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We are going to relocate to a different country in summer with our daughter who is going to be 2.5 then.

I found this question but our situation is different and the answer does not apply.

Ours is going to be an international move. Language is not going to be an issue but the accent will be a lot different. My daughter is going to a creche here and she loves her teachers and has good friends among the other children. I know »friendship« might be a bit strong a word at that age, but during closure last summer, when she was only 1.5, she kept talking about four or five of her friends for the entire four weeks. My wife and I are used to (international) relocations, so while it still is going to be stressful, we at least know what we're in for – However, it is the first move with a child.

How can we help our daughter to cope?

  • How can we prepare her before the move?
  • How can we help her during the move when everything is away in boxes?
  • How can we make settling in easy?

I would also be interested in »lessons learned« in case someone has done this before.

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I also tried to tag with »change« and »relocation«, but my credit is not sufficient. – Seul Feb 5 at 10:45
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I went to add »change« and »relocation« for you but since they are not existing tags they wont help people find your question so I left them off. – RachelC Feb 5 at 12:16
    
Thanks @RachelC – I just thought they would be handy for the future, but not that important either. – Seul Feb 5 at 12:24
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The other moderators will clean out new tags (if I can even add a new tag). They're pretty efficient around here. Just wanted you to know I tried for you :) – RachelC Feb 5 at 12:33
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I proposed relocation as a synonym for moving since I think they are sufficiently identical (community feedback is required for that to be finalized). Change is a pretty good tag/topic, but I would love to see a bit more discussion about what to call it. See meta :) – Erica Feb 5 at 17:55
up vote 14 down vote accepted

TL; DR: We've been through the same thing, and we tried to explain to my daughter what was going to happen ahead of time, without hiding anything. Overall, it was a painless process, and after a month in the new flat, she seems to have adapted to her new environment.

We went through exactly the same situation a few months ago with my 2.5 year old daughter. We relocated from one country (France) to another (Germany). She was also going at the creche at the time.

What we did is we talked about it about 2 month prior to the move. As we were packing boxes, we explained that a truck was going to come and pick them up to go to our "new home". We were a bit worried of her reaction, but she was actually thrilled!

My wife also made a little booklet with drawings explaining the whole process, so she understood ahead of time what was going on. We did not mention the language change (she spoke both languages, but French a lot better).

When the move happened, she was fully aware of what was going on, and was actually pretty excited.

Settling in the new house was easier that we expected. However, we could see that she needed a bit of time to adapt. We visited a few creches and nannies before finding the right solution, and I think she was wondering what was going on. So, even though she had been diaper free (during the day) for over 6 months, we now started having regular accidents. We tried to be patient and not make her feel guilty, and it's getting better now, a month after the move.

She also had a friend in France, and we explained to her that she was staying there. We did not say that she wouldn't see her in a long time, but we did say that she was not coming with us. She mentioned her occasionally, but we always tried to remind her of the nice moments, rather than emphasize the loss. Today, she has a new playmate, and mentions her French friend very rarely.

AgapwIesu had this to add

tell her as much as you can about her new location, without creating expectations that you ma not be able to deliver on. We actually were in communication with several people where we were going to move and they sent us pictures.

give your child some decision making, let her feel that she has some control in this. Allow her to select what she wants to take with her on the move.

Also make a big deal of taking things that make your home a home, your home. If there are special lamps, decorations, or portraits in her bedroom, take those with you. Even put as much of them in the stuff that you carry with you, rather than shipping it. Make sure that when you get there, these are the first things that you put in place, even within the first couple of hours in your new home

My last word is that kids are supremely adaptable. Their brains are wired for new stuff, because everything is new. The move will be harder on you than on her, but your tension and stress will communicate to her, so take good care of yourself. Give yourself plenty of time to settle well into your new home. If you can avoid it, do not work for at least the first week in your new location. But if you must work, make sure that you have plenty of rest and family time at home. The togetherness of your family is the biggest factor that will carry all of you through the changes.

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Thanks so much @Stilltorik, I love the book idea and really like how you told her everything but phrased it in the most agreeable way, it's exactly how I would like to deal with it. – Seul Feb 5 at 14:14
    
It was difficult to pick one answer as they all had very helpful suggestiions. according to this meta.stackexchange.com/questions/13396/… I added some of AgapwIesu's suggestions and picked this answer. – Seul Feb 16 at 9:56

We also went through it with our kids, several times. Our first international move, from the U.S. to Peru, was when our oldest was 3.5 and our second had just turned 2. Then we moved from Peru back to the U.S. four years later, with a third child who'd been born in Peru and was just shy of 2 years old at the time of the move. In the 11 years since, we've had several other international moves and one more child.

The biggest thing, like Stilltorik has said, is to communicate with your child, a lot. Talk to her about what is going to be happening, and what it is going to be like.

But I want to add a couple of things - first, tell her as much as you can about her new location, without creating expectations that you may not be able to deliver on. We actually were in communication with several people where we were going to move and they sent us pictures. One family was going to be our next door neighbors and had a son the same age as our four year old. We talked to her about the new friends she would be making, and how she would get to start school with this new friend. She was actually very excited about the move. If you can start communication with a family with children, at your new location, that will be really helpful. Our second child really did not seem to grasp at all what we were trying to communicate to him, but we were not worried at the time (later we would find he had a severe form of autism).

The second thing that I would encourage you to do is to give your child some decision making, let her feel that she has some control in this. Allow her to select what she wants to take with her on the move. Our daughter had a lot of stuffed animals, so she got to select which ones to take (basically she chose all of them, and that was fine).

Also make a big deal of taking things that make your home a home, your home. Pictures, wall hangings, quilts. If there are special lamps, decorations, or portraits in her bedroom, take those with you. Even put as much of them in the stuff that you carry with you, rather than shipping it. Make sure that when you get there, these are the first things that you put in place, even within the first couple of hours in your new home, right away, make it yours. This will give a needed sense of continuity not only to your child, but also to you as well.

My last word is that kids are supremely adaptable. Their brains are wired for new stuff, because everything is new. The move will be harder on you than on her, but your tension and stress will communicate to her, so take good care of yourself. Give yourself plenty of time to settle well into your new home. If you can avoid it, do not work for at least the first week in your new location. But if you must work, make sure that you have plenty of rest and family time at home. At the very least, make sure that you all sit down for family meals every day.

The togetherness of your family is the biggest factor that will carry all of you through the changes. As we have taught our kids, friends move away, they come and go, and sometimes we are the ones that move away, but family stays together. We are each other's best friends, and if we must move, we move together.

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More great suggestions here @AgapwIesu! I like how you suggest to let the child have a say. We take everything, so eventually the familiar things will all be there, but it probably is a very good idea to make sure her things are among the first we unpack. – Seul Feb 5 at 15:33
    
I found it really difficult to choose in between your answer and Stilltorik's. In the end I followed the suggestions given here meta.stackexchange.com/questions/13396/… and I hope it is alright with you! Thanks again! – Seul Feb 16 at 9:58
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Seul, that is totally fine. His answer came first and had the most important aspect of the solution - communication. I am glad I was able to add a few helpful things. – AgapwIesu Feb 16 at 14:24

We moved internationally to a completely different culture with no social contacts and without bringing any of our old possessions when our daughter was this age. She was completely fine, and picked up on the first day as if nothing had changed. I believe the main reason for this is because we didn't do anything that has been mentioned so far.

Quite simply, we didn't make it a big deal or belabor the preparation. At this age, kids are reading emotion and expectation. If they know you are stressed and worried, they will be. If you act as if they should be upset or bothered, they will be. I think it is similar to how a child will often not cry after falling until some adult starts asking them if they're hurt.

I'm not in disagreement with the advice given necessarily, but I do think there is something to be said for not worrying too much or expecting your child to worry. Expect them to be fine, express that you expect them to be fine, and they often will.

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It is very likely that you happen to have a child that is very laid back and go with the flow. Not all children have that same personality, and some approaches will not work across the board. Your approach will work ok for a limited set of children, but there are other ways that will work more across the board. I am not talking about worrying or expecting the child to worry. One can communicate and take steps to help make a transition smoother and even more positive without doing it out of worry. – AgapwIesu Feb 8 at 17:09

We did this some years ago. As far as our son was concerned it was all an excellent adventure. He was too young to be sad about losing friends, and the airplane and airport were exciting and interesting.

If you are flying then read the fine print on luggage allowances carefully. We were able to bring a full size suitcase and hand baggage as "his" luggage, plus a child safety seat (which he sat in on the flights), plus a child care bag, plus a pushchair, all in addition to our regular luggage allowances. This made a huge difference.

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My report is similar to user20744's answer. We moved from spanish-speaking Argentina to english-speaking Canada when our daughters were 3.9 and 1.7 years old. While in Canada, we moved three times in the first 5 months.

Completely painless to them, even with the 24+ hour trip and the inability to communicate with other kids for the first few months until they picked up the language (and this did not hinder them in the playground).

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