I think everyone can comprehend that the idea of packing up everything you own, moving to a place you’ve never been to, and saying goodbye to everyone you know in order to step into your new life, can sound like the most intimidating submission life will ever offer us. It can be especially daunting for children, teenagers, and even adults, to even think about leaving everything they know behind to start something they aren’t even sure will work out.
The transition from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates to Doha, Qatar, wasn’t easy for me at all. My life hit rock bottom when I found out from my dad that we had to move to a new country again for the third time. And the hardest thing for me was that I had just settled into my new school after transferring from my previous school, I was content with where I was, I had friends that I adored, and had high hopes that I’ll stay in my new school till I graduate. But, after a year of preparing and waiting, my family’s home suddenly turned into a cascade of boxes and my life turned upside down, with me being extremely apprehensive at my new perspective.
Arriving in Doha in 2014, my attitude towards life itself was pure hatred, and I know that it was a strong feeling to have, but I felt like I had everything good taken from me for no reason. I hated the fact that I lost all I had in Abu Dhabi, and most days all I wanted to do was curl up into a little ball under a ton of blankets because I was too scared of starting a new life again. The fear of suddenly waking up and having my house drowned in boxes again haunted me everyday for a year, and I closed my heart to people because I felt like the moment I start building strong friendships, I’d have to let it all go again. I shut off, and I woke up every morning for 365 days dreading to live another day in fear of losing everything again.
Now, the reason for us teens or kids being upset with moving might not be the same reason as my reasons. However, there is no denying that no matter what the reasons are, all fears of not being able to find friends, self consciousness, and denial of starting a new life will always hinder in the hearts of expats like a shadow. So, how can you, as a parent, make it easier?
Well, here are four things you can do:
- Be their shelter: I know that within the hateful state that I was in, I needed my parents more than ever; as much as I felt like I didn’t need them, the desperation within me to cry out for help grew larger than I ever intended. Give your children big cuddles, cry with them, make them laugh, and remind them that it will all fall into place in the end.
- Have your child open up to you and lay down how they feel: This can help you to find strategies of making your new transition easier on them. But when they do, make sure you are listening and not lecturing, because lecturing your children can make them feel like it’s silly to mention how much it all hurts. It may take a while for your child to overcome the grief, but always make sure they open up and step out of their shell.
- Don’t be discouraged: If your children aren’t willing to open up, don’t force them to talk, nor should you feel like you are doing something wrong. Just give them time, they will come through.
- Encourage your child to interact with positive people their age: Have your child join a sport club, or participate in some of the family events in your neighborhood, or join a nursery if they are younger, this will them to find people who understand them and make them laugh. And in my experience, getting out my comfort zone to meet new, positive people, changed my life, because after one day of spending time with people who have been through the same hurts as me, my sorrows turned into joy and my confidence came into light, and there was finally hope that I would break out of my rut and live my life with a smile.
So, try this with your child, because once your children have the security from you and from new, good friends, the grief which results in moving into a new life will subside. Talk to your children often, plan trips around your new country to explore, have your child press into your love and comfort, and surround them an adoration that, in the end, grief never wins, and joy will always win. They just need to be willing to believe it.