WHAT’S IT LIKE MOVING ABROAD WITH A SMALL CHILD?
Hey there readers! How are you today?
It is time again for a little expat update. Many people are amazed by the fact that I’ve been moving twice to new countries with a small children, first with my, at that time, 7 year old step daughter, and second time with my 5,5 year old son. Has it been easy? Not always of course, but it hasn’t neither been very difficult. I actually have a very good experience from both these times when it comes to adaption and integration for both me as a step parent or parent, as well as for the children.
Here are some experiences I’ve learned when moving abroad with my family:
The language will not be a big problem.
When we moved to Norway from Paris in 2012, my step daughter went to a French school after only a few weeks in a Norwegian one. She did not speak a word of Norwegian when we entered the Norwegian school for the first time, but it did not turn out to be that traumatizing, she got “friends” that were curious about her and when she finally ended up in the French school, it was of course even easier cause they spoke the same language. They teached Norwegian in the French school and since she had already been a few weeks in the Norwegian school and heard a lot of Norwegian being spoken to her, she was all curious about the language and she catched up many words and phrases quickly. Many of her classmates spoke both Norwegian and French and that made her feel jealous and hence more motivated to learn Norwegian faster.
My son and i moved to Madrid in September 2018, he started an international school where they speak both English and Spanish. I chosed a smaller, private school where they are only about 10 pupils in every class, and not that many classes in total in the school. This was because I wanted his teachers to have more control over whether he integrated well in the group or not, and how he seemed to behave and feel in the group. He has been there almost five months now and he speaks and understand both English and Spanish on an almost fluent level already. I was honestly so nervous both times those children were about to start a school where they don’t understand what people say to them, but both times I’ve seen that children are cabable of understanding and adapting languages so easily and that they show curisousity and interest in learning, which helps them a lot.
Not once have I felt that the language has been a real issue to us, of course there are moments where it could help if they were fluent in the current spoken language, but it has never caused a serious trouble for our smallest family members.
The fact of moving abroad together, will strengthen you and your child’s relationship a LOT.
I strongly believe that the fact that we moved to a new country and got to discover it and all the challenges and experiences coming along with it, together, will remain a strong memory and create a special bond between us. Me and my Mini have been flying here to Madrid together for the first time, looking at apartments together and choosing one of them to live, we have practised our first Spanish words together and walked new streets and visited new places together, all those memories are so precious for us and I feel it is something so fantastic to have in common. My stepdaughter does also seem to appreciate having lived the expat experience, she is now almost a teenager and she tells me that it makes her feel special that she has lived in another country and knows another language. When we talk about our awful neighbours in our first apartment in Lillestrøm outside Oslo, how it was when we first got to see snow outside our window for the first time, and when our little dog dissapeared and hid into a restaurant and we did not know how to ask for her as we did not know how to speak Norwegian, those are memories we will never forget, and I believe they have contributed to make us all curious and humble about people and their story about their lives. It is a special feeling when you come from another background than most people in the country. At least we have been lucky enough to have this positive experience and not the opposite. Meeting other expats in the same situation is also something really special, and most of those people I’ve met and keep on meeting, become real friends for life as we share something unique together.
It will make you all more open minded and courageous.
Being new in a country, or a city as well for that sake, will force you to be open minded and wanting to get to know new people. This requires you to be social and make contact with others, which is a very useful knowledge for you later on in life. Me and Mini have been talking a lot about our progress in both learning the language, but also about the project of making new friends. We have encouraged eachother and have had competitions about who can learn most words in Spanish, who dares to talk to most people in a day, who dares to invite a new friend to play or hang out etc. I think that Mini has been very encouraged by seeing that depsite that I am an adult, I can hesitate and become uncertain about myself, but together we can strengthen eachother and most important : daring things helps you come forward. It doesn’t matter that much if you did say something wrong in Spanish, or if that friend was not able to hang out with you today, you will get new opportunities and each time you dare, you will get more confident. I see how he is getting more and more open to unknown people and how he develops his way of being empathic and understand different situations, it makes me proud to see! As for me, I can now call myself an expert in networking and finding new friends 🙂
There are many things to say about moving abroad with your family, this is just a small part of it. I have been asked to write and talk more about it as it is a big part of my life and something many people are curious about, and of course I can do that! If you are wondering about if you should dare moving or not, I can just say that it was not that difficult, and the experience itself, is absolutely worth it.
Do you have any questions regarding the topic? Any own experiences you would like to share? Please drop a comment or leave me a message on my Instagram account: @lindaloefling .
A nice evening to you! Thank you for reading!