Preparing Your Child to Leave Home

By 2022-08-11 17:49:41

When it comes to relocating with a young child like we have, it can be overwhelming to say the least. Not only do you have to manage your own overseas haul with managing the move of furniture, toys, books, cooking utensils and clothing. But you need to set the narrative for your child and guide them when it comes to their own emotions. Children are resilient to change, but that doesn’t mean they are immune to a huge range of emotions such as the change of environment, saying good bye to close friends, the familiarity of their school and possibly, the fear of going to a new school or meeting new friends. They still need your guidance in order to thrive.

Share, don’t hide.

When we decided to move countries, we already had the plan before the lockdown. We made talking about our new country a part of our adult conversation and we cooked dishes that is common in the country for her to try. In our case, our move was to Portugal and I have had the pleasure of visiting there multiple times to be able to describe the country vividly. We would talk about things we can do with her while we are there, the blue skies, the ocean… 


We would talk about things her dad would like such as his coffee or, things I would like such as going to the markets. We would talk about the friends she wants to see before she goes and what she wants to do before leaving. Sadly, she wanted to see the aquarium but it is still in not opened.

Open conversation.

It is so important to have an open channel of communication with your child where you give them the platform to share their feelings. For us, that time is before her nap or bedtime. We would take a moment to talk about her day and what made her happy or sad.  Then we would  follow up with specifics like, what she will miss about Shanghai and what she looks forward to in Portugal such as, having her own room with play area. We would ask her what she wants in her room and would share with her a list of things we can do together such as visiting the Oceanarium, going to the Lisbon zoo and visiting the countless parks and, seeing a real life castle. We would trigger her memory from previous airplane rides, and the games she wants us to bring and her books (all helpful to when we move). 


We also started reading books on farewells as part of the routine. It also gives us ideas on how we can loop that into the discussion and prepare her for when her new school semester begins.

Empower them with decisions.

If I could, I would bring everything with us. But there are toys she no longer plays with or backpacks that she never used. We carefully go through her play area and ask her what she wants to bring and if mummy had it correct. We would go through the checklist and I also asked her which stuffed animal she wants in our luggage and which stuffed animal she wants to bring on the plane. 


I went overboard on Taobao and bought her a lot of different styled backpacks which she can use for school a year ago. There are some which have not been used, which she only enjoys playing with so when it came to packing we also asked her which ones she wanted and which ones she is OK to give away. Of the seven, she picked three. And was very specfic which will be her school bag, and that bag I packed in my check-in luggage.

Be a part of the move.


Let your child see the apartment being packed away. They may ask a lot of questions and don’t want things their favourites packaged in boxes, but it is part of the transition. In this time, comfort them and explain these boxes are being sent to where we are going. In our case, our daughter loves boats. She is happy to have her stuffed animal, Daisy Duck help comfort her other dolls while they are on the boat ride to Lisbon. Give the kid a quiet corner to play if you don’t have help that day. Or, if you do plan a playdate so they don’t get too overwhelmed with the increasing noises of tape and bubble wrap. But, when the move is finished let them see the empty home and explain that it is the people that makes home the heart.

You may ask, so how are you entertaining your child from the time your movers packed away her world til the flight? Luckily I have my parents which has a house full of her other fun things. But also, we have passes to indoor play areas, her scooter and friends that are gracious to host us for playdates and feed her lunch and dinner.

Transition Toys.

From the time your shipment is arranged til things are unpacked, you are looking at a three to five month wait. Once you arrive your AirBNB or your family home or an empty apartment, it can be overwhelmingly empty for a child. Be sure to have transition toys ready. For us, these are toys which she loves and activities she enjoys. We made room in her luggage to carry these favourites of hers. We packed food colouring, her bath toys, watercolours and painting pads, her favourite stuffed animals and books. Yes, we can always go shopping for things like a scooter and a bike or, a LOL doll (which she has been asking me forever), so as a welcome treat a trip to the toy shop has been planned. But not for a few days after we land. Recently she got into pop-its, and I bought two for the flight as well as stickers, crayons and a notepad.

Stay calm.

Through it all, parents will have a hard task to stay calm and positive. Reservations can be lost, flights can be cancelled. Regardless of things that do not go smoothly, treat it and how you react as a teaching moment. 

Lastly, try to enjoy all moments and relish in the joys of transition. One day when you need to move again, they will remember the journey.