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Anyone's kids just not settle abroad?

(16 Posts)
Salbertina Sat 24-Nov-12 10:34:08

Butterflies, so true.
Op, i think as others have said its finding new things to do, not dwelling on parks etc of your Uk life...sounds like you're doing that, just keep going and you'll find one day that these new activities become the new normal. Wouldn't change schools unless a real problem.

butterfliesinmytummy Thu 22-Nov-12 11:26:56

Nooka, I think you are completely right about feeling responsible for your child's happiness because you took the decision to move. If a child was having issues in the UK at school, I wonder whether a parent would feel as bad. Just because we are overseas, we feel that any bump in the road is due to or exacerbated by "the move" rather than an issue that might have occurred at home and just be a rite of passage....

Pupsie I'm so pleased that your DS is doing well most of the time but I know as a parent that the minority of the time, when he is down, it must feel like it's taking over and weigh on you terribly. I hope that the school and you can work together as you appear to be doing to give him more confidence and that your DS settles more.

nooka Thu 22-Nov-12 08:23:46

My ds took quite a while to settle, not helped by having to move again six months after we arrived in NYC. He'd had very strong friendships in the UK, and unknown to us had been bullied when he first started school in New York (he told us several months later) and although it wasn't for long I think it really knocked his confidence about friendships.

I'd say it probably wasn't for a year or so after we moved to Canada that he really settled down. Like your ds he was happy most of the time, but I think it's very painful to parent a child who is essentially unhappy about a decision you've taken because you feel so responsible for their unhappiness.

We've been here four years now and have no regrets, but I do tend to caution people when they say that children will be fine and what a great experience emigrating will be for them, because the truth is that every child will react differently (dd was fine from the first day apart from a few spells of homesickness).

It sounds like you are doing everything right, and I'm sure that your ds will start to get the hang of the new approach at school, and that as you relax as a family (immigration is a HUGE upheaval) he probably will too.

Merlion Thu 22-Nov-12 02:22:38

Hi Pupsie sorry to hear you're still struggling. I can't help on the school thing as you know both mine were born here so we're more likely to suffer the reverse wherever we go next!

But wanted to suggest you take a trip to Ubin if you haven't already. Is a great day out with bikes and boat trip over there.

pupsiecola Wed 21-Nov-12 14:44:50

I agree Londonmoo!

Butterflies. Thanks for your post. Throughout this whole process DH and I have both been totally for it and generally we do live in the moment. I quite enjoy not knowing what's going to happen next. It feels like a novelty! I'm usually someone who really throws myself into things wholeheartedly. I think this year's just been so intense (2 months from coming here on holiday to moving here) and it's all just caught up with us all.

But I think the issues my son(s) have had/are having are making me feel anxious about settling somewhere because I have wobbles about whether they will truly settle here. Also we're deciding how to invest the equity from our house sale and part of that is how long we want to tie it up for which has a direct impact on when we might buy again. So I think that's on my mind too.

We have been out exploring a fair bit but only scratched the surface. A few times we've hired bikes at the East Coast for example. It's tricky as DH has had quite an intense time at work lately so trying hard to strike the balance between having some downtime at the weekends and getting out and about. We've been to the Night Safari, the zoo (going again on Friday), Sentosa, (including Universal), bowling, etc. etc. We go out for lunch somewhere every Saturday etc. etc. Swimming is still a weekly occurrence.

I need to remember that around 75% of the time DCs are fine. They are fine when we are at home in any case - the four of us are a tight unit :-) The more I think about it the more I think it's school work related. Affecting his confidence and self-esteem and making him feel crap.

On the positive side he had a much better day today. His teacher emailed me to let me know. And DC1 scored very well on recent tests. Got the results yesterday. So he is doing well academically despite the challenging year.

You've not spoken out of turn at all. I appreciate the comments and suggestions.


butterfliesinmytummy Wed 21-Nov-12 13:56:13

Hi pupsie

Sorry to hear your DS is struggling. I'm a serial expat and know that I can do any move as long as the DCs are safe and happy so them not settling well is a big concern for me as far as future moves are concerned.

It sounds like school is the major issue but there is a separate one of him not being 100% settled outside school too? I wanted to ask if you were happy and settled yourself (genuinely)? It seems to me that the expats who are happy with their lot live in the "now" and call Singapore "home". The ones who talk of life in the UK as "home" and the fact that they are away from it as a drawback are the ones, imho, who don't settle well, which makes sense. You say "we all miss that kind of life but I know we won't be here for the long term" which is true and understandable but is Singapore your home or is it an interruption to your life in the UK? Are you personally enjoying life in Singapore?

I met a family counsellor at an event here a few years ago (there are amazing places for family / kids counseling that specialise in relocation if this is something you might want to explore in the future). She was doing a talk on raising expat children and I asked her about settling into new countries. She said that the children who settled easily were the ones whose parents were 100% for the move, who were enthusiastic and lived for the moment. I agree that this isn't always possible but I wonder how you feel about the move, how settled you are and whether your DS is particularly sensitive to this?

On another note, are you taking advantage of swimming pools and amazing places to take kids at the weekends? We don't have forests but we do have jungles, water parks, theme parks, activity centres, science centers, beaches, night safaris, amazing child-centric museums and galleries, miles of (mostly) breezy coastline pathways etc.... If you are here for the short term, draw up a list of things to do and tick them off!

I will step down from my amateur expat psychology now and hope that I haven't spoken out of turn. I know from your posts that you are doing everything you can to help your DCs settle, and that you are anxious about them. I hope that you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, whatever solution that might be.

londonmoo Wed 21-Nov-12 13:50:47

Wow Misty what a beautiful post. Am saving it down for future use. Clever girl x

pupsiecola Tue 20-Nov-12 23:41:38

Thanks Misty. I will now remove my rose-tinted spectacles ;-0

MistyB Tue 20-Nov-12 20:34:55

You have not scarred them for life but they will be the sum of all of their experiences and it sounds like you are dealing with it really well.

I moved a lot as a child and have continued to move as an adult (not scarred for life but i think it has shaped me). My brother, however, lives in the place we moved to when I was 15 and lives next door to my Mum and Dad who never moved again, so perhaps I would have been a wanderer anyway!! The worst move for me was that last move and I felt my parents dismissed my feelings or treated them as something out of the ordinary when in fact they were in fact perfectly valid feelings. You are obviously not in that camp!!

I've seen friends here who's kids have struggled, one changed school and it was what her DS needed and one girl just suddenly turned around one day and found her feet. It is hard to see how our children might have developed without ever having moved and we will never meet the sliding doors family to find out but in a way I think it is easier to compensate if you have made a big move rather than just expect children to get on with it. I think the 'kids are resilient' assumption is a false comfort. They do need our support but you are aware of this and you are the comfort they need to feel safe and secure. In my circle of expat friends I think we are more honest about our children's needs and personalities (oddities, insecurities etc!) than I would have been in the UK.

It also sounds like your DS is struggling with things at school. Becoming uncooperative when he is struggling sounds like he does not know how to communicate his need for help or some how his requests for help are not met in the way that he would like. You talk to your son and he talks to you which is great. His teacher also sounds understanding. Help him understand that you and the teachers have as their goal for him to be happy and not simply for him to perform as they would like him to. if he is happy, the learning will follow and at this stage, his happiness must come above any other objectives.

Keeping in touch with your old life is difficult and something that I find difficult. Finding time / energy to do so and to have that reciprocated is really hard. I grieve for friendships that won't survive the challenge that distance brings. And for kids it is even harder as they can't pick up the phone, arrange to Skype. Home visits tend to be family oriented and it is expensive for others to come and visit (I sense that this is a bigger issue for you or am I reading too much between the lines??). No easy answer!!

Good luck finding new family routines that would be impossible in the UK and making these as fun as trudging around the woods in the rain and the mud getting wet and smelly!!! wink

pupsiecola Tue 20-Nov-12 14:45:17

Thanks for the replies. I like the school and don't want to change. They've been very supportive and are trying to help. His teacher communicates with me very well via email and rang me this morning to discuss how he had been. I think having discussed with DH tonight he's out of his depth academically. Is from a small village school in the UK (would have gone to middle school this September and maybe he'd have had similar issues there). His older brother (9) is much more academic so hasn't struggled so much on this front.

He has friends at school, in the next condo (they are bus buddies too) and our good friends' children who live nearby. Not to mention his brother - they are best buddies 99% of the time.

We've done playdates. Had a sleepover at the weekend (here with another child). He did some after school activities last term but I find they get pretty tired and often they just wanna come home and play, so we're not doing any this term.

He is his usual self a lot of the time at home. He becomes withdrawn at school and uncooperative when he struggles with something.

They both struggle with the climate for sure (we all do). In the UK we'd stick 4 bikes on the roof of the car and head to the New Forest for a lovely 15 mile bike ride with a pub lunch along the way. We'd go to the park with a frisbee or cricket bat. They'd play in the garden for hours. They loved their 12ft trampoline. We'd go for walks and they'd hide in the bushes "spying" on us. We all miss that kind of life but I know we won't be here for the long term.

As for how we feel, I guess it's tougher than we thought it would be (because of the kids not settling mainly - everyone says kids are resilient but I think we underestimated how tough ours would find it). We are lucky - DH doesn't travel much, we have best friends here already (have visited a few times so knew what we were getting into), have a lovely helper who is now a part of our family. We wanted an adventure. DH was in a career rut and this opportunity (which we sought out - he changed jobs so we could move here) is just what he needed. At the least we will be here 2 years and then be in a strong position to move onwards and upwards. We're entirely self-funded here but have a comfortable life. We don't miss family very much. We sold our house in the UK. Have money to invest for the future. Things are good. It's been an intense year, but we're happy and willing to be here. I just want to know that the kids will be okay. Feel so helpless and just worried we've screwed them up forever! Trying to keep things in perspective. We talk about it though - we talk to them, they talk to us, we reassure them, we do stuff we used to do in the UK (cinema, Sunday afternoon film at home all cuddled up with some treats) etc. We've not had any visitors yet. I think they think that there are pre-Singapore people who used to be in their lives, and the new Singapore people. We Skype with grandparents. My mother in law is over in December for 3 weeks.

Sorry, turned into a ramble. But too tired to make any more sense of it.

Thanks again and hugs for anyone else going through similar.

MistyB Tue 20-Nov-12 12:33:08

Marking my place to come back later. Poor you, it must be heart breaking!!

How do you and your partner feel about the move? (Be honest with yourself as understanding your own feelings may help you understand your child's and enable you to help him) It is still really early days and everyone approaches displacement in different was and has different outcomes. Have you talked to him and how he feels?

I was going to give you a few stories, and I will later but the one about me became too 'me me me' and needs to be less full of emotion!!

It is normal to feel something and normal to feel sad that your child feels the impact of the move and bodes well for you as a family to make things better!!

londonmoo Tue 20-Nov-12 10:30:18

Pupsie what kind of child did she describe, how's it appearing in him? I was on a school trip with my DS today, who (as you know, P) has also had a rough time settling since we landed in August. Didn't seem himself at all today, a little bit of an eccentric loner was what I saw.

Thing is, he is eccentric and he is an only child, but the two have never come together as an issue and this country move has really pulled up the dial on his only child status. sad

I have also been wondering, just like you - will he ever settle?

I've got all the forms together for another school and even got in touch with our UK school and asked the head to fill out the relevant references. Worth a shot. Waiting list miles long but might as well try.

On the plus side it was a FAB trip today and I saw a nicer side to the teach, who is rather cool. Kids all enjoyed it.

But yeah: I wonder if it will ever work here?

Hugs to you pupsie and lunch very soon. Playdate for our boys during w/c 10 Dec? Don't pack up and go just yet.


TheAccidentalExhibitionist Tue 20-Nov-12 05:55:40

We moved in January, my son is only just starting to settle in and still tells me he prefers home in England. He's had an awful time with anxiety - he does have ASD though.
I assume he will get there and memories of England will fade.

My understanding is that the older they are the hardest it is for them to adjust. Chatting to parents at our international school that seems to be true.

Lots of parents take their children to child psychologists here if they have any worries. It certainly helped us.

Salbertina Tue 20-Nov-12 05:38:21

He will get there, i should think. My dc1 hated entire 1st year then became ambivalent now doesn't want to go "home" at all. It can take time.

ben5 Tue 20-Nov-12 05:36:17

I know it might seem like another change but have you looked into a different school? Do they do any extra activities: cubs, swimming lessons, takowndo, football/rugby/cricket delete depending on season!!! How about Friday play dates? My boys have a friend round on a Friday after school sometimes till 5pm. Good luck

pupsiecola Tue 20-Nov-12 05:32:14

Just picked my youngest up from school and had a long chat with his teacher. It's been an ongoing 2 steps forward, 1 step back with both boys since they started at school in August. Today it was 3 steps back. She described a child I barely recognise as my darling son. (Not naughty, but struggling emotionally).

I know it's still early days (5 months in) but I just wondered, it's entirely possible that the kids won't settle right? I mean, it must happen?

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