Helping Children Adjust to Life Back Home
Many adults find returning from a career break easy. They return to their old jobs, meet up with old friends and relatives, and generally resume life where they left off. For children, however, it's not always that straightforward – especially if the family have been away for several years or more.
Kids have short memories, particularly young ones, and in some cases they have little recollection of the life they left behind. For them, adjusting back home to life in the UK can be a traumatic experience.
They may have even been schooled in a different language abroad, and they may have left close friends behind, as well as a school they greatly enjoyed, and customs they may never take part in again. For them, coming home can be a huge culture shock.
Prepare them in AdvanceWhile mulling over something in the future can be scary for children, they nonetheless will need time to think about their immediate short-term plans. Tell them at least several months in advance that you will be returning to the UK, and put a positive spin on it. If you are distressed about the thought of your career break ending, don't forget that your attitude can be contagious!
Give your children plenty of opportunities to prepare for the move in advance. Encourage them to write to old friends back home – or draw pictures if they're young – and talk with them about past times. Look at old photos and help them to feel excited about the change.
You may have moved several times in your life, and you may also have thought that going away for a career break would be a lot more traumatic for your children than it actually turned out to be. It surprises even the most normally unfazed parents, but for children often returning home is the most traumatic experience of all. A little preparation can go a long way.
Listen to their ConcernsIt can be easy to assume that everything will be fine when you come home, but that's not always the case. Pre-teens and teens can worry about fitting in with their old pals, as well as making new friends and adjusting to school life. Take what they have to say seriously, and don't make light of their worries.
Don't forget that for many children, especially slightly older ones, school is a source of anxiety anyway, and that growing up in general poses everyday stresses they often struggle to deal with adequately. Moving to a new environment often just exacerbates problems they already have. Always be willing to lend an ear and listen to what they have to say.
If possible, get in touch with other families who have lived abroad for any period of time, and invite them over to talk with your children when they get home. Listening to first-hand experiences from other kids will be helpful, and can also be the key to making new friends!
Help them Make the AdjustmentWhen you return home, it may be tempting to revel in the familiarity of your old life, and spend hours catching up with old friends and family. But keep in mind that your children may be coming back to a much different experience altogether.
Some kids, whether they want to admit it or not, may need a nudge in the right direction when it comes to acclimating to life back home. You may want to invite neighbourhood children over to tea, plan an early birthday party or set up a series of playdates. Helping them to enrol in after-school activities can also be a good idea.
If your children have been speaking a different language abroad, help them to remember it by inviting people who speak the language over, or getting a tutor. Not only will this benefit them educationally long-term, but it will also make them feel more at home.