Our kids are 7 and "almost 9." Our move is in just two days, and at this point it's just a matter of riding the roller coaster and enjoying the ride as much as possible. Making the experience of an international move good for them has, of course, been a big topic of conversation. From my experience as a therapist working in the schools and developing teen centers, etc, I know that kids are amazingly resilient. That being said, we still wanted to minimize their potential future therapy-related expenses.
Let me get the topic of schooling out of the way first, because that's the question adults ask about. We got in touch with several private, international schools where we'll be living at first and ended up having a wonderful opportunity withLakeside Schoolin Guanacaste. We could send our kids to the good public schools in <st1><st1>Costa Rica, but you really do need to know Spanish to thrive in those schools, so this option provides some great social support and structure while catering to kids and families who are coming from all over the world. We've had a couple of surprises, like finding out that there's really no street names and addresses in Costa Rica, and that school transportation is an extra, private expense, but we've worked through those bits by basically pretending to be kids ourselves and giving ourselves the freedom to ask approximately a gazillion questions.</st1></st1>
Might we end up homeschooling or unschooling eventually? It's definitely a possibility but let's make one transition at a time for all our sanity's sake.
Dave and I sat down one day and had a very cool discussion on "Things We Wished Adults Had Thought of When We Were Kids." While we didn't move internationally with a family when we were little, we both had experiences of being the new kid and finding ourselves in new situations with little preparation. We came up with 5 things we would focus on to support the kids in the transition.
1.Validate their feelings,even if we thought (from our lofty adult perspective) that they were being dramatic or silly. Sometimes you just need someone to "get" you, and then you can move on.
2.Include them in what's happening.They don't need to know every detail, but keeping them in the loop about school, travel plans, what was happening on a daily basis with the house sale and the move, etc. Our son has been very interested in how we've been using Craigslist to sell items we no longer need, so we've had him help with keeping track of money and involving him in those sales conversations. (yay for developing skill sets!)
3.Let them make some choicesand pursue some interests related to the move so that they feel powerful. The kids got to choose what items they wanted to bring with them--1 stuffed animal, 6 DVDs, 8 books, and toys that fit inside a certain sized bag. They also donated an entire mini-van full of toys, books, and clothes which they felt really good about.
4.Educate the family togetherabout where you're going. I got a book out of the library from the childrens' section on <st1><st1>Costa Rica and was surprised at what they came up with. Our son made a list of places he wanted to visit, our daughter pointed out that there are active volcanos and insisted on creating a plan to make sure we could get out. I never would've thought of that, and we ended up finding anapp/website from the US State Departmentthat had great information and assistance for international travellers. We also found a cool language learning app and website calledMemrise that makes learning new languages a game. Very cool, and all thanks to the kids' ideas. </st1></st1>
5.If mom and dad are cool, everyone is cool.Selling a house and moving to a foreign country (on a budget!) absolutely has a high stress level. It's so easy to get all worked up and start taking it out on each other. Dave and I have very different strengths and ways of dealing with stress, so we've made it a priority to connect 2-3 times a day. Often it's not a conversation that we need to have, it's just a hug to connect and be close. We also took the time to use the strategic planning processes that I use for my business coaching clients to create our moving plan. Having the plan and the connection has made a HUGE difference in our staying on track, keeping as calm as possible, and working through the hurdles that have come along-like unexpected expenses related to the house closing, or car repairs, or what have you.
Time to get back to packing!