Moving overseas is a huge step for anyone, even more so for children. If you’re planning a move to Spain (or anywhere overseas) it pays to start early with a plan to help your kids adjust to moving abroad.
Holly wasn’t impressed when we told her we were moving to Spain. She was naturally upset about leaving her friends, family and school – at one point she even told us that we would be ruining her life! But fast forward 18 months and she tells us that moving to Spain was the best thing ever and although she still misses friends and family she only wants to go back to England to visit.
Having your children on board with the move will definitely make your lives less stressful during such a life changing decision for the whole family, so if you’re planning a big move to another country, here are some tips from us on how to help kids adjust to moving abroad…
Give them time to get used to the idea
Whilst you might not want to worry your children until your plans are more solid, it’s definitely a good idea to give them plenty of notice of such a big change. This gives them the chance to get used to the idea and ask questions, as well as no thinking you’ve just made the decision without consulting them.
Involve them in the planning
It can be a big help to involve children in as much of the planning as possible and make them feel like they have an input. Talk about which areas you’re interested in, when you plan to go, how you’ll get there, what fun things you can do when you move. This way they feel as though they’re a part of the decision and you might be able to include some of their concerns in your planning as well.
Talk to them about all the positives
When planning a move on this scale you’ll probably have your own list of pros and cons. Sharing the pros with children is a good way to show them how amazing their new life can be! If you’re moving your family to Spain, tell them about the weather, the beaches, all the time they can spend outside, access to a swimming pool, longer summer holidays, and lots more. We have a list of things we love about living in Spain as a family that might help.
Get their help to ‘choose’ your new house
If you have more than one new house to choose from, let your kids take a look either in person if you can visit ahead of your move, or by scrolling through photos on Rightmove or whichever property site is popular in your new country. Find out which ones they like best and why. Chances are you can persuade them to choose your favourite by letting them know all the great things about it!
Let them pick things for their new bedroom
Before we moved over we let Holly choose her new bed (she had always wanted bunkbeds) and a desk for her new bedroom. As soon as we arrived we went out to buy bedding, cushions and posters all of which she chose herself. It definitely helped her to get excited about the new house and have a better bedroom than she’d left behind. If they want to take things from their current bedroom this can also help them to settle in.
Visit their new school
Starting a new school is always scary and kids don’t know what to expect. If you’re going to be putting them into a school where English isn’t the first language it can be terrifying! If possible, take a trip to visit their new school before you move over permanently to help your kids know what to expect.
We had a few days in Spain during the month before we moved over and managed to pop into the school to meet with the teachers and have a look around. Once Holly had seen the building, classrooms, playground, and had been shown around by another student she felt much more relaxed about it. They might even find some things on the visit that makes them excited about starting at the new school – in our case it was a play park, chickens in the playground, and seeing the kids not having to wear uniform! Once you’ve made the move, this post on helping kids settle into school in Spain may be useful.
Plan visits ‘home’
Making sure your children know when you’ll be able to head back to see family and friends or when they’ll be coming to visit can really help them to deal with the move. Within the first few months of moving to Spain we had visits from grandparents and friends which showed Holly that it wasn’t a case of never seeing loved ones again.
Speak to friends and family via video calls
Video calls are great to help kids cope with moving to another country, as they can still ‘see’ friends and family via WhatsApp or Zoom. Even though it’s not the same as seeing them in person it does help if they’re feeling a bit homesick. Arrange lots of calls during your first few weeks, and then you can probably cut down to one a week as your children adjust.
Explore your new town
Wherever you move in Spain there’s bound to be lots to see and many things that are different from home. Spending time exploring your new hometown and surrounding areas is exciting for kids, it’s like an extended holiday! We suddenly had mountains, beaches and countryside to visits, plus new parks, outdoor swimming pools, skate parks, shopping centres, and more.
Keep them busy
We moved to Spain at the end of May and the weather was fantastic, plus there was no school until September. This gave us chance to get out and explore our new area and enjoy the sun. Between that and having access to our own swimming pool, Holly didn’t really have much time to get too homesick. If you can’t get out and about because of the weather, school, or work you can still keep kids occupied with activities or helping with jobs around your new house and garden.
Help them to make new friends
Leaving your friends behind is a massive thing to a child and starting over in a new country with no friends is a big deal. As we had a few months before starting school we made sure to sign Holly up for dance classes in our village where we’d been told that most of the girls were from her new school. We also spent time at the local outdoor pool where all the local kids spend their summer holidays.
Organise extra language lessons
Being surrounded by people speaking a different language is hard, and can make it difficult for children to get used to at first. Organising some extra languge tuition with a private tutor helps them to pick up the language quickly and be able to talk to other children at school or in the park. Once they can easily communicate with other kids, you’ll find that they settle in quickly.
If you take your time to plan and think about what your child might worry about, you can definitely make such a big move much easier and help kids adjust to moving abroad.
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