So, I’ve contemplated changing the name of this post several times; it makes me sound like some kind of expert – something which I clearly am not (that’s an understatement!!). We did just go through it, however, at least the initial stages; and, while there were some things I think we did pretty well for first-timers, there were others about which I wish someone had prepared us. So, here goes my rambling list:
(1) Involve your children from the very beginning (to the extent it is age appropriate). Talk it up, find pictures online or in books. Talk about the things you can do in your new location that perhaps will be new and exciting experiences for your kids (in our case, it was/is building a snowman!). If applicable, explain that people may talk or sound different where you are going and work on learning a few words in the new language.
(2) Moving stickers can be fun! We were very fortunate, since our move was associated with my husband’s company, to have professional movers. With professional movers comes professional moving stickers. We had hundreds of sheets (it seemed like) of brightly colored stickers designating “air,” “sea,” “storage,” and “do not pack”. Our oldest adores stickers. To involve her, and to make this transition seem less traumatic, we gave her simple instructions, stickers and let her talk to us, show us and sticker the things she wanted to be sure we took with us.
(3) Create games whenever possible. We knew that probably one of the toughest visual realities for our kids (and us) would be seeing our entire house boxed up. On the day it was to start, we gently talked with our oldest about all of the boxes she was going to see. We explained that although it might look sad or scary, the boxes were good because they were full of all of our things we were taking with us to Germany. When we brought her into the house to see the boxes for the first time (we were still living there for a few days with the house boxed up), we made a counting game and asked her to see if she could count all of the boxes. It seemed to make what may have otherwise been an overwhelming situation for a two and a half year old, seem less so.
(4) Take advantage of any assistance offered by family and/or friends to babysit or entertain your kids. This needs little explaining and we were so blessed to have ready and willing family and friends who helped tremendously.
(5) Keep things as consistent as possible. For us, this meant bedtime routines, favorite foods and even keeping our girls in school until the last day possible (in fact, their last day at school was the Friday before we hopped on a plane Tuesday night). This provides security and comfort of the “known” for your little ones.
(6) Make fun/memorable activities with their friends/loved ones a priority. This was a big one for me. Yes, moving is stressful. Yes, moving internationally is insanely stressful. But, taking the time with family and friends and giving your little ones memories to keep them feeling happy and safe when their world is completely changing, I think is extremely important. This is equally important for us adults as well.
(7) Create a memory book with pictures of friends, family, favorite places. I’m not talking about some fancy scrapbook. I’m talking a $2 plastic flip-book/brag-book style which you can fill with lots of 4×6 pictures. We were already accustomed to this concept as we have family out of town, so our oldest already had one book with family members. Now she has one of her friends too. You’ll probably be surprised how much you, as the parent, will have fun putting it together yourself! Our oldest carried both of her flip-books in her backpack on the plane.
(8) Take a red-eye but make it as late as possible. Our flight left at 5:35pm, and as much as we thought that was the perfect flying time as it was close to our girls’ bedtimes and we figured (ha, the naiveté!) they’d sleep the whole time, it didn’t work out that way. In fact, since our flight was on the earlier side, it was a good two and a half hours into the flight before they turned off the cabin lights. At that point, our girls were so overstimulated that it took one big meltdown and lots of holding to settle them down for sleep. Had we chosen a later flight, I believe the “lights on” time in the cabin might have been less.
(9) Take a nap if needed to get adjusted. Conventional wisdom for getting over jet lag quickly will tell you to stay up all day until it’s night in your new location, and that’s the quickest way to get adjusted to the time change. Try keeping a two and a half year old and a ten month old awake all day after sleeping only three hours and arriving at 1 am their body time – riiiight. This was my first time flying internationally with kids, and it was therefore also the first time I actually took a nap on the day we arrived. And, it really only took us all (kids included) about 2 days to get completely adjusted. So, now I’m a convert – sleep briefly if you need to sleep. It will likely make everyone happier.
(10) Be patient. This seems almost unnecessarily obvious, but it has undoubtedly been more challenging than we thought. Any move, particularly one overseas, is difficult on little ones. And, depending on their age, they may not be able to understand all the change, and even less likely to be able to verbalize what they are feeling. Tantrums and “disobedience” are ripe in this situation. Add jet lag on top and it can be a pretty tough combination at times. I have found myself consistently, and repeatedly praying for patience, and for wisdom to provide the stability, reassurance and security that I know my girls need at this time in their lives. We’ve also tried to cut our girls “some slack” in the whining, fussing, attention-getting department knowing they are going through this period of transition, and that is likely the root of their seemingly disobedient attitudes and unusual fussiness. It is so easy as adults for us to loose sight of the fact that our sweet children lack the rationality and understanding that we do as adults.
But, all in all, we so far have survived unscathed and we are loving exploring Nuremberg and all the differences we’ve seen so far (another post to come!), and breaking open this new chapter in our lives as a little family.
Do you have any tried and true tips for moving (internationally or not) with little ones?