When it comes to relocating with children, things can get a little hairy. It's hard enough to take on the transition yourself and assimilate to your new surroundings, when also having to support your children emotionally and mentally for the shock they might encounter. It can be an extremely difficult period to manage, for all involved, but there is light at the end of the tunnel!
I don't pretend to know firsthand the dynamic of having children, as I am childless myself. But I do have a dozen nieces and nephews and even GREAT nieces and nephews! With that said, I do know that children aren't weak or naive little people. They know exactly what is going on and the energy between parent and child is a sensitive space that needs to be nurtured in a mature and loving way.
Depending on the age(s) of your children, culture shock may or may not be an issue when relocating. For example, for infants their routines will shift and the child may take some time getting used to new time zones and the subtle differences from the move. For older children, they may find it distressing to leave their friends, neighborhoods, and activities behind and start over again. Teenagers might find resentment and anger for having to leave their home and establish themselves all over again, as we all know how highly influential this period in life can be. It may be more challenging to deal with than anticipated.
Here are few ways to stay mindful during these kinds of challenges. They might be obvious to some but the importance of these ideas are essential for coping with children who are in need of understanding, space and love. I hope they are helpful to you and your family.
1- Be patient! Patience with your children and yourself is important here. Transitions don't settle overnight, or even in months! It takes time to adjust and some may need more time than others. Keep in mind that what works for one person may not work for another, so take the time to explore different ways of assimilation and be mindful of each child's needs.
2- Communication! Keep the conversations open and honest. Share your own feelings and frustrations about being abroad and be truthful with them about your own experiences, let them know that you are also having to adjust. Understanding their challenges and using empathy are powerful ways to connect with your children. Work together on expression and find ways as a family to support each other. In addition, you may want to open up space for conversations of cultural differences. Give them the chance to ask questions, share feelings and thoughts around the subject.
3- Find support! There is no shame in reaching out for outside assistance. There are plenty of counselors, therapists and coaches (sometimes even provided in a relocation package if you've moved abroad on career transition) that are available to guide you as a family. Family coaching is a great way to find balance in these kinds of situations, especially if you, yourself, is having a difficult time with coping.
4- Take action! Help your children by doing some activities that you did back 'home', watching favorite movies, playing board games, cycling together, or walking the dog. Try and keep the family routine the same as much as possible. Even though they have new surroundings this can help them with their sense of family dynamic, that it hasn't changed and that they are still very safe. And how can your new surroundings make it fun in a different way?
5- Connection! With social media and technology as we have it, makes staying connected from afar a lot easier and cost efficient. Schedule regular Skype calls/video calls with the grandparents, friends and family members back home. Staying connected to those who have been left behind can make a huge impact, and even comforting, on the transition for children and ease the mind of stressful challenges. There's nothing like receiving the love and support from the people we love and admire.
When my fiance and I first moved to the UK, he surprised me with something that I didn't even think would actually help me assimilate in our new home. Prior to our move, he had our new home painted in the same colors as our home in California, brought in similar decor and even had the house re-constructed to mirror what we had in the states. For me, this was HUGE! First of all, the gesture alone was incredibly touching and appreciated and it really did make a difference for me to feel 'at home' in the beginning :)
Be creative when it comes to difficult transitions and count your blessings!