Sun, 06 November 2022
Did you know that the effects of moving to a new country on children are so profound that there is a term to describe the phenomenon? It is called "expat child syndrome" and has been coined by professionals in an effort to better understand it.
Although not all parents may have access to a psychologist to help them navigate during this time, there are simple ways to monitor how a move may be affecting your child in addition to ways to help them cope.
Read this article for more information about how to help your kids get settled in Bahrain or any other new location for that matter.
What is Expat Child Syndrome?
Before we can share tips on how to help your kids get settled in Bahrain, we first need to understand the concept of expat child syndrome (ECS).
According to Expat Info Desk, ECS is a term that has been coined by psychologists to describe the emotional stress in children caused by a move abroad.
The most unique thing about ECS, though, is that it is most commonly found in children who are aged between 10 and 15.
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“During this period of a child’s life, they undergo significant emotional and physical changes and will often utilize their social circles as a means of coping with these changes. Adolescence is a difficult period in the lives of all children, but when children are removed from their close circle of friends they can often find it even more difficult to deal with the mental and physical changes they are experiencing,” explains Expat Info Desk.
Signs of Expat Child Syndrome
The website further explains that expat child syndrome manifests itself in many different ways and may impact some children more than others.
Common symptoms include seclusion, loneliness, withdrawn behaviour and uncooperative or even disruptive behaviour.
“In the majority of the cases, children will eventually settle down and will begin to understand some of the benefits of their move abroad,” reassures the website.
There are concerns, however, that children who are unable to develop a social circle in their new country may develop a longer-term issue with making friends and fitting in with social groups.
As a result, they may also harbour longer-term resentment towards their parents for making them move away from a home they loved.
Not all hope is lost, though, as there are ways to guide your child through the difficult period.
How to manage the transition
ThriveWorks offers five suggestions for ensuring a smoother transition when moving with kids.
The website states that leaving children out of the decision-making process regarding the move can leave them feeling powerless and unstable.
“One of the best ways to give your child a sense of stability again is to give them a hand in what you’re doing. Let them help set up their new room – deciding where their bed, dresser, or even just their stuffed animals go,” advises ThriveWorks.
You can also plan an activity, like making a “treasure box” containing your child’s favourite things. This may help them feel some sense of control over their closest belongings and give them a sense of security.
An additional activity that can help, is making a memory book containing a physical reminder of some of their best memories. It can offer your child something physical to hold on to and turn to in moments when they may find themselves needing it.
You could also throw a going away party and though it may be sad for your child to say goodbye to their old friends and neighbours, it could give them a sense of closure and help them attach a different, more positive, feeling to the act of leaving to start a new life,
Lastly, experts advise that you don’t wait to unpack in your new home.
“It can be tempting to leave your belongings in boxes, but when you haven’t unpacked, you can make your child feel anxious as if the family is going to be leaving again soon.”
Lastly, make it a point to give your child time to adjust to their new home and social environment.
“Encourage them to share their feelings and get involved with the move. The best way to ensure a positive transition is to make your child feel in control, stable, and secure when you’re moving with kids.”