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When The Move Isn't Smooth

expat life expat mums expat parenting expat parenting abroad Sep 24, 2019

It’s that time of year where many families have moved and are settling into a new city, new country, new schools and new homes. 


I find it hard to believe that as we settle into life in Auckland, it is only two years since we were arriving in Taipei! As I’ve said before, we move often!


While the past few weeks I’ve been focusing on what you can do to support yourself and your family during a transition, there are times when it doesn’t all go smoothly. 


So how do you know if your move is having an impact on your child? 


Our move to Taipei was one of those that didn’t go textbook. For a long time we weren’t sure where we were moving to, and in the interim the girls and I supported my parents as my dad overcame cancer. So not only were we in transition, but there was a lot of emotional stuff going on as well.


We finally arrived in Taipei and the girls started the next week at school, and everything was brilliant. They had lovely teachers who were super supportive and they made really sweet friends after only a few days. 


But three months down the track, things were starting to look ‘iffy’ for Miss J. She was crying a lot, completely uncontrollable sobbing tears. But over very silly little things, like spilling her milk at breakfast. She was spending a lot of time in a corner by herself, sometimes reading but also just sitting. She struggled to do her homework, daydreaming or crying each afternoon. And she had lost that inner sparkle that we all love about her. I was assuming that she was going through a stage where hormones changed, or something like that. 


It was at the school open day that I observed her in the classroom. Of course I had been speaking regularly to her teacher and we were trying to do extra work to catch her up to the class (we missed the first few months of the school year). But suddenly I realised that she just wasn’t even on the same page, let alone catching up.


She had lost all confidence in herself and wasn’t even trying! 


So the warning signs for us were, a child who has always been called an ‘old soul’ was now displaying:

  • Regular, out of context, emotional outbursts
  • Lack of energy and enthusiasm for anything school related
  • No self confidence and refusal to try new things


I’m not saying this is right for everyone, but for Miss J, after many discussions we decided she should repeat year 3. 


This was presented by the school as “we made a mistake, you’re in the wrong group”. Her new teacher was upfront and asked her to help the class as she already knew year 3, she could support the others. And literally overnight our sparkling Miss J came back.


She was happy again, she made new friends easily, she was happy to try new things and she always worked hard until her homework was done. But the crowning moment came when she decided to make her own website for a school project. She was off with a head cold, I was busy cleaning the apartment and she wanted to start. I apologised, I would help her in an hour when I was finished. But somehow, she gave it a go, and she did the whole thing by herself! That would never have happened a year earlier.


So as we settle into our new life in Auckland, I am on the lookout for the signs. But I am confident that we have all learned enough that we can support each other and make this a great move for our whole family.


I think the key is to know your child. Talk with them often and understand what is going on. When you see behavioural changes, look at the big picture and put it into a broader context. While I was assuming hormones were to blame, it was actually that she couldn’t do what the others could and completely lost her confidence. Importantly, stay close with the teacher and the school. Make sure you know what’s going on and what that means for your kid. 


But take heart, even if your move does impact on your child, together you can remedy the situation. 


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