Exciting as it may be, relocating is never easy. Especially if you are moving cities or countries. You’re giving up a ‘home’ and a familiar lifestyle. And if it’s tough for us, it’s way tougher for kids … to give up everything they once held dear and familiar, and move to a strange new place. Mum of 2, Archana Patni shares her tips on how to involve your kids as equal stakeholders through this huge change.
We have recently moved our home- from Bangalore to Singapore.
Singapore is probably the easiest city in the world for an Indian to move into – given its proximity to India, the very manageable time difference, easy availability of all things Indian, including people, and the amazing efficiency of this small dot on the globe.
But a move is difficult. Apart from the physical labour that relocating entails, is the emotional heartbreak of leaving home. We left our home for 9 years – it’s the home where both our girls were born and where the older one spent the first 8 years of her life. We lived in a community where our neighbours shared the same values as us. We had friends, schools, jobs, colleagues and an ecosystem that we were saying bye to.
So while Singapore was exciting, this has been a bitter sweet move.
My husband and I have managed this move very consciously, especially when it came to our daughters. My work involves working with expatriates (among other things) and helping them thrive in their new environment. So we’ve been very aware of the adjustment curve associated with the move. We know and acknowledge that we are in the honeymoon phase right now :).
Moving is a great time to push your boundaries. Since you are in a new location, your body and mind are more aware. This enables you to change habits that you’ve been thinking of for years. Seriously- try it.
I have quit my morning chai and regular Indian chai since I moved. If you ask my friends and family you will know this was considered an almost unbelievable feat.
Other ideas: Start exercising regularly, learn music, join a band, start watching indie films. Basically change your pattern. All the things that annoyed you in your life earlier- change them. This is a clean slate so make the most of it
A move is also a great time to reflect and re-set. We were aware as a family that we needed more family time- doing outings, picnics, hikes together. We’ve consciously strived for that and thankfully Singapore lends to it very nicely.
With kids, the emotional adjustment can be tremendous. So here are some tricks and tips we used for ourselves and the kids.
We involved the kids in a lot of the decision making – school, house, furniture, etc. This has been great for them to take ownership and be very involved and aware of the move. All things they earlier took for granted were turned into decisions they’ve been involved in.
For example- we decided that our older child should go to an International School. So we went to meet 4-5 schools and did extensive tours of each school. Our daughter would talk about pros and cons of each of the environments and finally decided she wanted to be with the school which had an ongoing recycling project that the entire school participated in. Luckily she got admission into that school.
Likewise with apartment hunting, we spent many hours in a car going from one apartment to another (which deserves an award just by itself). At first the kids liked all the apartments we saw, then as they saw more they liked ones with a fun kids room, but towards the end they were discussing natural light and breeze as clear winners in deciding factors.
Dealing with homesickness is real. In my case both the 8 and 2 year old have been very vocal about it. The younger one still thinks that we will take a flight back to Bangalore on Sunday morning. She talks about her friends at every meal, and plays imaginary games with them all the time.
With the older one, it’s much more emotional. She’s had evenings when she’s just cried openly. She misses them most at bed time. When she’s received letters from her friends- she said she had a funny feeling in her tummy- we had to tell her that the funny feeling was the sadness of missing her friends. We’ve been very open about feeling sad and accepting it as a part of this transition. We’ve actually limited too many facetime/whatsapp calls, since it just makes it harder for her every time. Her amazing friends have found ways to write letters to her, send gifts and basically make her feel loved.
Lastly, one thing that we’ve consciously done is let the kids get bored. My older daughter had a 4 months holiday between her India school and school in Singapore. This has been the most trying part of the move. She’s had NO friends and is in a completely new surrounding. We’ve let her be in that phase, rather than fill her time up with camps or other activities. She has mastered the art of building lego cities, started wave boarding, started to listen to audio books (while playing with lego). We’ve invested in the library membership and she has gone to all the museums in the city with her grandfather. All in all it’s been amazing- exhausting but amazing.
So yeah, look out for moves. Shake the stability. Challenge yourselves. Miss your home. Talk about it being tough with your kids. Have fun and grow.
Formerly a broadcast journalist in India, Archana Patni has been working in the space of cross cultural leadership consulting for the last 10 years – in Boston, Banglaore and Singapore. She loves to do yoga and sing rasta.