Moving to a new home can be a challenge for most of us, and even more so for children who can really feel disconcerted and overwhelmed. For children, leaving behind the familiarity of their homes and moving to new, unknown surroundings can bring forth a slew of emotions, including fear and insecurity at leaving behind people and things they know and love.
However, if handled correctly, moving can also be an exhilarating experience, opening up doors to a whole new world, new experiences, and plenty of new and exciting exploration opportunities. In this time of globalization, most families are going to experience moving at least once, if not more often, in their lives.
Here are some suggestions to help make the relocation as smooth and happy as possible, and to get your child settled in to their new home with a feeling of happiness and comfort.
Tip #1: Before Moving, Learn About Dubai
Before the move, take the time to familiarize yourself and your child with Dubai and what to expect when you get there. There are tons of books with wonderful pictures you can talk to your child about, or you can (together with your child) browse the internet.
Books are a great way for children to express their curiosity, ask questions about things they see, and discuss their own thoughts and feelings. You can even make a scrapbook of fun images and useful information that can be brought with you when you move.
Getting your child familiar with their soon-to-be new home can help answer many of their questions and dispel some of their fears. Although there aren’t too many books about Dubai, some popular ones filled with useful information include Lonely Planet Dubai, Time Out Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and the UAE, and the Dubai Travel Guide.
Tip #2: Saying Goodbye
It’s important for children to say a proper goodbye to the place they are leaving before heading off on their new adventure. This applies to leaving your home country for the first time, or if you are moving from country to country.
Many people believe that if you don’t say goodbye properly, you might end up starting off on the wrong foot at your new home. Keep goodbyes happy and cheerful. You can make a little parting gift with your child or choose a keepsake of happy memories to bring along with you. Saying a proper goodbye brings closure and allows children to mentally prepare for moving on.
Tip #3: Focus On The Positive
Young children adapt more easily than older ones, but will also have a ton of questions to ask about their new home. It is important to be very patient in answering all their questions, and to keep reassuring them that the move is for the best – and a new adventure.
Focus on all the positives: Dubai has awesome sunshine, lovely beaches and parks, and lots of fun activities for children throughout the year. Children pick up on negativity very quickly, so never express any doubts or concerns you might have in front of them. Reassure them that they will have lots of fun, make many new friends, and have a lot of fun discovering new things about their new home.
Tip #4: Moving with Pre-Teens and Teenagers
Different age groups will require different levels of support with the move. While younger children adapt more easily to new surroundings, pre-teens (9 to 12 year olds) and teenagers will undoubtedly have stronger ties with the place they are leaving, and might be more resentful at being taken away from the things they know and love.
Make sure to talk regularly with them about the move. Be open and honest. Encourage them to ask as many questions as they like, and try to involve them in as many decisions as possible – such as choosing their own room in the new house (if possible), decorating choices for their room, and which subject they would like to study at school.
As a parent, it is your responsibility to ensure that they see all the positives in the move, including knowing that they will return to their original home for holidays, and that will be able to keep in touch with friends and family through email and social media.
Emphasize the fun aspects of moving, such as being able to send their family and friends back home lots of pictures about the things they do and see. Give the kids a diary and a camera so that they can keep a visual and written record of their travels to share with loved ones back home.
Tip #5: Schooling
It is important to choose schools for children in their new home country with careful consideration. Luckily, owing to the already large and ever-growing expat population in the emirate, Dubai has many different schools with different curriculums including Indian, Pakistani, American, British, Canadian, French, Pilipino, and Australian.
To make the transition easier, enroll your children in a school that follows the same curriculum and syllabus as the one they left behind. This will make it easier for them to adjust to their studies, as well as make friends in their new learning environment.
Plan your move, if possible, at the end of the school year, and make sure that children have completed any work or formalities needed to begin the new school year in their new home. This will also allow you to keep the kids busy by enrolling them into a club or camp before they start their new school year.
This might help to ease the tension of a new place if they are already able to make some friends before they start with school. As making new friends is often the biggest issue for children in a new environment, be proactive by getting to know your neighbors, and perhaps inviting some children over for a play date.
At school, sign them up for sports teams or extracurricular activities they enjoy as soon as possible.
Tip #6: Maintain Routines
As soon as is possible after the move, establish a routine so that children can ease into their new life with a set framework to follow. Maintain the traditions of your family by observing any festivals or special occasions you had back home, and be sure to share these with your new neighbors.
If Sundays were movie and popcorn night back home, you can make Friday’s movie and popcorn nights in Dubai, as this is the major weekend holiday. Creating rituals and traditions specific to your family in your new home will help them to settle into their new surroundings and feel at home sooner.
Tip #7: Acknowledge Mixed Emotions
Feeling sadness is a natural part of moving, and it is important to acknowledge any mixed feelings children have – rather than to try and suppress negative emotions.
Talk to your children about their feelings and explain to them that as adults, you too have some sad moments, but emphasize that there are plenty of things to look forward to and many new adventures waiting to be explored.
It is easy to forget about the difficulties children face as parents themselves get caught up with their new homes, new jobs, and new lives. Make plenty of time for your child and listen attentively to their difficulties. Watch carefully for any changes in behavior or mood swings, which might be red flag indicators of children facing difficulty with the move.
Overall, being an expat child can be a wonderful learning experience as children begin to comprehend how to live with, accept, and respect a new culture, different people, and habits that might greatly differ from their own experiences.
Being involved as a parent is the key to helping your child adjust and gain confidence in a new environment.