Tag Archives: moving

Moving is Hard

Follow Me on Twitter @msmeadowstweets

Artist: Solara Shiha

 

Moving is hard.

The lists.
The logistics.
The farewells.

I woke up at 3am every morning the week leading up to our last day in Hong Kong. If someone had peeked into our flat while I was organizing and sorting and packing and planning, they may have grown concerned. I’m sure I looked a bit wild.

We traveled for 20 hours with our toddler. I continued to wake at 3am after the arrival, because jet lag and baby jet lag. Everything was new.

Since June, we have been living with a total of four forks for our family of three, and other similar shortages, as we wait for our shipment to arrive in the Netherlands. We make due. We employ flexibility and resourcefulness and resilience. We accept that this is part of a relocation, and compensate with the many marvels of our new home.

Moving as international educators is hard. But, really, it’s not that hard.

Hard would be absconding under cover of night, without farewells.
Hard would be leaving behind our memories and possessions, barely packing at all.
Hard would be trekking across deserts, riding dilapidated boats through the sea.
Hard would be an arrival without welcome, without provision, without safety and security.
Hard would be forced separation from my child. My baby in a cage.

When we arrived in our new home, we were welcomed. When we arrived, we were provided for. When we arrived, we were perhaps disoriented, but we were safe and secure.

I do not mean to discount the difficulties that many international ed folks face when making a move; we must honour these, too. There is true pain in leaving a place, and real challenge in adjusting to a new context. But for me, personally, when I am washing those four forks – again – so we have something to eat our next meal with, I consider how very little actual flexibility, resourcefulness, and resilience have been asked of me during this move. I carry privilege, and my moves are not hard.

We’re Moving: What About the Kids? {Part II}

Follow Me on Twitter @msmeadowstweets

This is the second of a two-part post on easing the transition of an international move with children, and is adapted from an excerpt I wrote for the book Teaching Overseas, by Kent Blakeney.

It can be tempting to put off telling children about a move, as it will undoubtedly induce some level of stress. Still, there are healthier ways to support our little ones than by keeping them in the dark. As a professional international school counselor, I’ve worked with countless families to facilitate their successful transition to a new home. It can absolutely be done well! These tips will enhance your experience of a big move:

  • Maintain routine – While some of the thrill of moving is in the newness, remember that children thrive on routine. Keep certain limits the same, such as bedtimes and mealtime expectations, in order to provide your child with a sense of security. There will need to be flexibility at times, of course, but keep the basic structure of their day as consistent as possible.
  • Set an example – Your child will notice your lead when it comes to embracing something different from what you’re used to. Involve your family in the process of showing curiosity and exploring this new place (even from afar, through photos and discussions about how it will be there). Openly model resilience and a positive attitude when faced with challenge or disappointment about the transition.
  • Build connections – Support your child in getting to know the new community. Consider taking a trip to visit the campus and town during a vacation break before the move date. Reach out to the school counselor before you arrive – most international schools will have a system for integrating new students. Find out if anybody in your housing compound or neighborhood-to-be has children around the same age, and strike up an email or Facebook dialogue with them. Even one personal relationship can go a long way in helping your child to feel more at ease about the new place.
  • Listen – Children will have their own feelings about your plan to move. Listen empathically and, though you may not agree, honor your child’s experience and encourage them to share it with you. Create a safe space for them to express and work through their feelings. Validate that big changes can induce big emotions.
  • Play – Children (yes, even high school students) need to play! Uprooting can be difficult, and wrapping-up is invariably busy. Make it a priority to carve out play time together as a family. Documenting ‘lasts’ at the old locale, and creating fun memories to cherish when you look back, is an essential component to making the international move experience one that you and your child can weather – even embrace -together.

What tips do you recommend for international families transitioning to a new home?

We’re Moving: What About the Kids? {Part I}

Follow Me on Twitter @msmeadowstweets

With the flurry of recruiting season beginning to diminish, many international teachers are now standing, new contract in hand, preparing to pack up and start a new chapter someplace else in a few short months Aside from the logistics of moving, there is also the emotional management of bidding farewell. These good-byes are particularly complicated when we are not only professional educators, but also parents. This is the first of a two-part post about easing the transition of a big move for your child.

Be careful of how you break the news

Parents know that big changes can create anxiety, and we all have the best intentions to shield our children from discomfort. A family I once supported as a school counsellor decided to move their child to a different school nearby. They knew this might be upsetting so, to try to make the transition fun and quick, the idea was to surprise the child with cupcakes on their last day at our school and, at the impromptu good-bye party, break the news that they would be attending someplace else the following day. I managed to talk the parents out of that plan, but have seen various (less extreme) versions of attempting to conceal from children that they’re in for a major shift in scenery. Put your child’s needs at the forefront, and think carefully and sensitively about how to tell them that you’re moving.

Tell them now

Maybe not right this very second, but tell them soon. Here’s why:

  • They already know. Maybe they don’t know the details, but kids are so dialled in to their parents, it’s hard to keep major family secrets for long. My guess is that they already know something’s up, and could be worrying about it anyway.
  • They will find out soon. If you haven’t told them yet, they are going to learn about it in short time. International communities (sometimes called bubbles or fish bowls, for good reason) are close-knit, and exciting news gets around quickly. You want to be the one to share this information at the time and place of your choice, not have your child accidentally find out at a play date or in the hallways of school.
  • They need to prepare. Children will benefit from having time to process the idea of a move, as well as to wrap up at the current locale, and get excited for your new place. Basically, they want to know for the same reasons you’d want to know: they need to get ready.
  • It will cause less anxiety in the long run. Moving is hard. It can be positive and exciting too, but it’s always hard. There’s no getting around this, and cutting your child out of the conversation won’t make the shift any less difficult. Accept that there will be some aches associated with the process; don’t put it off like a trip to the dentist.

Full disclosure and special circumstances

We are actually moving ourselves. After seven incredible years in Hong Kong, we’ll be starting a new adventure in The Hague this summer. I’m feeling a bit hypocritical as I write this because we haven’t told our babe yet. He’s two, though, and June is a very abstract concept for him. We’ll make sure to give him plenty of notice as we near the departure date.

Every family is different, and you know your child best. There may be a good reason to temporarily hold off on telling them about an upcoming move, such as one parent is on an extended trip, and you want to share the news together. Or, perhaps your child is facing a different, significant challenge at the moment, and you need to focus on that. However, consider what your reason is for delaying the conversation, and whether waiting will actually address the issue. Kids are resilient, and bringing them into the family discussion about your transition now (even if it’s difficult) could be better for them in the long run.

If you’re not quite sure how to prepare your child for an upcoming move, stay tuned… My next post will offer tips on how to ease this perennial transition so associated with international teaching life.

What tips do you have about sharing the news of a move with your child? 

Moving On

1780098_10203659579434229_1635069963_o As happens around this time of year, my family has been taking stock, looking around, and reflecting on where we are, where we are heading and what’s next. It is the typical response we all have when the year turns. What is different for us this year, is that most of our discussions revolve around leaving and moving.

Closing down and opening up.

My husband and I have moved many times, several internationally. That said, I don’t feel like an expert or even good at it. It’s a little like getting on a long flight. You know, it’s coming. You know, landing at the destination is ultimately going to be worth it. But the next 24+ hours is going to be l-o-n-g.

Moving is hard work.

But that’s what we do, right? As international educators, we chase the job, transition into new and different situations, and bring our own kids on the ride.

When my daughter was two, we moved to China. My worries about her focused just about solely on potty training. (As would the mom of any toddler!) When we got there though, the biggest challenge was around leaving her with a non-English speaker while we began our jobs. It was a leap of faith on our part, and I’m sure on the part of our Chinese ayi when we walked out the door that first morning of work.

Next, when my girl was seven, we moved to the Middle East. My focus then was mainly around how she would transition into a new academic situation. She had just become a reader and loved school. While it didn’t exactly go as we’d hoped, (she didn’t gel with her teacher and took a very long time to make friends that year) she continued along developmentally appropriate lines. That first year turned into a second, a third and now a seventh.

This time, I find myself with a teenager, moving to Eastern Europe. I find I’m doing less worrying and more listening with this transition. (It is so different moving with someone who has an opinion on the process and can share it.) As you might expect, my daughter’s fears center on not fitting in and not finding friends. Typical of kids her age and yet a real and significant concern for her, and for us.

When I think about all that she is saying, what I hear is she wants to feel “moved in”, “like we live there”, and as if “we are home.” My girl talks about permanence.  Which is a concept I have always struggled with as a third-culture kid myself.

Although she is happy right now, she’s ready to pack up and go. She’s ready for the next adventure and with it, the next life. I hear her. I feel the same way. However, having done this a few times, and trying to get better at it, I’m hoping this final move will help her see what I sometimes still struggle with understanding. That is that life, happiness, and even permanence isn’t a place, but a state of mind.

Writing this reminds me of a poem I’ve used in past presentations about Third Culture Kids:

where we are by Gerald Locklin

i envy those
who live in two places:
new york, say, and london;
wales and spain;
l.a. and paris;
hawaii and switzerland.

there is always the anticipation
of the change, the chance that what is wrong
is the result of where you are. i have
always loved both the freshness of
arriving and the relief of leaving. with
two homes every move would be a homecoming.
i am not even considering the weather, hot
or cold, dry or wet: i am talking about hope.

I hope those of you, like us, who are leaning forward, thinking about your next place, can enjoy where you are even as you plan for what is to come.