Preparing to move to the U.S. from Melbourne, Australia was a daunting task. There were many, many things that needed to get done, organised, and prepared.
My husband’s job was to organize getting our passports, visas, aeroplane tickets, and any other legal stuff that needed to be done so we could live in America. My job was to organize all the material stuff necessary to move. It was also really important to me to prepare the children as best as I could for the massive change—to help them understand that their grandparents wouldn’t be around the corner, so to speak, and that they’d be leaving their friends and making new ones.
Thankfully my children were still very young (5, 3 and 2 years at the time) so the change for them was not as difficult as it might have been had they been older. Even so, change is still hard for anybody and preparation was important if the adjustment to a new country, culture, neighbourhood, and church community was going to be smooth.
So these are some of the steps we took to prepare them.
- We talked a lot about how exciting it will be to go on a plane. And not just one plane, but three! This was their first time on an aeroplane so this was all they talked about and couldn’t wait till it was time.
- We talked about how it was an amazing adventure to somewhere we’ve never been before. We would be explorers! We would explore animals, flowers, and trees that were different to Australia. We would see the shops that were the same, the ones that were different, we would drive on the other side of the road! We discussed many other differences we would experience as we thought of them.
- Disneyworld! (What more can I say?)
- We had fun talking about the words that Americans use for things that are different to the words Aussies use. For example, trash & garbage/rubbish, bathroom/toilet, sidewalk/footpath, elevator/lift etc.
- We explained that we would still be able to talk with our family face to face with FaceTime and Skype. We practiced this with their grandparents in the few weeks leading up to our departure to get both grandparents and the children used to it. This worked really great. It was also really helpful because it gave us time to instruct the grandparents on how to use the technology before we left.
- We explained that we would be able to write emails, post photos on Facebook, send things in the mail, to continue to share our lives with our family and friends, and they with us.
- We explained to them that it will be sad to leave our family and friends as they won’t be near us to come over and play, and to give us cuddles. And its ok to be sad. It’s ok to miss them. We felt it was important for them to understand that we were moving far away and that they would feel that loss. I didn’t want them moving with the expectation that everything would be exciting and happy all the time. That would not have been fair as it would not have been reality. I needed to prepare them for the emotions they would feel and let them know it was ok to feel them and express them.
- We told them of the many families in America that were excited that we were coming and were ready to be our friends. We would not be alone or lonely, we had friends in America that we just hadn’t met yet. This helped immensely, especially for the eldest who was the most aware of the fact that she was leaving her friends, and worried that she wouldn’t have any.
- Finally, and most importantly, we told them God was with us. The God that we love and serve in Australia is also in America!
These conversations didn’t just occur once. We said these things over and over and over again so they would understand and feel content and peaceful about what was happening. And do you know what? It worked. They knew what was going to happen. They knew what to expect. They made friends quickly and got used to the FaceTime and Skype calls with grandparents. What a blessing to be able to still see our family even though we are on the other side of the world.
Did they get sad? Yes, many times. There were many tears in the first few weeks, especially from the 5 year old. But not despair. She knew she would miss people, she knew she would get sad, and she was ok with that. She was prepared for the adventure, and all the ups and downs that went along with that.
What experiences have you had moving with children?
What strategies (if any) did you use to help your children with the transition?