One of the most fragile aspects of an expat life are children. If it’s very hard to change countries for an adult, along with everything that brings, it’s even harder for kids. Everything will depend on their age at the moment of the international moving.
When children are very young, they don’t realize what’s happening. They make new friends quickly. It’s easier for them to learn new languages and the adaptation process is not too traumatic. This situation is relatively easy to manage.
However, when children start to have larger reasoning and they are aware of the big change that comes with moving from one country to another, changing friends and school, everything starts to get complicated. Things happen like: they don’t want to go to the school, they develop sleeping or eating disorders, they experience difficulty making new friends, they get bullied, their school performance declines, among other scenarios.
The first time we moved, my oldest daughter was around 8 years old and she got in an international school for the first time in her life. English was the main spoken language at school. It was the first time she was being exposed to a different language beside her native Spanish, the impact was important. Teachers were a great support for her and fortunately, her father and I know English.
Every morning, while I was helping her get ready for school, we studied together a list of twenty five new words that she should learn. Math, reading, writing, absolutely everything was in English. I was completely dedicated to supporting her during the whole process. Three months later, I received the big news: my daughter was in the school’s honor roll.
Meanwhile, her sister was too young to get in the same school. Fortunately, when it was her turn to go to an international school, my oldest daughter was ready to help her. It was not easy, not at all. She didn’t like the new language. Her teacher told her that she would have to ask permission to go to the restroom in English, otherwise she wouldn’t have permission to go (It was only a way to put some pressure on her to practice the language, the teacher wasn’t serious about it. It worked!) I made up a game for her where I used to sing in a very funny way how to ask permission to go to the restroom in English. I managed to get a big smile from her after several times. I kept using that strategy and it successfully worked for me with the next lessons.