Childhood can be split up into about 5 groups of ages, here is a quick run down as to What to Expect... when relocating with kids with a child in these age groups:
Babies and Toddlers
Keep their routine and favourite toys close by and they adapt the easiest as family is their world. They challenge your energy levels, but this will not change where you are. The main consideration is lining up extra child care help for you as the adult to give you time away from them to sort out your expat life.
Four - Eight Year Olds
They will have friends already at school, but will soon make new friends at the new school and the old life will be partially if not completely forgotten after the first year away. You need to steer them to the benefits of the new location and make it fun and exciting and they will start absorbing everything as these are the magic 'sponge' years. As mentioned above I feel age 5 is the perfect time to introduce a brand new language, before the first gets cemented in the brain. They will have worries and you will need to make sure they understand everything and reassure them that everything will be okay.
Pre-Teens - Nine to Twelve Year Olds
This is a difficult age group to manage when relocating. They will have built up solid friendships at school and will not want to say goodbye to everything they know and love. You will spend a lot of energy trying to excite them about the move and show them the benefits once there. Being honest and open and sharing your struggles with them will be the best plan at this stage. They like to know that everyone has their down days. It is definitely not all Disney and this age group is getting what real life is about. Do not under estimate them!
Teenagers - Thirteen to Fifteen Year Olds
Pushing boundaries is the only way to go at this age, no matter where you live in the world. Their hormones are in complete upheaval in these years, so emotions will run high. Expect a roller coaster ride. It may well bring you closer together as a family though as when abroad it is often only your immediate family that you can really rely on and confide in. Just keep the communication flowing.
It is very important at this age to make sure the school they will be enrolled in follows the same curriculum as they are leaving behind as starting afresh when work is getting harder is extremely difficult if not impossible. The international school network becomes your friend at this point. But they fill up fast, and need far more notice to enroll children then companies often give you about an upcoming move. As soon as you have an inkling that a move may happen, contact the international school in the town and get your child on the waiting list. School is the centre of their lives, with clubs and other activities revolving around it.
Every country has a different method and curriculum for the national education, and this can make moves very hard. There is however now a huge network of international Schools, British International Schools and Wordwide American Schools set up across all the continents to support the expat children and provide continuity of education. The IB program is a popular and extensive curriculum that has worldwide support and acceptance into universities worldwide. Visit http://www.ibo.org/ for more information.
Young Adults - Sixteen to Eighteen Year Olds
As these are the years that the curriculum in schools runs towards the exams that lead your child onto further and higher education, moving as a young adult is very tricky. If they have already been enrolled in the IB program at another international school, the transition would be okay schooling wise. But there may be a huge kickback to you for upsetting their social lives. Girlfriends and Boyfriends now enter the equation of the friends they leave behind...But they are mature enough to understand the opportunities that can lie ahead with an adventure overseas.
They may ask to stay behind. And it is worth considering if this is the case. Is there a family member they can stay with? Or maybe there is a boarding school that would work for everyone? It is very important to involve your young adult in all decisions at this stage of their lives. At no point give them an action, in which they have had not had significant involvement in making.
This article is part of a linked series that has a focus on Expat Children; click below to read more:
What to expect … when relocating with kids is a whistle-stop outline.. If you want to read some more about how the areas of Friendship, Learning a language, Emotions and Schooling can affect your Expat Child then read Is there a better age for children to move abroad?