It is not easy to uproot oneself from the familiar to move to another country, much less so when one includes children in the mix.
Preparing your children adequately for a move is very important and will ensure that you and your family get the best possible start to your relocation experience.
For this article, I spoke to several expat parents as well as adults who were expat children to learn more about moving with children. Do note that the experiences of all families will differ and will depend on several factors, such as the ages and personalities of the children, family dynamics and number of times the families have relocated previously.
Involve the Children in the Decision Making Process
Some parents preferred to keep their children out of the loop until concrete plans have been formed while the majority believed that it was important to involve the children in the decision making process so that they feel like they have some control.
Reactions to the news can vary widely: from excitement and anticipation to sadness and anger. Also, reactions can vary daily or weekly. This would depend also on their ages, experience with moving and emotional ties to their present home, network and friends.
When preparing your children for a move overseas, it seems as though the older they are, the harder it can be. This is due to the fact that older children may have far deeper emotional bonds to where they presently are. Of course, this also depends on every individual child’s personality and liking. Some children absolutely love moving to a new country and having new experiences. Other children might be glad to move away if they have issues at the school they are at or with their social network.
It is thus very important to access your children individually and offer the necessary support before, during and after the move.
The following points look at moving to Norway with children of different age groups.
Moving to Norway with Infants, Babies and Toddlers
Infants, babies and toddlers will most likely be the easiest of your children to relocate as they are too young to have any emotional issues with moving. Granted, changes in timezones, jet lag and a new environment will wreck havoc on their routines and your children’s behaviors but these will quickly fall back into place within a few days to a few weeks.
Moving to Norway with 4 to 8 year olds
As with infants, babies and toddlers, younger children will usually take to the move fairly easily. They will most likely have plenty of questions about the move and it will be worth your while to answer them as patiently as possible. Some parents suggested showing pictures, videos and explaining about Norway as much as possible.
Children in this age range will have established a social network at school but a new network (especially in an international school well-equipped to take in expat children) will quickly take up all their time and enthusiasm.
If you would like your children to learn Norwegian, it will be a breeze for children in this age range.
Moving to Norway with 9 to 12 year olds
Parents of children in this age group gave very diverse answers when asked how their children reacted to being told of an impending move. Some of the children reacted very positively and excitedly while the reactions of other children were right on the opposite end of the spectrum.
At this stage, it is all the more important to keep your children abreast of all developments and involve them in the decision making processes, especially when it comes to their education.
Some of the parents I spoke to set up email addresses and social networking accounts for their children (even though they may not be old enough) so they could keep in touch with their friends from school. Some also had activity days with their children where they proceeded to learn all they could about Norway and the city they were moving to.
Moving to Norway with Teenagers
As with the previous age range, reactions to being told that a move is impending differed widely. Some teenagers took to the news with delight while others displayed rage at having to leave their friends and schools.
At this age, education is relatively important so it might be a good idea to enroll them in a school which follows a similar curriculum. This will make their educational transition easier and also ensures that they do not lose a year of school.
It might also help to explore extra-curricular activities offered in the new school with your children so they have something to get excited about.
Older teenagers might wish to move with the family or complete school in your present home country. Depending on your family’s culture and background, you may or may not allow them to do so. Be sure to explore all options in this aspect.
Tips from other parents
- “Be sure to pack all that your baby/toddler is used to and loves, such as his baby cot, blanket, pillow and favourite toys and books. Your container shipment might take up to 3 months to arrive so be sure that you have all the necessary equipment and comforts.”
- “Let your children (yes, even the toddlers) help you pack – involving them in the process gives them a sense of importance, which they will appreciate and hopefully, that will translate into less tantrums and fuss while you are packing.”
- “Label all your boxes clearly – you might have impatient children like mine who have to have a particular item at that very moment.”
- “It might be possible that your toddlers’ milestones (such as sleeping in a proper bed instead of a cot and potty training) might regress during this period. Be understanding and try again when you have settled in Norway.”
- “If possible, time your move during the school holidays or at the end of a school year – this seemed to sit better with my daughter.”
- “For our first international relocation, my husband had to move first and leave us on our own for 6 months. That got my children worried that their father had left us for good, which manifested in nightmares and insecurity issues. So I had to spend alot of time reassuring them that we would be together soon and we spent alot of time over Skype as well. If you have a choice, I would recommend for the entire family to move at the same time.”
- “Listen to their concerns and worries and address them appropriately, it is important for the children (of all ages) to know that they are being heard.”
- “Prepare kids for what to expect. Teach them about the new country/city you are moving to and what is in store for them. Try to focus on the positives. Children are good at knowing when their parents are stressed and might mirror your emotions.”
- “If you intend to enroll your children in a local school, it will be worth your while to get started on learning some Norwegian before you move, just so your children get used to hearing the language.”
- “Scrapbooking projects of memories of our present home, environment and friends helped my children with the transition. During the first 3 months, we would often take these scrapbooks out to reminisce.”
- “Organise a leaving party – this would give your children something to look forward to during the final stages of packing and it will also be a great opportunity for them to say goodbye to the people that matter most to them.”
- “Make sure the internet and TV in your new home are up and running ASAP! Your children (and you) will benefit from the distraction and your older children will enjoy updating their friends back home on their progress (or complaining about their parents).”
- “We set up an online blog so we could update all our family and friends about our new life and activities in Norway. My children really got into this and would always pester me to take pictures of things, people and places they found interesting enough to post on our blog.”
- “Be sure to bring necessary medication for your children if they so require. It might take a while before you get assigned your general practitioner here in Norway. Also, many over-the-counter medications in other countries are by-prescription-only here in Norway.”
- “Remember to get your children’s immunizations up-to-date before leaving your present home country. Also, find out where the nearest emergency centre (legevakt) in your new city is so you do not freak out when your children need to pay a visit there.”
- “Be positive about Norway (even if you yourself have doubts and uncertainties).”
All in all, look upon the whole experience with a positive view and that will get you through the worst of it.
See our other article on
Moving to Norway with Children: Education.
About the author
Cynthia Myrnes is a Singaporean who has been living in Stavanger since February 2008 with her Norwegian husband. Cynthia can be contacted via email.