Relocation to a new country can be a challenging experience for families, particularly for parents who are navigating the complexities of managing their relationships with their children during this transition.
Moving to a foreign soil, even to a new place within the country involves uprooting from familiar surroundings, leaving behind established social networks, and adjusting to a new culture, language, and lifestyle. For children, this can also be a difficult experience when they are at an age of learning to build relationships.
Amidst all these changes, parents need to pay special attention to maintaining healthy and supportive relationships with their children. In this article, we will discuss some key strategies for managing parent-child relationships during a relocation to a new country.
Have Open Communication
Prior to moving, it is important that children are part of the conversation or even decision making process in moving or making arrangements to move. Keeping communication open during this period is crucial especially when changes are constant during the relocation process. This includes discussing the reasons for the move, acknowledging any concerns or fears that children may have, and providing age-appropriate information about the new country, potential new culture, and the anticipated changes.
Effective open communication allows both parents and children to understand what each party is going through and be each other’s support. When children understand how the relocation can impact the adults, they are more aware of the challenges and more open to cooperate and collaborate through the transition.
This is counter-intuitive to how the majority of parents work through transitions alone without letting children know to avoid ‘burdening’ them. However, this would also result in children feeling left out or thinking that as the move does not impact their parents.
Encouraging children to express their thoughts and feelings, and actively listening to their concerns without judgment can also help build trust and strengthen the parent-child relationship.
Be Empathetic and Understanding
Relocating to a new country can be overwhelming for children, as they may experience a wide range of emotions such as anxiety, confusion, and sadness or even anger. A change in environment may also be perceived as a threat with lots of uncertainties for the child.
Parents can also practise being empathetic and understanding towards children’s emotions, and validate their feelings. It’s important to remember that each child may react differently to the move, and parents should be patient and supportive as their children adjust to the changes. One other way also is to offer comfort, reassurance and understanding to help ease the emotional impact of relocation on children and foster a sense of security.
Maintain Familiar Routines
As much as possible, avoid a complete overhaul of family’s day to day activities. Keeping the family’s daily routine even after moving to the new country can provide a sense of stability and normalcy for both parents and children during the relocation process.
Familiar routines include maintaining mealtimes, bedtime routines, and regular family activities which allow children to feel grounded, more secure and reduce anxiety.
Encourage New Cultural Exploration and Experiences
A new place can cause a mixture of feelings, ranging from feeling unsafe to excitement of what may come. It presents a unique opportunity for children to learn about and appreciate different cultures. Parents can encourage their children to explore the local culture, language, and customs of the new country, if not immerse in them – including trying local cuisine, learning basic phrases in the local language, and participating in cultural events or activities.
Such experiences can be enriching for children and help them develop an understanding and appreciation for diversity to facilitate their adjustment to the new country as well as broaden their horizons.
Build a Support System
New relationships can help to provide support, guidance and companionship. Parents could connect with other families, neighbours, and communities in the new country. Children can benefit from making new friends to help them feel more integrated and less isolated.
Engaging in activities or joining clubs or groups aligned with the children’s interests can facilitate their socialization and create a sense of belonging.
Give Care to Yourself
Uprooting to a new country can be stressful and exhausting for parents. It’s important for parents to prioritize their self-care, manage their own stress levels and seek support when needed. Taking care of their physical and mental well-being allows parents to be more emotionally available and supportive to their children. When parents are in a positive mental state, it can have a positive impact on the parent-child relationship and help children feel more secure and supported.
Be Patient and Flexible
Adjusting to a new country takes time and effort, and parents should be patient with themselves and their children. Take time out from difficult arguments and reconvene when all parties are calmer. Keeping communication open with empathy and understanding can help greatly.
When a family moves to a new place or country, recognise that everyone in the family will go through a transition, both physically and emotionally through stress and adjustments. A move affects everyone, even young children. It is important to maintain open and respectful communication, while being empathic and understanding to each other. Being patient and taking care of yourself as parents are important too while engaging in ways to stay grounded during this relocation process.
If you are struggling with navigating parent-child relationships after a move, or find it increasingly difficult to manage the stress and anxiety in a new place, do reach out and speak with us to see how we can help.