weeks before the actual move, told her that they were not happy about it either, had huge fights throughout the extended family since the extended family had the same feelings as the parents. Once overseas, the parents refused to adjust to the new culture, spoke badly in front of her about the locals and about how bad her international school was (she went to a great school as a matter of fact and she herself was very happy about the school). I mean she lived in Beijing for a year and never once saw the wall, Forbidden City, anything. Long story short, her parents did NOT want to leave America, but the Fathers job forced him to China (oil field) and they let everyone know of their unhappiness. She says that was one of the hardest years of her life.

So, in summary, I second a lot of Thames Pirates advice, but also do your best to get extended family on your side as well. Also, once overseas, make sure to take your kids out and about to show them that your new home is pretty cool (hopefully it's an interesting place culturally and historically). Also, as tough as it may be, try not to show your culture shock to your children. Even if you have visited your future home many times before, living in a place and visiting it can be two very different things.

Good luck and let us know how it goes! Crossing my fingers for you since we have a 3-year old and those times are right around the corner for us!

Re: Telling the kids

Posted: Fri Mar 10, 2017 9:03 pm
by sid
Good advice on making sure other important adults are ready to support.
As for what to bring, comfort food. Stash some favorite junk food in your shipment: candy, mac n cheese, Cap'n Crunch. So many junk foods are hard to get overseas, but when kids are missing home or having a crappy day, you can make a difference by serving up familiar favorites.


Posted: Sat Mar 11, 2017 2:43 am
by PsyGuy
My list is pretty basic:

1) Start them on new social media early. Research what you have access too and what you dont. In China for example you will need a VPN to use FB and a lot of social networking.

2) Ween them onto video conferencing apps. Face Time, Skype, Hangouts. Its too late to get that routine and exposure when your abroad. Do virtual play dates with their best friends.

3) Agree with @Sid, send ahead, pack, or identify a source of some of their favorite comfort foods, etc.

4) Tel them sooner rather than later. They need to process and work through the stages of grief.

5) Reinforce that relationship take work from both them and there friends. yes they are the ones leaving but relationships are a two way street.

6) My best advice is see if your IS can get a student mentor or house boy/girl to start socializing online before you depart. Having a friend there already can make a huge difference.

Re: Telling the kids

Posted: Sat Mar 11, 2017 3:41 am
by Overhere
Some good advice, but in the end all kids are different and will process the move in different ways. I have taken the same three kids overseas on three different occasions and have nine different stories to tell. Its not going to be a bed of roses but in the end you are giving your children an invaluable lesson in how to adopt to change. As long as you are going with a positive attitude and are an understanding and supportive parent, I don't see how you can go wrong. Good luck with your move, embrace it and it will be great.

Re: Telling the kids

Posted: Sat Mar 11, 2017 10:11 am
by Heimtun
We broke the news to our kids (one middle school aged) that we were moving to a country that they had absolutely no schema for, and there aren't a lot of wonderful stories to read online. We let them choose the few things they would bring along. Luckily, our school has a wonderful library, and Kindles provide an unlimited library on the go. Many of their friends thought moving abroad was weird, but our one son's friend who had lived abroad while his father was a Peace Corps country leader was super supportive and excited-- a godsend to a child that is always hesitant with change.
I echo the junk/comfort food statement; having some treats arrive in our shipment was a fun morale boost, and we also leave room in the summer to prioritize them coming home and hanging out with the friends that they do maintain contact with.
Having a strong family unit and talking about all the things that won't change (i.e. that you'll still all be together) may help. For what it's worth, my oldest at first agreed to two years abroad but wanted to be home for high school. It only took one year at a great international school and traveling more than ever before for him to say that he doesn't want to be back for high school. What a gift to open up the world for your children, building resiliency along the way! I'm excited for you.

Re: Telling the kids

Posted: Sat Mar 11, 2017 3:48 pm
by mamava
Tell them sooner than later. They need a LOT of time to process through the loss and leaving part. Expect them to not be as thrilled at the new adventure as you are. Expect them to be excited one minute and devastated the next. Expect to take them quite a lot of time to settle in when they get there. We have found (having moved with small children as MS/HS students) that they need to be able to express that they are not choosing the move and that may make them feel helpless or angry. If they are really excited for the new adventure, expect a "crash" (small or large) when the reality of living in a new country becomes more difficult than visiting it. There are some great books about 3rd culture kids or transitioning well.

For our kids, a personal set of things that were important to them--books stuffed animals, etc. were important. Also, those things in your house that are small-ish and easily packable that say "home" when you look at them are important. In our home, we made sure we packed Christmas ornaments and decorations. Depending on where you are headed you may want to pack some things for birthday celebrations--at different times we have brought candles, confetti, etc. when they aren't available. If they are athletes, check to make sure their gear is easily available or bring it.

All the social media is great, but some students experience another sense of loss as they watch their former lives unfolding and moving on without them. For lots of students, they manage that--for others, it can be very painful. It's important to keep communication open and respect their feelings and encourage them to be involved in their new school. It's trickier to move as a middle or high schooler than an elementary schooler and for our kids it took more time to find their niche socially. Joining groups and teams really helped.

The biggest key is how you transition as a family. If you are making the transition well as adults, that's really important. If you honor their feelings of sadness and loss, that's great. If you help them with what to say when people start asking questions, some of them not very helpful, that makes a difference. The biggest thing I've always had to remember (and we are on our 5th country) is that it takes much longer to settle in than you expect and feelings can go and down that first year. The good news is that you are probably moving into a school where there will be a lot of kids who are seasoned movers, and some who have had to make really difficult moves regarding timing, etc. In our current school, that difference-between those who are more transient, and those who haven't had to be--is a noticeable dividing line socially.

I would do it all again in a minute--and our kids would agree! Good luck!

Re: Telling the kids

Posted: Sat Mar 11, 2017 4:03 pm
by Overhere
Another thought, my kids found it the most difficult when they went home and nobody really cared where they had been or they had done. That was a big letdown.


Posted: Sat Mar 11, 2017 8:36 pm
by PsyGuy

Thats everyone, no one ever wants to see or go though someone elses travel journey. Its either bragging or boring. What are the other friends supposed to do, just sit there and listen to someone droning on about how great or exciting something new was, and say 'great a couple dozen times to everything they say, because they simply weren't part of the experience, and it isnt relevant to anything in their lives.

Re: Telling the kids

Posted: Sat Mar 11, 2017 11:50 pm
by Overhere

So what is your point? My point is kids, and often their parents, don't know this and it is a let down when they go home and many are ho hum about their exciting experiences. It can be a very disappointing.

Having said that, we have made some good friends at home based on our similar experiences.


Posted: Sat Mar 11, 2017 11:56 pm
by PsyGuy

My point is, its not a problem if it doesnt have a solution.

Re: Telling the kids

Posted: Sun Mar 12, 2017 4:01 am
by expatscot
We moved abroad with out (then) 13 year old daughter, to a country we'd only visited once on holiday and even then to a different city. Some thoughts from that experience...

1. Tell them as soon as possible. Preferably the minute you make the decision to move, even before you know where you're going. They need time to process what is happening, what will be expected, how it will affect them.

2. Involve them as far as possible in all decisions. If they decide, for whatever reason, they really don't want to move to a certain country, then don't go there. My daughter took very strongly against UAE, for some reason, and when I did apply for a couple of jobs there she really took it badly (needless to say that's not where we ended up!) Lesson learnt...

3. Once you have an offer from a school, sit down with the kids and go through the school website and information with them. You'll have done this already yourself as part of the vetting for the school, but let them see what they are getting into and that they are happy with it.

4. Get them set up with Facebook, FaceTime, etc. FB has age limits technically but if you're sensible with it then it can be really useful for keeping in touch with grannies, friends, etc. My daughter still talks to many of her friends back home, and is currently arranging what to do with them when she's back in the summer.

5. Whatever the kids say, don't expect them to be happy all the time about the move. They will see you're excited, and looking forward to it, and might not want to burst that bubble by talking to you about their worries about the move. We didn't spot this until about 3 or 4 months into our time here, and that was probably the most difficult period since our move. Get them to talk to you, their school guidance teacher / year head / class teacher before they go, and when they get there let them know about the support network available to them.

6. Prepare for homesickness. They will miss people, including some they didn't expect. Make sure that grandparents, cousins, aunties are all on side at least to the kids about the move, as if they're not it will make things worse.

7. Bring photos, favourite books / toys, clothes, anything which will give them some familiarity from home. Depending on the country you are going to, this could include pets. As others said, try to find out which of their favourite foods are not available in the country you are going to, and bring some with you to ration.

Our first move was difficult, but not impossible. We're about to take on our second, and this time we're more prepared and ready for it.

Re: Telling the kids

Posted: Sun Mar 12, 2017 8:47 am
by CanChi4
You guys are great. I have done so much research, but what you offered are real life stories - good and bad. The snack idea is a great one! I remember sending queso fixings to a friend in Beijing a few years ago. She was going crazy because she couldn't find Rotel and Velveeta (cost a fortune to send it!). Many of our family members grew up in other countries or have lived overseas so they are going to be thrilled for us. Plus, they all travel quite a bit so we will have lots of family visiting. We will be telling the kids this week. My homework is to have videos, pictures, and school information all ready for them.

I am creating a "to do" folder and will take all your suggestions and warnings and put them in the "kid" section.

Thank you again!!!