Relocating Children

For preschool age:

Kids under the age of six may worry about being left behind, or being separated from their parents, but as long as they understand that the move will be a family one, they are very resilient. Their motives at this age are focused on how will it affect them personally, so while they may not be interested the new culture, they will be excited by the plane ride, their new bedroom, and any new toys they may have. Focus on the positive – what are the ‘fun’ days out, what is there to do in the local area?  Get a ‘travel with kids’ type guide for your location, and let them plan some events. Find out where the local parks, swimming pools, preschool and toy shops are, and help them to draw a map, with X marks the spot for their first stop etc.
You will also need to reassure them that their belongings and favorite toys can come too – this is the one area where over-packing is better than under-packing. Let them choose which toys want to come as carry on luggage, and which can go with the house shipment. If possible, (and you can do it securely!) some of the toys can be mailed in advance so that they are there to welcome your child when they arrive. And finally, let them be involved in the move – let them pack their own possessions (within reason, obviously!) and label their own boxes.

At this age, they are less able to understand your own emotions about leaving, so try and avoid dealing with stressful situations linked to the relocation while they are around. My own four year old daughter was far more concerned about my packing meltdowns (and there were many) and the long distance arguing with my husband when I finally discovered just how small a “D” sized container is* than she ever was about moving to Kenya. See our Six Strategies for Supporting Children in Transition checklist here.

* it’s officially 58″ x 41″ x 45″. Not quite what I had in mind for a two and a half year assignment with two kids and a dog. I was misled by the term “large enough for some sporting equipment”; I was thinking bicycles, they were thinking tennis racquets.. You have been warned.

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