At some point, most ex-pat families are likely to move countries, for sure, it’s no mean feat relocating your family to pastures new.
Claire Holmes, Head of School Counselling, Tanglin Trust School, Singapore has been an expat for 25 years; in her professional role she is passionate about facilitating smooth transitions, helping young people and their families consider relocation carefully. Her work inspired the Moving On Series which comprises of two activity books, the first, Leaving Well and the second, Arriving Well, there’s a Facilitator’s Guide too. In this article Claire shares some tips for global transitions and about her new series.
Preparation is key.
Once you know you’re uprooting, the key to a successful move is preparing in advance. Being intentional about transitioning well ensures important parts of the moving process are not forgotten. How we leave a place greatly impacts how we arrive at the next. If we leave well, chances are we’ll arrive well too. Moving is a time when children feel a lack of control; however, they feel empowered if they engage with their leaving process as much as possible.
When should you tell your children about the move?
A general rule of thumb is, when you know for sure you are moving, it’s time to tell your child/ren. It’s vital that children find out from you first to maintain trust. In your conversation, let them know why the family is moving and do your best to answer any questions. All children react differently when they receive the news, depending upon their age and affinity to their current country; this can vary from excitement to reluctance and anything in between.
What to bear in mind.
You’ll most likely be bombarded with questions, you may not know the answers to some, this gives you a chance to research together or help your child embrace the unknown. Transitions are a time to boost listening skills, listen more than you talk, keep the ‘door open’ for conversations. Take opportunities to let your child/ren know what they’re experiencing sounds normal, you get that it’s tricky, but you know they can cope and you’re ready to support them. Give as many choices as possible, about the move and in general, this is empowering. Even if you are not totally sure about your global transition, stay positive but listen to your child’s perceived challenges too. Make time for your own self-care, this will help you be calmer and more measured in supporting your children.
You and your children will most likely experience the pre-departure rollercoaster of emotions, perhaps, feeling both excited and scared, and other feelings too. On the right is the acronym GUTS2 (the 2 indicates there are two S’ to consider), a checklist of sorts which provides the nuts and bolts for a smooth exit, and therefore, a smooth entry. The Leaving Well Activity Book helps the ‘the leaver’ understand and plan around these five points.
How to find the GUTS2 to leave well
G is for Goodbye: plan how to say farewell to the four P’s: people, places, pets, and possessions.
U is for Unload Feelings: acknowledge and express how you feel about the move.
T is for Thank you: think about how to say thank you to people who have made a difference.
S is for Self-care: look after yourself to boost wellbeing
S is for Say hello: get curious about your new destination
On arrival, most of us enter ‘a honeymoon phase’ where things are exciting and different but okay. For most of us, at some point, we take off our metaphorical rose-coloured glasses and things seem different but not okay. This is often referred to as Culture Shock. The good news is that humans are built for survival, we adapt to our new environment after a while. Things like taking time to connect with the community; taking children to local sports or cultural events, encouraging friendships, and getting familiar with the new place will all help with adjustment. If a new language is spoken, learn some basic words, this may be something you do together. On the right are The Moving On Series top tips for arriving well. These are important things for ‘the arriver’ to consider and are expanded upon in The Arriving Well Activity Book.
Top 10 tips to arrive well:
#1 – Be Brave
#2 – Be approachable and smile
#3 – Keep curious
#4 – Be yourself
#5- Be kind
#6 – Be grateful
#7 – Focus on your strengths
#8 – Remember your old place
#9 – Make your bedroom a haven
#10 – Ask for help
Strong relationships will get you through.
Ups and downs are inevitable. The bedrock of being able to support fully is a kind, understanding and ideally playful relationship. Prioritise time spent with your child/ren, actively engage in activities and times of just being, this will help create a sense of safety. If you feel that your child’s daily functioning (or your own) is impacted do seek extra support.
Change is unsettling, yet it is a part of life, resilience is built when children learn change is manageable. Global transitions provide much learning about adapting and coping, letting go and embracing the new. This is a time for you and your family to explore, dream, discover and grow in ways you never thought possible.
More about the books
The Moving On Series is designed for 6–12-year-olds. The guide is designed for the lead adult to facilitate both activity books, helping the child get the most out of the pages. The activity books are jam-packed with activities that invite the reader to use their creativity by annotating and illustrating. This makes the book unique to each child, helping them be an active participant in the move. Wellbeing boosting strategies are shared for transition and beyond. It’s not only for the kids, though, as it’s based on research there’s much wisdom for adults too!
Book 1 – Leaving Well Activity Book: designed to be given to children moving to a new country around 8-weeks before departure to help them leave and arrive well.
Book 2 – Arriving Well Activity Book: designed to be given to children on arrival to help them settle into their new country.
Book 3 – Moving On Facilitators Guide: designed to help a lead adult support children navigate Books 1 & 2.
Acclaim for The Moving On Series:
“TCK Pioneer, David Pollock, always said “You have to leave well to enter well.” This wonderful, practical series give parents, educators, and counsellors practical tools to help children do just that. The child friendly activity books give opportunity for children to process their often-paradoxical feelings during each phase of the move. The Facilitators Guide is clear on how to best use the material. This series will be a most welcome addition to those seeking to create a smooth transition for children moving on.” Ruth E Van Reken. Co-author: Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds.