Four years ago, we decided to say goodbye to our busy life in Belgium, leave for Taiwan, and become an expat family. We had quite a good life but longed for more financial freedom to travel and show the children more of the world. Moving abroad was our chance to make a dream come true. An assignment for the company where Bert is working made this possible. We hope with these tips to make the step to live abroad a little easier for you and to experience this incredible adventure as a family soon.
When I look back on our life in Belgium, it was mainly a feeling of being lived. School, work, and all the children’s hobbies took up many evenings and weekends. There wasn’t much time to really do things together and if we wanted it to be planned well in advance. This busy family life is probably also why people have difficulty taking teenagers out of everyday life and moving abroad.
We did it, we moved abroad with our children, and I can tell you it has been the best decision of our lives. Not the easiest of challenges, but all four of us now look back on a great adventure and have a whole new perspective on life and the world. And what I’m most grateful for is the connection we have with our teens. I can call the family bond that we created during these four years abroad unique.
With these tips and the experiences that we share on this website, I hope to help you take this step and have a lovely adventure as an expat family. It is all possible, even if the children are not very young anymore. You will be amazed at what you can achieve as a family by stepping out of your comfort zone and following your dream.
Before sharing all our tips, there is one more thing I want to say.
Communication is the keyword in moving abroad with kids. Of all ages, teens will undoubtedly be the most challenging group to move overseas with. Both for the parents and the child, but it is perfectly possible. As a parent, you are the one the children should be able to count on in the first months after the move. And you will experience that this will work mutually. Sharing all of your experiences and thoughts, both positive and negative, will create a close bond between you and your child that’s so special. There will be challenging days but also days that you will experience that feeling of freedom. Living in another country and experiencing different cultures is something I wish for everyone. It really is life-changing.
Tips for moving abroad with children!
Tips to follow before relocating overseas:
- Get your kids involved right from the start. I believe this is the most important advice I can give you. Lotte and Pepijn were 12 and 10 when we moved. When we told them we would most likely move to Taiwan, Lotte was very enthusiastic, and Pepijn immediately said he did not want to go. He couldn’t miss his grandparents and his friends. By the time we left for Taiwan, it was precisely the opposite. Lotte didn’t like it anymore, and Pepijn was very enthusiastic. These changing emotions are part of moving abroad and will undoubtedly be something that you will also experience. Try to be honest and open and accept these fluctuating emotions. Just be there for them.
- Ask them regularly about their feelings. I always tried this when I was alone with them. The rides back in the car from school or the sports clubs were a perfect moment to start these conversations. The day trips were also when I had the best conversations with them and when they were willing to talk about their feelings.
- Let them talk, you listen. Let them know that you cannot feel what they are feeling but that you understand that what they are going through is hard. It’s a new experience for the whole family and it makes sense that you won’t be able to answer many of their questions because it’s going to be new for all of you too.
- Let your child walk around in their new country via Google Earth. These virtual tours are a lovely way to get an idea of the new country.
- Often your child will go to an international school close to where you will live, but if you do have a choice in schools, it might be an idea to involve them in making a decision.
- Check out the school’s website. Often, many photos or videos give them an idea of where they will spend a lot of time.
- Make a notebook in which you compile lists of all great places to visit in your new country. Think of amusement parks, national parks, unique buildings, beaches, etc. Have them look it all up themselves on the internet.
- For children who like to write, it might be an idea to keep a diary. I know that there are also books available to keep track of their move through fill-in pages. These books are a lovely memory for later. Check out this website www.meandmybigmove.com for an excellent workbook in different languages.
- Organize a farewell party for friends and family and don’t forget the friends from their class and the sports clubs. Saying goodbye is something that comes with expat life. It may not always be easy, but it is also part of this life.
Tips to follow after relocating overseas:
- Let your child decorate their new bedroom. They can find great ideas on Pinterest. Then look together what is and isn’t possible concerning the rules of the landlord. But you can often come a long way to create your child’s unique place.
- Technology will keep it more accessible to stay close to friends. There are video calls, chats, social media, and so on. They will be afraid that friends will soon forget them, but the reality is that most friends consider it an honor if they contact them again. Encourage your child to take that first step. Someone has to do it. During the first months, we also had regular contact with the class via skype calls. But to be honest, I have to say that it’s not easy to skype with a whole class.
- An easy way to make new friends is a place where you can share similar interests. Think of sports clubs or hobby clubs. Also, by following the after-school clubs at school, they quickly make contact with others.
- Plan trips to places you want to visit together with your child. Start with your living environment and expand it later. Also, don’t forget the lists you have made with all the places to go in your new country. My daughter also really enjoyed looking for restaurants via google maps. Involve them as much as possible in discovering your new country.
- Let them know well in advance when you have a return trip. The children can prepare themselves for this trip and already arrange things with their friends. Also, leave enough time for them to hang out with their friends. These catch-ups with friends are especially important during the first times you travel back.
I think I caught most of the struggles that come with moving abroad by giving you these tips. Remember that there will be good and bad days. That’s totally normal, and they will be there for a long time, but the good days will win and make the bad days less harmful. Know that we are there to help you and your kids. Feel free to reach out to us. We love to connect with other like-minded families.
Download all the tips from this Blog Post!
Download this file, print it, and hang it in a visible place so you can read over it regularly. It will help you to make this adventure a really great one.