As a military wife, life often throws you curve balls, one particular ‘curve ball’ that’s been happening in my life is our impending family move to the Czech Republic. There are many things I’m looking forward to experience as a family and many other positives that we are taking from the move, however, something that’s always at the very forefront of our minds has always been the children.
At moment the children are very lucky to be in our local school, just a short walk down the road, they are excelling in all they choose and are over all just very happy little people that I don’t have to worry about too much. For them, the move spells massive change, including a new, totally different type of schooling (they’re going to an international school so will be taught in English, but the whole system is entirely different) they will be leaving their friends, their home (which we’ve managed to stay in, I don’t follow my husband around on his drafts) and are about to be fully submersed in a brand new culture through no choice of their own so naturally, we wanted to do everything in our power to make the transition as smooth as possible.
We’ve had a long time to build up to the move so I thought it would be valuable to explain what we did and the steps we took to enable an easy, happy transition, not only to their new school but their new home and country!
We found out we were moving around a year from the deployment start date, which initially gave us plenty of time to introduce the idea slowly to the children. Even though we knew the move was happening, we took time to let them know that this is a move that may happen in the future and what it would mean, for example, a new school but also new house and country to explore. This gave the children time to process it and tell us their concerns that we could work on targeting.
I think it’s really important to be open to listening and addressing their worries rather than dismissing them and only focussing on the positive. For my youngest, the issue has always been on missing his friends, to tackle this, I’ve explained that it’s OK to miss his friends but there are many ways to keep in contact and we can enjoy posting things back to their addresses and have a little party when he leaves. For my oldest, it’s joining the new school. At 8, he’s a little older and even more aware of the change so I’ve taken the time to let him know I understand how scary it can be but we have spent time researching what after school clubs the school have in place and I’ve been quick to ask him how many people wanted to play with the new child when someone new starts at their school. He’s now looking forward to getting ‘crowded’ in the playground and joining Lego club.
In fairness, I don’t know too much about the move myself, so part of our experience has been researching the city we will be living in and making a list of things to do when we’re going to get there. I’ve also tried to give them the opportunity to learn a bit about the Czech culture, food and language so its all a little less foreign to us when we arrive, they are really excited that there will be snow in winter, and long hot summers, as well as trying the new food and the Ossuary they want to visit in our new city. Ive written a post about Brno and its things to do here
Naturally, as with any move, we can’t take everything with us. I really didn’t want it to feel like the children were having all of their toys and belongings thrown away so I have tried my hardest to slowly and sneakily get rid of some of their bits as well encouraging them to think about what they might want to donate to charity or sell for some extra pennies. I have also given them a large box each and explained that they can fill it with whatever they want so hopefully it will make them feel secure in the knowledge that everything they feel is important toy wise is coming with them, but at the same time, not having to drag everything and the kitchen sink with us!
I’m lucky in the sense the boys haven’t seemed to be too affected emotionally by the move and are by and large excited for the move but I have bought them some cute little worry dolls. If you haven’t seen these before they work on the premise that you tell them your worries at bedtime and in the morning they will be gone! There is no harm in it for a bit of fun and my youngest has really bought into this idea.
Good old bribery. Let’s be honest, it works. I’ll cut to the chase, I’ve promised them an Xbox when we go over, they love it, can’t wait for it and in times of stress, I just remind them they’ll have and Xbox to play on and it seems to diffuse any upset. Oh, and Disneyland… I booked Disney for our trip over, I felt sad and booked it on a whim… whoops.
Speaking of Disney, we had loads of different options of ways we could travel there but we thought the most fun and least disruptive way was to turn it into a mini holiday. So rather than opting to pack up and fly over, we are taking a 4 day trip over in the car, taking in a few of the European sites. It’s given me the chance to get out the map and show the children exactly where and how far away we are going. They have been instrumental in the route we are taking and where we will be stopping on the way. I think this has helped them particularly in understanding the distance involved and will hopefully make packing up and going over feel less traumatic than an airport stop.
Its been a rocky road actually finding out about the house we will be living in and therefore the school they will be attending but now that is all in place, I have been sure to show them pictures of the house and let them have choices about bedrooms and beds etc. this has really helped. Also, the school seem really adept at dealing with new pupils joining (Its an international school so im guessing there is quite a flow of students leaving and joining mid term) so they have been sending through lots of information about the new school, their teachers and topics
Something that’s also been really important for us is to plan some days out for when we get there with friends and family who are planning to visit.
Of course I will let you all know how it goes and I’m always grateful for you tips, ideas and comments if you have been in a similar position and done something not mentioned above.