Your career might require you to relocate on occasions, or a move might come about simply because you desire a life change. It could be, sadly, that due to the breakup of a relationship, one of you might decide you’d feel better at home, returning to your roots and bringing the children back with you.
Whatever the reasons for families needing to move, there are ways to ensure the transition from one place to another, one country to another, can be as least disruptive as possible. Of course, a move can be stressful, but preparing well for it can minimize that stress.
It may be that a community already exists at your new location; consisting of people you may have met before through work, or who share a similar background to you and speak the same language. Even so, it would be well worth the effort to learn some of the language and customs of the new country you are locating to. Familiarize yourself with some of the cuisine of your new destination, and prepare some traditional dishes. Involve your children in the food preparation and give the meal a real sense of occasion. Find out about recreational facilities, beaches and parks. This way, you will feel less apprehensive about the change, and more like you are beginning a new adventure, with exciting opportunities and new places to explore.
If you are choosing your own new home, as opposed to moving to military accommodation, for example, find out everything you can about the immediate vicinity; explore it online together as a family. Different aspects of the area will appeal to different members of the family, and it’s sure to be a fun journey of discovery.
New schools and educational facilities for your current family (or one you might be planning to have in the future) will be towards the top of the priority list. You may even give home schooling some thought – it would be less of a life-changing event for the children that way, but may deprive them of the opportunity to make new friends and immerse themselves in the new culture. As a family, look at the websites of new schools, and discuss the benefits of a new school together. It may have terrific sporting facilities, drama classes, a swimming pool or an award-winning soccer team. It may have educational opportunities that simply did not exist at your previous location.
Singapore is one destination where it will not be hard to make new friends among the thriving expat communities. You’ll be able to connect with other parents easily through school-supported networks. American international schools are very likely to provide connections to many and varied groups. Look for links to religious groups, common interest groups such as sport or dining, cultural organizations and even recommended babysitters and home helps. Such a support network will really help you to settle in and make new connections quickly and reliably. The local embassy will be a valuable source of information for you – from legal affairs to arts and culture. It will detail citizen services and act as a point of reference should you need it.
You will be busy making new friends but it’s so important not to forget your old ones. Friends and family will be keen to keep up with all your news and progress, and maintaining these connections will make the transition easier and less unsettling for your children. There’ll be new customs and celebrations in your new destination, but make time to still celebrate and engage in the customs of your home country. Make Christmas just as special for your family, wherever in the world you may be – whether your new home has a chimney for Santa or not.
Do look out for each other as a family; some might be more adventurous and outgoing, and readily able to adapt to life changes. Others may find it very much harder; they may have had to leave behind special friends and places – maybe even a much-loved pet – and the transition for them could be difficult. Allow family members their own space but take notice if you sense they are becoming withdrawn and downhearted. Make time for family activities and games, either indoors or out. Involve all family members in planning special meals or days out on Sundays. Go shopping together; get to know your new area together.
Prepare well for the journey (sweets, coloring books for younger children) but importantly too, look forward to the destination.