4 Great Strategies to Ease Difficult Transitions for Your Family
Whether you’re moving to a new country, a different city, or across town, the loss of the familiar can be challenging, writes Dr Patricia Stokke from culturalworldconsulting.com. Here are four strategies for transitions she discovered while moving as a child and, later, during her research on Adult Third Culture Kids.
Fear of the unknown can make relocating seem daunting, especially for children. Fortunately, there are things you can do to support your family through a transition. Here are just a few of them:
EXPLAIN the ‘why’ and ‘what’ of moving
I was ten and my sister was eight years old when our family moved to Japan. Like all siblings, we had our distinct personalities, so the move affected us differently. Long before the move, for instance, my sister would cry at our sleepovers with friends until our mother was called to collect us. It used to upset me that we had to leave our overnight adventure; my sister would be relieved. Consequently, moving to Japan was more traumatic for her than for me. She now believes that had our parents given more of an explanation about why we moved, her adjustment would have been smoother.
Helping children to understand the move will help them cope when the time comes to leave their familiar home.
PREPARE for cultural differences
After arriving in Japan, we stayed in a hotel while my parents searched for a house. One day, as I was exploring, I went into a public restroom, only to find something in the floor that looked like a toilet. I was confused and frightened, afraid I would wet my pants because I didn’t know how to use what was strange to me. I ran as fast as I could back to our hotel room to use the Western-style toilet. Had I received an explanation about Japanese toilets beforehand, I wouldn’t have been so distressed. This is just one example of the “small” things that can affect children.
Chatting as a family about small and large cultural differences can help to smooth the transition.
BRING familiar ‘friends’ along
What children can take with them can influence how they cope with leaving the familiar. I remember the sad day we packed our belongings for long-term storage. We were supposed to stay in Japan for one year (which turned into six), so everything was stored, including my sister’s big, black stuffed seal. Saying goodbye to the seal that had brought so much comfort was disheartening for an eight-year-old. Transitioning to life in Japan may have been easier if her seal friend had been there for reassurance.
Alaska was my family’s next move. By then I was 16, sad to leave friends but excited to move to snow and back to the USA. Again, we packed our belongings, but this time most of our things came with us, including our pets, who made the transition to Alaska from Japan less traumatic for us. Once our kitties had made it through quarantine and moved in with us, our Alaskan house felt like home.
Allowing family members to bring meaningful things with them can give a sense of familiarity in a foreign place.
TREAT moving as an adventure
One of the commonalities in the results of my research on adults who grew up outside their parents’ home country, was how their mothers made moving an adventure and educational experience. Visiting cultural and historical sites, and learning the language and culture of the host country, all created enjoyable learning opportunities which helped these children develop a global world view, one that later benefited their college studies and careers.
Framing the move as an adventure and learning experience can ease the challenges of transitions.
What helped you or your children to transition to life in a new country, or to cope with any other major change? Share your tips on smoothing the move by joining the conversation below!
If you found this article helpful, please subscribe to our newsletter and share the article with a friend who may appreciate ideas on handling transitions.