Relocation: Supporting Children Every Step of the Way
Posted by: Diane Mullen, Manager of Cartus Intercultural Academy
Today marks International Youth Day, a day designated by the United Nations to raise awareness of the need to ensure engagement and participation of youth in all aspects of society. At Cartus, we help to relocate families around the world every day, and understand just how important it is to ensure children feel fully engaged and supported throughout a move. Their ability to settle into a new location may influence whether the family as a whole settles in, and ultimately, whether the overall international assignment is a success.
Supporting Children Every Step of the Way
Relocation can be a unique opportunity for every member of a family, but if children are involved then it may be daunting, especially if it’s an international move. Here, we highlight some best practice recommendations when relocating with children:
Communicate. We recommend that assignees inform their children as early as possible about the move, including the reasons for it. Parents should be as honest as possible when answering any concerns the child may have. To allow children to feel involved, this open dialogue should continue throughout the entire relocation process. It’s also important to remember that children of all ages will be apprehensive about such a big change, so don’t just focus on the youngest ones.
Learn. Organize activities that are inspired by the host country. Whether it’s a movie or a book set in the host location, or perhaps visit a local restaurant that serves the host country’s cuisine. By learning about the local language, culture and, geography of the host location, it will help children to prepare and learn about their new adventure. Ensuring children take part in available cross-cultural programs can also be vital to meeting the challenges of culture shock and helps them understand the opportunities that await them in the host location.
Give responsibility. Give children as much responsibility as is age appropriate. Make them feel part of the team. They could pack their own toys and belongings before the move and choose the paint color for their room once they arrive. Giving them ownership of their new home will help them to say goodbye to the old one. Parents could even consider taking children with them on final home finding trips, or alternatively, take photos and videos of the new home and neighborhood, including local parks or other fun things to do nearby.
Find the familiar. Once in the host location, it’s important that children find a sense of normalcy. Organizing familiar family activities, like going to the movies or playing sports, can help to achieve this and may provide an opportunity to meet new friends too. Don’t underestimate however, the importance of keeping in touch with friends and loved ones from the home location. Today, social media, instant messaging apps and video chat make keeping in touch even easier, so remind children of this!
Stay positive. However parents decide to approach a relocation with their children, positivity and enthusiasm is key to demonstrating to a child what a wonderfully enriching experience an international assignment can be.
International Youth Day 2019
First observed in 2000, the purpose of International Youth Day is to draw attention to a given set of issues surrounding children. The theme for 2019 is ‘Transforming Education’, which highlights efforts to make education more inclusive and accessible for every child around the globe. Quality education is crucial to youth development, especially when it is championed by young people themselves. Youth-led organizations are transforming education so that it becomes a fundamental tool for sustainable development, as well as providing opportunities to young people today. For more on International Youth Day visit, un.org/development/desa/youth/news/2019.