Prepping your kids for a year abroad

7:27 AM

After a day of traveling, my son was ready to crash anywhere we'd let him. No, he's not asleep on the suitcases, but he fell asleep shortly after on a bench in the food court. He's also slept on the bus, in a taxi, and in a hospital emergency room. He's slept on a bench and a chair and in my lap. He's even slept on a train.

Such is the life of an expat kid.

Living abroad is one of those things a lot of people want to do, but most people choose not to. I'm not judging or complaining. I don't think most people should live abroad. Unless you're really interested in learning about another culture and fully immersing yourself in it, you should just travel and visit and have your home base and have fun.

You should do what works for you.

But if you do want to live abroad and spend more time overseas than a two-week trip affords you, you can do it even if you have kids. Lots of families do, mine included, and here's how you get your kids ready for that.

1. Don't blindside them
"Hey, we're selling all of our stuff and moving to a country where you don't speak the language, so be in ready in 10, k?" isn't the way to inform your kids what's happening. Now, depending on the ages of your kids, maybe you want to have a discussion about whether or not this is the right choice for your family, and you'll have to decide about that. My kids were 6 and 8 when we left and had no choice in the matter. It would have been easy for them to feel helpless, so we spent a lot of time talking about what to expect, what things would stay the same, and what things would be an adjustment.

2. Start talking with your kids early
While it might be tempting to avoid talking with your kids until your plans are finalized, realize that sometimes things can happen really, really quickly. For example, my husband started applying for jobs a few days after graduation, had an interview the next week, and started work the next week. Had we waited until things were set in stone, we would literally have been giving our kids a moment's notice. Start talking to them early so they can mentally prepare.

3. Focus on the positive
Asking, "Aren't you going to miss your friends?" or "Are you sad we're moving?" is counterproductive. Don't ask negative questions when you're planning to move. Instead, focus on the positive. For example, you could say things like, "We're going to get to try so many new types of food!" or "We're going to get to ride a train and an airplane." My kids were personally excited about riding the bus, which we do almost every day. It still hasn't gotten old. You don't have to try to impress your kids super hard, but you should place an emphasis on the things that are going to be exciting and fun.

Have you lived abroad? How did you prepare your kids?

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