Moving abroad - impact on kids

(24 Posts)
fatflaps Mon 25-Apr-16 20:18:40

I've lived, studied and worked in a few countries and have always thought that I would do so again. My career is fairly transportable so it's not impossible.

But - now I have 2 children I find myself having a wobble about it all. I'm a planner by nature so just "going with the flow" doesn't come easily and I keep wondering whether we even could realistically go anywhere now without potentially damaging the kids!

Would it be fair to take them away from their home and grandparents and everything they know?

Would it bugger them up academically? We live in a super selective 11+ area so have concerns about jeopardizing that as if we moved within Europe we'd want them to go to local schools for the language opportunity.

Would they struggle with cultural identity if we stayed long-term?

I moved 20 minutes down the road to a different school when I was 8 (parents split) and I do think it affected me. I think of my old house and my old school and they feel like home, solid and secure. My new school and new home didn't ever feel the same.

I'm guessing a lot of this has come about due to my oldest DC getting her primary school place for September. She's so excited to be going with all her little friends and I know that the majority of them will ride out their school years in one chunk in the same place and I think there is a lot of value in that type of consistency and familiarity.

I get that a new culture and language and something new and different could be exciting, after all it excites me, but is that better than stability and familiarity and that sense of home?

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Malermalergoni Mon 25-Apr-16 20:32:17

Possibly it gets harder as they get older. Certainly tricky to move with teens, as they become quite attached to their peer group. Speaking in a different language takes huge confidence, so if children are quite shy, that too can be tricky. And a place with say, a huge expat community, and international schools may allow a more seemless transition through schools.

Malermalergoni Mon 25-Apr-16 20:36:47

And also, immersing the kids in local schools can be a real challenge for them (and in turn, you). It really takes an über confident type of child to feel comfortable in that situation.

fatflaps Mon 25-Apr-16 20:49:24

I think international schools would only really be an option if we went to Asia and there's a small possibility Switzerland might come up in the next year or so and international schools would more than likely not be offered.

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SavoyCabbage Mon 25-Apr-16 20:50:08

I tried to fill the gaps with other adults, usually my own friends. And they did a great job. They took an interest when they lost a tooth or scores a goal. Praised them after the school play, that sort of thing.

I found it really, really difficult that they had nobody who actually loved them apart from their own parents. I was at a fair one day with my friends and her dd's grandparents were talking about whet the grandchild was going to be brave enough to go down the big slide, and I realised that nobody cared if my dd went down the big slide or not. But I honestly think my dc had no idea and didn't give it any thought at all.

It's fairly easy to keep your cultural identity going. We watched British tv and celebrated British events. That sort of thing.

lifeisunjust Mon 25-Apr-16 21:15:42

I am not sure how to write without offending, but given what you've written, I would suggest not moving your children abroad.

Malermalergoni Mon 25-Apr-16 21:41:16

It's fair enough to put your children in the local school if you intend on staying... But if not (and it does take an awful lot of effort to keep up a language when it doesn't feature in your day to day life) then possibly a bit of a waste of the kids energies?
It's doable, but maybe not wise. Especially not for Switzerland! And a word of warning- my dd missed out on a super selective grammar as we were abroad until year 4. The writing component was tough, and her three fluent languages did her no favours. They were simply irrelevant for the task in hand.


fatflaps Mon 25-Apr-16 21:57:05

* And a word of warning- my dd missed out on a super selective grammar as we were abroad until year 4. The writing component was tough, and her three fluent languages did her no favours. They were simply irrelevant for the task in hand.*

^^ I think this is what I'm worried about. I can't imagine the DC's level of English would be strong enough and the alternative schools round here are pretty crap so I feel genuinely concerned about the long term impact.

savoy I'd not really thought of it like that sad

lifeisunjust maybe you're right. But is quite tricky for me to accept. I just assumed I'd always spend a lot of time abroad, learning languages and exploring new places. I like feeling foreign and different. I guess kids might not. Hard to kiss goodbyes to those lifelong dreams....

As I say, eldest DC starts reception in Sept this year do it kind of feels now or never.

Funny how life gets in the way eh?

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sunnydayinmay Mon 25-Apr-16 22:06:23

I have friends who've successfully moved abroad, and then back again, but using private schools. That seems to work fine, but they have all been careful about the timing of the move back.

State school friends - it did affect the children quite a bit, to be honest. Mainly because they all struggled to get back into the original schools.

We did vaguely consider it, but both ds1 and I prefer stability, so decided against it.

Jillofnotrades Mon 25-Apr-16 22:50:09

I was born in the uk but parents then moved to a European country when I was 1. Then to another European country when I was 8. Then 3 months in the first country, then back to UK when I was 11.

Children are adaptable. I went to English schools but in a way that was a shame because I never learnt a second language. I had a fabulous time abroad and I'm glad my parents did it. I came back at the beginning of secondary school - missed the first term and had to take the 11+ on my own in the town hall! I failed it, so went to a non grammar school. Still ended up with a BA and MSc though! It's easier to change schools when younger and I did find it difficult coming back when I was 11 but it didn't take that long to adjust and fit in.

The primary years are probably the best time to do it as, depending where you end up, sometimes boarding school is the only option for secondary. I have kids in school now and there have been quite a few children leaving and joining the classes - they very quickly adapt.

If you're worried about 11+, you could come back in year 4 or 5 or skip it and take 12+. With the arrival of academies (free to use any admission criteria), the 11+ may be redundant by the time it's relevant to you anyway!

Suppose what I'm saying is, follow your dreams - the kids will be fine!

ifink Tue 26-Apr-16 03:51:54

I think there is always an impact on the kids, and yes they are resilient, yes they find new friends, yes they catch up on the gaps in learning and just get on with it but even the most relaxed child will at times pull on your heart strings about what/who they miss. I have found that tough with my day she will seem so happy, integrated etc and then out of the blue I find her really sad saying how much she misses her old long as you think you can cope with the emotional rollercoaster and gee them up when you are homesick yourself then you'll be fine and the journey will seem worth it overall. But I think for me I will always question whether we did the right thing by moving and doing the whole 'experience' thing.

FastWindow Tue 26-Apr-16 04:07:28

Ive been thinking along the same lines myself. Whether the added experience the the dc will have outweighs the upheaval. But where we live is so suburban and frankly crap... I want them to see more than concrete and glass. As i did growing up.

It's a deeply personal desision, and i suppose you must take everything you said about stability into account. However. They are not you, and if they have a lovely life moving around and seeing so much, who's to say that they won't value that just as much? As long as it is handled well.

Baconyum Tue 26-Apr-16 04:35:52

I'm going to contradict many here and say don't discount it.

There are pros as well as cons. I was a military brat, so is my dd (though I'm no longer with her dad). I loved moving around. The school thing can be problematic, but it can also be handled in various ways. Lots of military kids board eg.

But it can be good to experience other cultures, meet and make new friends, learn languages, learn to be adaptable, adventurous, fearless, welcome change...

It depends on your family and their approach to it.

Schwabischeweihnachtskanne Tue 26-Apr-16 07:19:46

I feel like you about the stability - I was 7 when my parents moved (didn't split but moved to the other end of the country) and I never felt as at home where they ended up - its their home and I feel that I go there to visit them, it certainly isn't "going home" for me but "going to visit my parents" (I live abroad now) and that is moving at 7!

It didn't help that they moved twice in quick succession, from a suburb where we played out and walked to school and had loads of local friends, to a little housing estate where the same thing developed but they only rented while looking for the idealistic "forever home" - to a beautiful house in a chocolate box village where there were very few other kids whom I never really got to know because they decided the village primary wasn't good enough and sent us to out of area schools... So I always felt "other" and an outsider in their "forever home" - which my parents frequently told us they had chosen "for us" and to give us an idylic countryside childhood...

All that said my parents moved tons before I was 5 - the place I felt most at home was only my home on and off when I was a preschooler, and solidly from age 5-7. It was, I think, being properly integrated with local kids that mattered and that never happened in the last location. I guess there are plenty of kids who live "apart" these days, now that more and more kids don't play out or go to the local schools, despite never moving house in their lives, so maybe the sense of being firmly rooted in a community and feeling you "belong", I think of wistfully doesn't exist for the majority any more.

My kids have the sense of belonging I yearned for where we live abroad, but two were born here and one was under 2 years old when we moved. Its the reason we won't move again, within the country or internationally, unless we have to (obviously unforseen circumstances of various types can force a move and we wouldn't take it to extremes).

In your position with the ages of your kids I'd make one move - but only if you intend it to be permanent/ long term (by which I mean til the kids are through school). In that case I would use local schools - its not too late if your eldest is 4 for picking up a language fairly easily (but don't expect her to be fluent in 6 months as some of my UK friends blithely assume a child will automatically be just by simply living in another country - some children are but it takes a couple of years to be genuinely indistinguishable from a native speaker even starting at reception age, and even then it will only happen if you ensure the children mix mainly with native speakers of the target language, not mainly with English speaking kids - I used to know kids born in Germany who still struggled and needed heavy duty intervention and help as speakers of German as a foreign language when they started school, despite having been at Kindergarten in the local language for 3 years, because they socialised exclusively with ex pats outside Kindergarten and spent all the long holidays back in the UK with grandparents).

If you are thinking of Switzerland ask a specific question on here maybe in a separate post - I think I have read some quite negative stuff about being a foreign kid in a Swiss school, but best ask directly, I might be misremembering. I suspect the language issue would be more complicated there too than in a country with just one national language, but could be wrong.

Good luck - I agree if you are going to do it now is the time for you, but think you need to be planning to stay where you move to if the stability is important - if the super selective grammar in your area is a fixed aim, then don't move (but won't you have enormous regrets if your DC don't get in despite staying where you are - super selective level academic ability at age 10 or 11 surely isn't something you can guarantee when your eldest is still only 3 or 4?)

fatflaps Tue 26-Apr-16 07:43:37

Thank you, some really interesting good for thought here.

I agree that kids do adapt but I guess the question is is it better for them if they don't have to?

Switzerland would be the French speaking part and the other languages are brought in later. I just don't think we could afford international school fees and I'm not convinced the employer would support this financially either. Plus I do think we would integrate in the local community much better rather than living in an expat bubble. I've seen some really positive stories about state schools in Switzerland, the overall quality of the education and the openness to foreigners. I guess we'd look at getting some kind of English tutor but then that's even more pressure on the DC.

It seems it would be all about the timing and longevity of the plan. I think I just never imagined myself being here in the UK for the long term but since having children and my eldest getting geared up for school I find some comfort in her growing up in a similar vein to DH and I (we live where we grew up). Saying that, I think where we live is great during childhood but not sure about for teen years. But then if we stayed abroad then how I would I know how the teen years would be there given I'm not a local!?!

Who knows what will happen with schools and it would be a bit of a gamble to stay put on the hope of a grammar place here, I agree.

I guess it will need to be the right opportunity at the right time for it to be viable. If only I was a bit more "go with the flow"!!

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Schwabischeweihnachtskanne Tue 26-Apr-16 07:53:14

I don't think you need an English tutor as long as you read to them in English every night even when they are old enough to be reading to themselves as well, and make sure you keep the books age appropriate (not to young) for each child to build their vocabulary - by reading to them you model the correct pronunciation of words, and it is more obvious if the meaning or context alludes them, so you can then elaborate or follow up etc. Its good for cultural capital as well as vocabulary building. My DH reads to our nearly 11, nearly 9 and 5 yo in German 2 nights a week and I read to them in English 5 nights a week. It requires a concious effort to keep going with the right books and keep them engaged as they get older and are reading on their own, but I think it is worth while.

My DD writes stories in English and German - she gets good grades in German at school and as an ex English secondary school English teacher I would say her written English is fairly reasonable - not outstanding but at least average for a native speaker now, though she used to make some properly weird spelling mistakes grin

As they get older letting them play the kind of computer games that require reading as long as they play them in English also helps grin DD also likes to do Scratch programming in English. You don't have to get a tutor unless your eye remains on that 11+ rather than on ending up as an adult with native speaker English literacy and fluency.

fatflaps Tue 26-Apr-16 08:03:04

You don't have to get a tutor unless your eye remains on that 11+ rather than on ending up as an adult with native speaker English literacy and fluency.

I totally agree! But the fact of the matter is that where we live the comprehensives are simply dire. We are talking 99% A-grades at the local grammar compared to 18% a-e grades at the comp we're in catchment for. I don't think we'd live elsewhere in the UK either.

If we decide to go to Switzerland and stay for 15+ years then I agree, it's not an issue. But if not then i do wonder if we run the risk of having a negative impact on our DC's education...

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JellyTipisthebest Tue 26-Apr-16 08:49:26

I think its far to early to say, you child may not be good at academic stuff. He/she may be better at practical stuff. The education system in another country may bring out the best in them who knows. There are lots of what if at them end of the day you can only do what you feel is best. The bad secondary may not be bad by the time your kids get there. Failing schools get more funding which can often work well for the more able student in that school. The top 10% in any school year from about y4 in the uk are on the gifted and talented list and the school has to be able to prove how they are challenging them.

My kids go to school in NZ we moved here a few years ago, education here seams better they have fun and learn loads and don't spent lots of time doing tests

mrsmortis Tue 26-Apr-16 11:00:50

So I don't have a long term view. But we are currently in Germany for a year. My DDs are 7 and 4. The eldest is in school, the younger in Kindergarten. While I speak German well they had not been exposed to it before.

At this age, I don't think you have much to worry about. The younger one is fine because she is with her family. As long as she is with us all is right in her world. It really doesn't matter where we are. The older one understood the impact of the move more. She was worried about making friends and fitting in. But she loves it. And after 8 months her German is good enough that she is getting passable grades.

The only work we have been doing to keep them up with their age mates in the UK is reading with them and encouraging them to be interested in the world. They have reading and maths apps on the iPad which they play too. And they write letters/emails/stories/etc to their Grandparents. That seems to be working. My mum is a retired primary school teacher and doesn't think we have anything to worry about.

I would do it again any time as it has opened their minds to the possibilities of other cultures and other languages.

We are in a superselective 11+ area too. And I don't foresee there being any problem with either DD in this respect.

fatflaps Tue 26-Apr-16 12:53:08

That's reassuring mrsmortis, thanks.

A job has popped up in Paris just this morning!

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lifeisunjust Tue 26-Apr-16 15:53:43

Confidence in children faced with a bit of a challenge, for example moving house anywhere and even abroad and then compounded by a new language if you choose to make the most of your move by integrating, it is very much helped by parents who do not worry about the "what ifs".

I work in an international school. Boy do I see some worriers, in the parents.

If you want to move abroad, just RELAX.

fussychica Tue 26-Apr-16 17:57:54

Lots of our friends thought we were insane moving to another country when our DS was 10, saying it would have a terrible effect on his education. He went to a very good primary in the UK but he wasnt that fussed. It was definitely the right time and he had a year to pick up the language before moving to secondary, which he did with ease. Did absolutely fine at a bog standard state school which allowed him to integrate fully and return to the UK for university. He is now a post grad at Oxford so I dont think we wrecked his educationsmile.
It's often about timing, moving once they are in secondary is so much harder for them and I have seen lots of unhappy teens who haven't been able to/want to make the transition. Good luck.

lifeisunjust Tue 26-Apr-16 18:03:03

I also have a child who's been offered a place at the current "university of the year" in the UK, I hope his non English education hasn't wrecked him :-) The university didn't seem to think so, looking at the low offer given to him.

LillianGish Wed 11-May-16 17:53:23

Living in different countries has been the making of my kids. They are confident, bilingual, adaptable, good at making friends and it has broadened their horizons enormously. I'm not sure what would happen if we went back to the UK and tried to get them into a top grammar school, but I don't really care. Home is where we are - one thing I think you do need to bear in mind if you move around is that you need to be around for them. You can't just leave them to it and get on with your own life - they don't have a ready made network of friends and parents you've known for years - every time you move you have to work to build that network again. I think it has brought us closer together as a family - my kids are best friends. If/when you do go back to the UK you have to accept they are not going to be like the other kids who have all been at school together since primary, don't speak any other languages, haven't lived abroad - when we went back to London for a few years we put our kids in the Lycee so they were with others just like themselves. Our kids have always been in the French system - which has its own problems, but does have the benefit of being available wherever you move. They are 13 and 15 so I won't really know if it worked out well for a few years yet, but there no guarantees with anything (you could hang on in the UK for that grammar school only for them to fail the eleven plus). I would say if your kids are primary school age it is a good time to move - the longer you leave it the harder it will be. I think if you are enthusiastic about it and love it they will love it too. If, like us, you and your DH are both English speakers you need have no fear about them losing their English or cultural identity (we are much more British abroad than we ever would be at home). We are in Paris at the moment - I love it. You will have wobbles whatever you decide - that is the nature of being a parent.

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