Relocation is a big change.
It may be something that has been on the horizon for a while. But it can equally be something that almost blindsides you, giving you barely time and space to process the implications yourself before you have to dive headlong into closing off utilities, giving notice on your home (or contracting a real estate agent to find you a tenant) and start researching all the aspects of life in your next location.
Regardless of how much notice you have, if you are relocating with children there will always be the question of when to tell them, and how to break the news.
There are two main schools of thought on this. The first is to break the news early – sometimes before while the move is still technically just a possibility rather than a signed agreement. The second approach is to wait until 2 – 4 weeks out from the move date.
There are pros and cons with both approaches. Ultimately the approach chosen will depend on personal choice, family dynamic, and the ages and personalities of the children. However in the round, breaking the news earlier is generally considered to be the better option.
Telling the children early
The key benefit here are that the children will have the time and space to process the news.
“I’ve found (at various ages) telling them sooner rather than later is best. Also involving them in family decisions (however big or small) really helps them feel empowered”Long-term, multi-location expat and parent
Children will be afforded the opportunity to grieve for the losses they will experience through the necessary impending changes in their lives. They will be able to be in control of when and how they tell their friends, plan farewell parties or playdates. Finally, they may want to create a list of things to do, places to visit or ‘memories to make’ before they depart for their new home.
Being given the chance to say goodbye to people, things and experiences will help them to create space for all the new people, things and experiences that are in their futures.
Early knowledge can also allow the children to be involved in planning the move to some extent – they can research the new city/ country, help divest their possessions that they don’t want or need to take, and start getting excited for the future.
“Give them lots of time to get used to the idea. First time we moved we told them close to the date and they didn’t have time to prepare … disaster, second time went much better as we gave them three months notice.”family experienced two international moves
Telling the children later
If you have an anxious child, then there could be a good argument for delaying telling them of an impending relocation. Alternatively if you know far in advance (say 12mths out), then telling a child they are moving in a year may remove the motivation for them to make an effort socially, to connect in school and they may become more introverted than is their natural inclination.
However, there can be significant ramifications for the children and for your family relationships if you leave it too late.
“My father used to tell us about a move 30 days in advance, even as teens. I’m still mad at him about it 40 years later. We tell our kids early.”mother who was herself an expat child, now an expat parent
For assistance or advice in planning your impending relocation, or if you are an in-house corporate Global Mobility professional, please contact Parental Choice. We specialise in assisting families relocate seamlessly, and ensuring corporate relocations succeed.