Last updated: 11th December, 2020
Planning to relocate? How to make your child’s life easier abroad
Have you just been offered a new job in a foreign country and are concerned about how well your children will settle in? Read our guide on how to make their life easier abroad.
Moving abroad with children can be richly rewarding but is also bound to require a great deal of adaptation, patience and compromise. This guide on how to make your child’s life easier abroad will offer a wealth of tips and advice to help ensure a happy home in your new country.
1. Give them space and freedom
Naturally every parent wants to ensure their children are safe and secure, but avoid micromanaging and becoming overbearing. Try to remember that you’re giving them a rare and valuable opportunity to explore another culture, so shielding them from it isn’t going to help anyone. Giving them freedom can help them make friends and establish their own identity as they grow.
2. Encourage exploration
Depending on your child’s age, it may not be appropriate for them to go exploring on their own. However, even at a young age children value independence and the feeling that they are being treated as adults. So if they’re too young to explore on their own, let them take the lead while you explore together.
3. Maintain a strong connection
Balancing a strong family nucleus while fostering independence and freedom is an incredibly difficult balance to strike. While living abroad with children offers a golden opportunity for them to immerse themselves in a new cultural experience, it’s still important to create family routines as much as you would at home. Eat meals together regularly, and make sure you put other time aside to discuss any concerns your children may have.
4. Decorate together
Of course, homesickness will be a factor for parents and children alike, so make sure your home environment is as comforting and rewarding as possible. Let your children have an active role in deciding on décor, furnishings and layout. And remember – you wouldn’t let your children tell you how to decorate your own bedroom, so it’s equally important that they have executive control over theirs!
5. Activities are key
Whatever your children’s passions, interests and hobbies, give them as much opportunity as possible to engage with you. If they prefer sedentary solo activities, such as playing video games, why not ask if they can teach you how to play? It’s really important to find ways to do fun things together with your kids, so don’t be scared to be creative.
6. Home comforts
While your children will no doubt find plenty of amazing new things about your new country’s culture, it’s vital to ensure there’s enough stuff to remind them of home. While it won’t help to make your new house an exact replica of the home you’ve left, ensure that there are enough familiar items to prevent them from feeling that they’re a million miles from where they grew up. Are their favourite foods available where you are? If not could you take a stash with you or get some shipped over? What about familiar toys and games, pictures, bedding and books?
Technology can give them a window on their old home life, as well as consistency in how they learn and communicate. A tablet or device with their favourite apps for fun or education can provide some mental down-time, as well as some much-needed familiarity if they’re feeling stressed or out of sorts. Many apps allow them to communicate safely with friends and family back home – whether via chat, video call or even playing Minecraft together – which can help kids feel connected. This ensures they can keep up with what their friends are doing, as well as sharing stories from the international adventure they are on!
7. Making friends
As part of their independence, your children will hopefully make some friends in their new environment – whether at school, through extra-curricular activities or maybe even through your new work colleagues. It’s really important that they nurture these friendships. If you notice they are struggling to make friends, do whatever you can to boost their confidence. These are valuable life lessons that will only benefit your kids when they reach adulthood.
8. Practise what you preach
It’s tricky working out how to live abroad with a family, and you’ll no doubt spend a lot of time and effort helping your children to settle. Make sure that you make time for yourself, though. If you’re not adjusted correctly, it will undoubtedly have an effect on your kids too. Be honest with yourself about how you’re doing, what you’re missing and what you can do to fill those gaps. Being honest with your children about how you’re feeling could also help you to combat any homesickness together.
9. Learn the language
If you’re moving to a country that doesn’t use Spanish as its first language, it’s vitally important that your children can learn the local lingo to avoid feeling alienated. Hopefully they’ll learn a lot at school – immersion in a language is by far the best way to acquire it quickly – but make sure to supplement that by speaking it together at home. Share new words and phrases that you acquire, and you’ll all be up to speed in no time.
10. Don’t go home too soon
Although it will be tempting to take the family back for a visit to combat the inevitable homesickness during the settling-in period, this may actually have a detrimental effect. When moving abroad, it’s much better to spend a good period of time in your new country – taking a trip too soon may actually exacerbate the homesickness when you return. If you’re all truly settled before your first trip home, you’ll enjoy it for what it is and be more positive about heading back to your new ‘home from home’.
Hopefully these tips for moving with kids will prove helpful if you’re raising a child abroad. If, however, your child has gone abroad without you (perhaps for a study placement or an international job opportunity), you can still offer your support. Maintain regular contact through Skype, FaceTime or similar apps – seeing a friendly face regularly will surely help your child to settle. Make sure not to smother them, though – remain mindful of that all-important balance between support and independence.
International money transfer
A big part of moving to a new country is making sure that the money side of things goes smoothly and doesn’t cause more stress to you and your family. Being able to quickly and easily pay for school fees, rent and medical insurance gives you the time to focus on what’s important in settling in your family. Likewise, family and friends back ‘home’ may wish to pay for treats abroad for your child.
One of the best new ways to transfer money to foreign bank accounts is PagoFX, a low-cost international payments app backed by global bank Santander. PagoFX gives you the speed and ease of an app with the security of dealing with a familiar Spanish high street bank. You can easily use the mobile app to transfer money to your child, or pay their bills abroad, from your Spanish debit card, no matter who you bank with. With low, transparent costs and no hidden fees, the service is an affordable means to send money internationally, meaning you can spend less time shopping around for rates and more time settling in to your new home.