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Moving with Kids

Last Updated: Jan 11, 2012

children playing
 - Costa Rica

Moving abroad can be stressful for kids of all ages. Preparing your child emotionally is key to ensuring a successful relocation overseas. Here are some tips for parents that may help your children enjoy the relocation process and better adapt to their new home in a foreign country.

Creating Expectations

  • Have a conversation: Explain why you are relocating, but don't overwhelm them with details. Let your children know that no question is too simple or silly. Voicing their concerns is an important step in understanding and accepting such a big life change. Your honest answers will help foster confidence and security.
  • Take an online tour: Prepare your children for what to expect in their new home. Show them photos of Costa Rica – be sure to emphasize the things they'll like best – and focus on your new neighborhood or rental home. Creating realistic expectations of Costa Rica will help ease the transition.
  • Be positive: What do you think your children will love best about Costa Rica? If you're renting a home with a big backyard, tell them. Close to the beach? Promise to go boogie boarding or take surf lessons. Giving your children something to look forward to will build excitement and create positive feelings about the move.
  • Get kids involved: Your children will benefit from helping with moving preparations. Finding age-appropriate tasks is key: let your 3-year-old choose his favorite warm-weather clothes while your 8-year-old labels boxes.

Facilitating Adjustment

  • Plan for the future: Your children are going to miss their friends. Collect snail mail addresses for postcards; download video conferencing software such as Skype; and organize a going-away party. If you know families in Costa Rica, ask if any of their children would enjoy being pen-pals with your kids. Making friends before the move will ease your child's anxiety.
  • Getting to know you: Help your kids write a list of things they'd like to see and do in the first few weeks after arrival. Make these activities a priority; they'll help your children adjust, and executing a plan will establish a sense of normalcy.
  • Make a date: Give your kids a calendar that outlines when they'll see friends and family again, either in Costa Rica, or back home. Emphasize that goodbye doesn't mean forever.
  • Pack a special bag: If you're shipping items to Costa Rica, keep in mind that it can take months for the shipping container to arrive. Be sure to pack a special bag or box to take on the plane, full of favorite books, toys, security blankets, and other items to make children feel at home.
  • Study up: Hire a private tutor or take Spanish language classes for your first few weeks in Costa Rica. Kids pick up on language quickly, and formal classes can give them the boost they need to start navigating the language with ease.
  • Get connected: If you have older children, get the phone and Internet set up immediately so they can connect with their social circles back home. If your kids have smartphones, consider downloading an app like Skype to allow them free phone calls and texts to friends.

Future Education

  • School search: For all but a handful of private American and British schools, the school year in Costa Rica lasts from February through December, and most public schools are split into morning and afternoon schedules. Look into your options, and decide whether you can adapt to Costa Rica's educational system, or prefer a school that follows similar norms as back home.
  • College-bound: If you have high-school aged children, bear in mind that Costa Rican schools end after the 11th grade. There are a few private schools, like the American International School and Escazu's Country Day School that follow an American curriculum and offer U.S. diplomas. Most U.S., Canadian and European universities accept only the International Baccalaureate (IB) degree, or a U.S. diploma.
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