Moving overseas with family and school age children
Leaving their home, town and school friends can be stressful for children. And as parents you’ll want assurance that the education system in the country you choose is of an acceptable standard.
There are great benefits of experiencing school life abroad. Elizabeth Perelstein, President of School Choice International, Inc says “Expatriate children are known to be more self-assured, more adaptable, as well as more open minded."
Finding a school
At Crown we offer a School Search Assistance service to set you up with an education consultant to recommend schools. We locate the best schools to fit your children’s needs and secure them spaces before you arrive. Factors to be considered include language barriers, cultural differences and school curriculum. When deciding on a school, there are various forms and documents that parents need to have available in addition to the school’s general application form.
Most schools require a copy of the following:
- Child’s report card for the last three years
- Copy of the child’s birth certificate
- A valid passport and/or visa for the child
In addition, some schools request student references, an exit letter from the child’s previous school or a doctor’s report and documentation proving that required vaccines have been administered. A child’s academic performance can be the deciding factor in many school’s admission processes. This is especially true when trying to enrol a child in the middle of the school year.
Tips on engaging children
- Before you leave, make a final visit to your child’s favourite place(s). You could even bring a camera so your child can hold on to their favourite memories, even after the move.
- Encourage your child to exchange home and email addresses with their friends. They can take pictures of them too. You can remind them that staying in touch with their friends is fun. When they get to their new home, they can write to their friends and tell them all about it.
- Try to include the children when making plans for the move. If it’s possible, take them with you when you visit your new city or to see your new home. This may alleviate some of their ‘fears of the unknown’.
- Talking with your children about the move is very important. Encourage them to talk about their feelings, and to tell you if they feel scared, nervous or apprehensive. Encourage them to ask questions so you can put their minds at ease. If you explain why you are moving, what the new home will be like and the exciting things that will be found in the new area, they may start to feel more optimistic about the experience.
- Help your child learn about their new city. Libraries, tourist information centres, the local Chamber of Commerce, book stores, the internet and moving companies are all good sources of information.
- Research some places like zoos, parks, museums and shopping malls (for the teenagers!) that they might enjoy in their new neighbourhood and tell them all about it. Some of these exciting places may even have a website so they can read about it for themselves and see what it looks like.
- Just before moving day, prepare a package for each child with their favourite toys, books, clothing and snacks. Label it with the child’s name and be sure to keep it handy during the actual move.
- Although you may be tempted to discard their old, tattered toys, you may want to hold on to a few of your child’s favourites. Let them unpack some of these well-loved toys and put them in their new room. Let your child help decide how his or her new room will be arranged and decorated.
- Once you arrive, survey your new home for loose steps, low overhangs and other possible accident areas. Keep an eye on the children until they become familiar with the new home’s peculiarities.
- If you can, take a break from setting up your new home and spend as much time with your child as possible. Once they start school, they will be anxious to tell you all about it, their teachers, their classes and all of their experiences.
- You may want to accompany your child to school for the first couple of days to help them feel more relaxed. The first few weeks in a new school may be difficult. Follow their progress closely and don’t hesitate to visit with their teacher.
- If you are moving to a radically different environment be sure your children are aware of the differences and understand what to look out for.
Teenaged children can get more involved in planning the move and even take personal responsibility for specific components of the relocation. The whole process can be treated as a real life experience. Because teens are usually more computer savvy and conscious of online intricacies, they can do the research on a multitude of issues concerning their destination, such as real estate - the best neighbourhood to buy or rent in; driving licence information – what forms to fill out; school systems – which are the highest rated; places to visit, foods to eat, major languages that are spoken, and many other things.
“When it comes to teens, parents must stimulate some excitement about the destination,” said David Muir, CEO of Crown Relocations, EMEA. “This will involve research and family teamwork, but once the work is done, parents can highlight the ‘cool’ things, the positives about the destination, into their family conversations."
The Wilde family moved to Australia when their children were aged 12 and 10. Click here to read about their experience.
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