It seems obvious, doesn’t it? A move to a new country will bring along a whole new world of stress. Which it does, but how we each deal with the stress of change, unfamiliarity, fitting in, new schools, jobs, and communities is as individual as we are each individuals. Hmmm, a bit wordy, but you understand, yes?
It has been some time since my last post as this settling in process got a wee bit bumpy as adjusting to new schools and friends was a long and winding road, for the kids. (Yes, I sung that out loud as I typed. Thank you Beatles.)
Kids and Stress
Our largest concern was for our daughters.
How did we help them prepare for school?
- Brought them with us on the initial house and school hunting trip. This helped them feel part of the process, which was important as the decision to move was largely done without their input. Of course we considered their feelings, however the opportunity this move provided for all of us was the deciding factor.
- Scheduled a one-on-one school meeting once we returned to England. This allowed them another view of the school and to get all their questions answered; when was lunch, how will they find their way around school, and what courses should they select?
- Validated their fears and talked them through them. They were scared. This was normal and letting kids feel those feelings, but not wallow in them is important. Together we helped them imagine the first day and how it would unfold. We did some light role-playing, to get them thinking about how to start conversations with other students. We told them to smile and be themselves.
- We knew that one of their greatest fears was to have the “wrong” bag or socks or pencil-case. We made right anything we got wrong the first time through.
- We scheduled appointments with teachers to understand how the English school system worked in terms of grading, “sets”, and the all-encompassing GCSE exams. I will deal with the confusing U.K. school system, as far as I understand it, in a later post. I may need to create visuals.
- Exploration. Whether on foot, cab, bus, or train, we set out each day to explore our neighbourhood, when we first moved to Hertford. We now continue to journey further and further across England and of course we take many, many trips to London.
- Skype sessions with family and friends. Keeping in contact with grandparents and friends has been crucial for the girls. With the internet there is no reason we can’t keep in close contact all our loved ones in Canada. This is helping ground them and not feel so alone.
- Cooking and baking comfort foods. There is nothing like coming home from school to a steaming bowl of “Gramma soup” and a plate of Granny’s freshly baked chocolate chip cookies to make a kid feel at home.
- Validating their feelings. This continues to be a bumpy transition and we need to be ready with lots of hugs, back rubs, and chocolate chip banana bread.
We, The Parents
On the most part we have adjusted fairly well, however, we too have had our share of homesickness.
What we did to prepare
- Engaged a relocation company. This was crucial. I am not sure how we would’ve moved as seamlessly as we did without them. They helped us find a house, school, grocery store, furniture, a doctor’s office, and even assisted with understanding train schedules.
- We researched online and asked a lot of questions of friends who also had made transatlantic moves. Thanks to a Canadian friend in Australia, we had insights into what should be included in an expat package, what mementos to bring, and what to expect upon arrival.
- More Wine.
- The Drew came over a few weeks before the kids and I to purchase some basic furniture, food, and everyday supplies so when we arrived we weren’t met with a cold and empty home. Finding things like pictures, clothes, bedding, and even towels from home waiting for us was comforting and made our house feel more homey.
- Finished off by Wine.
We are now slowly making friends ourselves. I am part of my street’s book club, we joined a local gym, and Drew has done the pub crawl with some dads from the girls’ football teams. And just like the kids we are learning that making friends takes time and effort.
It took a good 3 months for the extreme homesickness to slip away and the kids still have roller coaster moody moments, but life is full of kids’ moody moments.
Would we do it all again? You betcha. It was the wildest, bravest, craziest, and smartest decision we have ever made.
Happy travels, my friends.