Preparing your kids for the move back to New Zealand
As expat Kiwi parents, you’ve given your children the amazing gift of exposure to a different culture during their formative years. Returning to New Zealand due to COVID doesn’t mean this experience is lost – they will continue to carry it with them. What can be difficult is the transition back to a country that you call home, but is less so for your kids. Here are 3 strategies you can use pre-departure to help kids develop skills for adapting to change:
Prepare for real life in New Zealand
Your kids may feel they know New Zealand and their Kiwi family very well from visits to the family bach or summer vacations. But living in a place full time is quite different to being on holiday.
Help your kids be positive and curious about the everyday things they probably won’t have experienced yet – school, winter weather, Te Reo, suburban houses, relationships with grandparents and cousins on an everyday basis rather than as a visiting celebrity. The first step is to talk about the culture they are used to now – what are the celebrations, how do people dress and eat, what do people do with their leisure time.
Then introduce some discussion about what might be different about life in New Zealand. Enlist family members back home to provide zoom briefings on aspects of their daily lives. This has the bonus of helping those back in New Zealand develop empathy for the change your kids are facing, rather than just assuming they will automatically become ‘Kiwi kids’. Here’s a list of tips about Kiwi culture to discuss as a family, and you could even start learning Maori phrases and words they’ll hear at school.
Mindful goodbyes build your kids’ resilience
Make time, and organise events where appropriate, to farewell people, places and even pets. Feeling sad about leaving, or any transitions, is normal and it helps to create a positive memory alongside.
My daughter left the only home she had ever known, in Singapore, at the age of 4. She narrated a farewell tour while I filmed a movie of the garden and house. It’s become a treasured item which she now watches with a feeling of gratefulness. She’s learned that a painful situation can change over time, rather than being stuck in the negative emotion of un-marked departure.
Supercharge your bond with your child
At least initially, their sense of belonging will rest on the family unit. Spend a fun evening together asking each other this list of questions to build up a profile of each family member.
- What makes you really angry?
- Who’s your best friend?
- Who’s your hero?
- What is the best thing we do together as a family?
- What is your biggest fear?
- What’s your favourite food, book, music, colour, video game?
Deep diving into this exercise gives a double return. Your child will really feel listened to. Plus, when the going gets tough with the stresses of adjusting to new schools and setting up a new life, you’ll have this information in your toolbox to bring kids and parents back together again.
Time for a favourite family activity anyone?
This article was written by Bridget Romanes of Mobile Relocation. If you’re thinking about moving home to New Zealand, make sure to contact Mobile Relocation to help you in that transition.
Join the Kea community, NZ’s online home for returning Kiwis.
We’re here to support returning Kiwi. Here’s our list of resources to help you plan your return and next steps.
Looking for a new role in New Zealand? Visit the Kea job portal and find your next career opportunity.