Tag: children moving abroad

Expat Grief – The Ugly Side To Moving Abroad

I recently did an article on top tips to help children moving abroad.  That post was designed to help them settle in and make the move a smoother experience for them.  However, even if you follow all of these and more, you are likely at some point, for someone in the family to experience expat grief – the mourning of the loss of their old life.  For the adults who made the decision to move it may happen to them as well, but in this post I want to talk about the children, who moved because of their parents’ decision.  It is a scary and traumatic life changing event for any child. But generally, the older the child, the more they stand to lose, as the more they have built their little lives up where you were originally living.

What Is Expat Grief?

Expat grief is the mourning of the things you have lost by moving away from one country to another.  This might be friends, old homes, their hobbies, or family amongst other things.  Twin 1 desperately misses a certain play park we used to go to near where we lived.  It may be something totally unexpected and less obvious.  It is very important that these losses are worked through, and that time and energy is put into doing that, as and when it is needed.  From our experience with our eldest child, this doesn’t happen when there is a space free in the diary, it happens when you are up to your eyeballs in everything. But at that moment, the most important thing is to drop all the balls you are juggling and focus on that child grieving…be present right then.

Why Do Children Differ In Their Expat Grief?

Children manifest any grief in a different way from adults.  They live in the here and now, so while they play and laugh still, it would be easy to misinterpret that to mean that everything was rosy and the move had not provoked any emotional issues.  However, the sadness might still be there.  Their sadness is not as consistent as an adult’s, and we mustn’t forget it will still need handling sensitively and delicately even though it isn’t present and making its presence known all of the time.

Tips To Help A Child With Expat Grief:

  1. Recognise that they feel isolated in that moment.  Don’t say “but”, or try and remind them they have made new friends.  Their feelings of isolation are very real in that moment, and so trying to point out positives is not what is needed.  That is needed later, when they feel a little more positive, and then you can discuss what you do like about where you have moved to.
  2. Let them know they are not alone dealing with this, and that you are totally there with them 100% at that time (hence dropping everything for them there and then).  Be fully present with them.
  3. Tell them, that whatever feelings they are experiencing, whether anger, confusion, or sadness….(with our little lady at the moment she gets bouts of being very sad for her 2 best friends in the UK) that they are totally normal.  Don’t make light of their feelings or brush them under the carpet.  You need to be open and responsive to them.
  4. Be non-judgemental with your listening.  Be quiet and just LISTEN.  Don’t try and reason, justify, or explain. Just listen.
  5. Look for behaviours that flag up that your child is perhaps not coping as well as you thought.  This might be not wanting to do activities/hobbies they usually enjoy. They may be retreating away to their bedrooms and being less interactive with everyone else in the family. Or they may be suffering from mood swings that are unusual for them.
  6. When they are feeling a little bit better, and you have chatted about the losses that have happened, talk about the things that are not changing together.

It is so important not to leave expat grief unresolved or brush it under the carpet.  It will only rear its ugly head at a later date in the form of behavioural issues or emotional difficulties, or both.  Then as adults they may even suffer from difficulties connecting with others or depression.

I hope this post sheds some light on what your child/children may be going through after an international move (or even a move within the same country can have the same effects), and gives you some ideas of how to handle it.  Whilst I am not a psychologist or a counsellor, I am a Mamma that has three children that go through this in various ways or intensities.  I have felt the guilt all too strongly of taking them away from friends, family, much loved bedrooms, play parks, hobbies, and an area they loved when they hit a bout of sadness at their loss.  After all, I miss family and friends too, but at least it was mine and Dadda’s decision to move.  The children had very little say.  We have now been living in Sweden for over a year, but grief has no timeline and we are still coping with it and will be for a while.  Don’t get me wrong, they are very happy in between, but remember children live in the moment.  I can only hope that what we are doing when episodes do occur is helping our children to deal with their losses and come to terms with being an expat living in Sweden, and not giving them more issues to contend with as they grow into adults.

I would love to hear any comments or thoughts you have on this subject in the comments below.  Maybe you have made a move, international or otherwise, and you have some tips you can share on handling the grief when it arises.

Expat Grief - The Ugly Side of Moving Abroad, grief, expat grief, child grief, childhood grief, grieving child, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Children Moving Abroad – Top Tips

There is no doubt about it, any moving house event is stressful. So add into that the fact that your children are moving abroad, and you have a very stressful event for them to handle.  However, there is also no doubt that moving abroad can be beneficial too.  It can provide a broader perspective about the world, whilst giving new experiences, and seeing a different culture, language, and way of living.  This is learning outside the classroom at its very best! In this family we love a bit of learning outside the classroom 🙂 Children moving abroad needn’t be a recipe for disaster, but a wonderful experience.  I have a few tips that may help anyone with children moving abroad.

Photograph: Sonia Cave

 

Before You Move

  1. Learn about the country together.  Make time to read books together, maybe make a scrapbook, and have a little look at the language with your child before you move.
  2. See if you can find any stories about children moving abroad.
  3. Discuss their feeling and emotions.  Allow all emotions to be vented.  Keep the communication channels open, so if something does crop up at a later date, they know they can come and chat it over with you.
  4. Before your move, make sure that they say a proper goodbye to their friends.  Take photos or swap little presents.  We had a little forest school party too as a way of getting everyone together one last time before we left.

Photograph: Sonia Cave

Photograph: Sonia Cave

On Arriving

On arrival, life could easily run away with itself if you let it.  There is paperwork to be sorted, maybe a car, a house etc.  For the children moving abroad, they could easily get left to fend for themselves for a few days (understandably) while the grown ups deal with what is being thrown at them.  So, here are a few tips to help you during that immediate arrival period.  We were very lucky in that we hired a cottage (stuga) for 2 weeks before our lorry arrived.  It gave us (and especially myself who had packed up the house single handed while looking after 3 children) some breathing space to adjust a little first.

  1. With the arrival of the hugest lorry load ever of wordly possessions, that have taken 6 days to arrive, it is very easy to get caught up in the task of unpacking it all.  The grown ups, as well as the children, need a break from this.  Make sure there is designated time in the day set aside for connecting time with the children.  Whether this is a walk or a play outdoors (maybe exploring the new neighbourhood), or collapsing with a drink and a story together, it needs to be done.  The children need to feel they are remembered and not a hinderance in this extremely stressful time.
  2. Try and maintain some of your usual routines.  This will help make the children moving abroad feel a little more secure and less anxious.
  3. Talk, talk, talk.  Allow them input in the unpacking (especially their own areas).  I know it can be frustrating as we could do it in half the time, but they need to feel useful, and that they have had input into the move too.  Let them bring up what they are feeling when they need to.  They have a lot of emotions to work through, maybe mirroring a grieving process.
  4. Get out exploring!!  Make it exciting for the children.  Go and find new play parks together.  Go on walks or bike rides to discover what is in the area.

Photograph: Sonia Cave

Photograph: Sonia Cave

Settling Down Into Your New Life

It’s an ongoing process for a long time, helping settle children moving abroad into their new country, in our case Sweden.  Issues will crop up from time to time, and when you are least expecting them, and about something you would have never even thought would have been an issue.  It might be triggered by a telling off, which then brings something to the surface (that has ambushed me before).  When the children are tired, they can often pop out with something you hadn’t realised was a problem at all.  However, it is important to value them all.  I have a few little tips that have helped us along our journey so far.

  1. Get the children started in a Swedish school asap.  This will help with language and making friends, and ultimately settling them quicker.
  2. Find clubs/activities they enjoyed where you lived before in your new place, so they do not feel they have had to give up their lives/interests fully to move abroad.  This again helps with language and making friends as well.
  3. Allow for FaceTime to their friends and family back home.  This one takes a lot of parental commitment, especially with younger children, as firstly they need your device, secondly they need you to ensure it is set up and happens, and thirdly you need to find the time to do it with them.  But it is so worth it.  Our little lady has played games and performed magic tricks with her friends as if they were in the same room as her.  It has been a great thing to have.
  4. Play dates…set up play dates with their new friends and encourage them to invite people back.  This can be very daunting at first as your language skills need improving, but get the Google translate app and muddle through together…it is worth it I promise.
  5. Have lots of photos from your previous life printed and accessible to your children.  Then they can sit and peruse their memories, and again get talking about them.
  6. Continue to get out and explore your new area.  Go on adventures together and make it exciting for them.

Photograph: Sonia Cave

Photograph: Sonia Cave

 

I hope these tips have been helpful and useful.  I have written a lot more about our move to Sweden throughout the blog in the category about exploring Sweden as well as one about living abroad in Sweden

Children moving abroad to Sweden, living abroad, sweden, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Photograph: Sonia Cave

I have had a similar article published by the Newbieguide.se and it can be found by clicking on the following link  http://www.thenewbieguide.se/children-moving-abroad-sweden/   🙂

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