The Big Move – What To Expect From Your Child When Immigrating

The Big Move

Immigration is a good thing. We should make that as easy as possible.

-Gary Johnson


In today’s shrinking world, job loss, promotions, and transfers are forcing some families to move frequently, across town, across the country and even around the world. These moves can be quite difficult for the whole family but particularly for the children.

Immigration is one of the biggest transitions a family can make. While children are generally adaptable, they will be upset and they need to know that they are not alone on this journey and that the situation can be handled best through consistent routine and unconditional support from loving family and friends. Helping your children to prepare to immigrate involves understanding their feelings, insecurities and is about 100% dedication to clear, concise communication.

Positive and Negative Aspects

Children tend to think about the negative side when a family moves. There is the loss of friends and, along with it, a loss of their sense of belonging. In their new community the children will be newcomers, strangers and may need to learn some different social rules. In changing schools they might have to leave behind extracurricular activities – a sports team, a school drama program – that were important to them. Upon arriving at their new school, they may find themselves either academically ahead of or behind their new classmates, depending on the curriculum in the previous school.

In helping your child prepare for a move, place as much emphasis as possible on the positive aspects of what awaits him or her. This is an opportunity for them to live in and learn about a new city, perhaps even a new country, and its people. He or she may be exposed to new cultural traditions and interesting and different ways of life. It also is a chance to meet new people and make new friends. Explain how the family will benefit from the move – a fresh start, the sea, money, freedom

For some children, particularly those who may have experienced academic failure or been rejected by classmates at their old school, the opportunity for a new beginning is an exciting prospect. It gives them a chance to be accepted in a new setting and to make friends free of their former reputations and self-images. If this is the case, talk about and plan what you and your child will do differently in your new community. Be cautious, however, of unreasonable expectations that a move will make things wonderful. Children take their likes and dislikes and personal strengths and weaknesses with them.

Children and how they experience change
Children become familiar with their immediate environments from the time they enter the great big world. Home is their safety net where they feel most protected, loved and comfortable to express themselves. Their sense of security is firmly routed in familiar people, food, places and sentimental toys. Be sure to make the transition as homely as possible Timing is everything
Try move during the school holidays. This will ensure that your child’s academic progress isn’t affected and they are able to say goodbye to their friends without it being rushed. It is also a fantastic adjustment period – giving your child time to settle down in their new country before starting at a new school. Show them pictures of their new school and possibly what they will be learning – should you have that information.

Make Moving A Big Deal

Remind your child that while the move may be making everyone a bit uneasy, it will also be adventurous and interesting. Be relatable. Open up to your child and express your that you feel anxious too. This will create emotional trust in your child and they will be able to observe how you handle the move and feel they aren’t alone. Encourage your child to make their own plans for the move. Have him or her make lists of tasks and projects to do.

Immigrating turns anyone’s world upside down and is a big disruption in your child’s life in particular. During this time, you may experience some behavioural issues. This is because they feel like they are losing control over their lives and are starting to question the world as they know it. The world is forever changing and this may be a frightening thing to handle at such a young age.

Your child could be experiencing the following emotions during this time: confusion, anger, frustration, sadness and sometimes, resentment. Keep an eye on your child – they may become withdrawn or exhibit more childish behaviour than usual. Should this happen, try to involve your child in as many family orientated activities as possible.

With your support and understanding, immigrating doesn’t need to be a traumatic experience for your children. Ironically, they will probably land up adapting faster than what you do.

All the best if you are moving x

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