More and more families emigrate to another country with their children. Between 2008 and 2012 alone, nearly 225,000 people migrate in search of new horizons. The reasons are diverse: the majority seek better living conditions, others go in search of new professional opportunities while a minority emigrates to change their lifestyle. In any case, emigrating always demands a process of adaptation and in many cases supposes a strong psychological impact, especially for the little ones.
In fact, it is not unusual for children who move to another country to experience adjustment disorders, to feel sad and anxious, or to be rebellious and defiant. They often have difficulty socializing with other children, are reluctant to attend school, and often revert to childish behaviors they had outgrown. In the most severe cases, psychosomatic manifestations may even arise, such as changes in sleeping habits, eating disorders, headaches, and dermatological problems. Fortunately, in many cases, these problems can be avoided by helping the child adjust to his new environment.
Three tips for your child to better adapt to their new life in a foreign country
Immigrating to a foreign country should not be a decision taken lightly. In fact, it must be a planned process and the adaptation of the child must begin at the very moment the decision is made. Keep in mind that if it is not easy for adults to adapt to a new culture, it is even more difficult for children since they do not have the necessary emotional tools to deal with these changes.
However, if the child feels part of the family’s decision, he will surely be more committed to the change. Obviously, this commitment will not protect you from the feeling of nostalgia and estrangement that may overwhelm you when you arrive at your new destination, but it will allow you to assume a more active role during the adaptation period.
While talking to those left behind often is beneficial, be careful that this doesn’t prevent your child from making new friends in the host country.
Make sure they meet other children their age as soon as possible. School is the easiest way to bond, as you will be interacting with the same people every day.
Consider enrolling them in an international student high school. This will expose them to various cultures and increase their chances of meeting people from the same country of origin.
You also need to keep in mind that they are not taken advantage of, and are safe within their circle. Help them understand and differentiate between what’s good and what’s bad for them. Make sure you have track of them and their daily activities.
It is also important that they make friends outside of school. Encourage them to participate in extracurricular activities, such as art clubs or sports teams. Not only will this widen their social circle, but it will also encourage them to have fun and stay busy. Having something to look forward to each day will lessen feelings of sadness and homesickness.
Adapting to changes is not easy, especially when there are many questions about what life will be like in a foreign country. It is normal for parents to have doubts, feel insecure, and harbor fears and worries. However, it is not recommended that you appear insecure in front of your child or that you let him see that it is a change that you accept reluctantly.
If you maintain a positive, open, and calm attitude, you can get the child to take the move as an adventure, get excited about the idea, and feel more confident. You can also talk to him about the advantages of changing residence, the possibility of going on excursions, having a bigger house, meeting new friends… If you expose the positive side of emigration, it is likely that he will accept it more easily. After all, remember that emotions are contagious.
If you have decided to move to a foreign country, look for as much information as possible, and investigate local customs, schedules, culture, social life, current news, and leisure activities… Share what you discover with your child and clear up your doubts, without creating false expectations that can later be counterproductive.
You can also show them images or videos from the site, so they can get a more complete idea of the country. In the same way, if a different language is spoken, it is convenient that the child has at least some basic notions before moving so that the change is not so abrupt.
When helping your children adjust to living in another country, consider providing them with language training. Learning the local language can help your child feel more comfortable and confident in their new surroundings, and it can also make it easier for them to make friends and connect with others. Look for language classes or tutors in your area, or consider online options if you’re unable to find in-person instruction. Encourage your child to practice speaking the language as much as possible, and make it a fun and enjoyable experience.
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