Now that we had made the decision to move, we wanted
to share it with our family and friends –but first, we wanted to tell the children.
This is a big change in their stable little lives and we believe that they need
to be part of it from the very beginning. They are going to need time to
process the news and how they feel about the move and what it means for them. Also,
on a practical matter, we needed to move fast with respect to
finding schools for them in Zurich and for that, they need to be “in the loop.”
I was nervous about how they would react. I worried
about our eldest, who just went through a relatively challenging adjustment this
fall, when he started Gymnasium (the equivalent of Middle School). Although
Gymnasium is a big change for most kids – compared to primary school – it was
even more challenging for him, since he is significantly younger than the others.
It took him some time to feel comfortable in his new “situation.” Now we are
asking him to do it all over again. Also, only a couple of days before, he had he
said goodbye to his best friend, who was moving away from Vienna with his
family – another reason why our timing was not great. I wish we could have
waited with the news, but we did not have that luxury.
Our daughter is younger and more easygoing in
general. She’s extremely popular in her class and has no trouble making
friends. However, even for her it will be hard to leave all her friends and start
over. I’m not even mentioning our youngest son, as he is the only one who will
be cool about this move and won’t even remember his first year-and-half in Vienna.
their room and told them enthusiastically: “We have news! Daddy just got a new
job and this job is in Zurich, so we have to move there.” I was looking at them
while we were talking, trying to detect the first signs – facial expressions,
body language – that would indicate how they felt about this. Our oldest son
bent his head and looked away. He was doing this thing where he squeezes his
lips together to stop himself from bursting into tears. I tried to put myself
in his position and imagine how I would feel if someone announced to me a (relatively)
life-changing decision over which I had no control. Not great.
Our girl had a different reaction – she was almost
excited about the move: “Can we find a house with a garden?,” “Can we find a
place to live next to our friends? (my best childhood friend lives in Zurich
with his family),” “Can we…?” Although I know this initial reaction may change
soon, I have a feeling that with her extrovertness, energy and natural charm, she
will be fine. She is the politician in our
is the only place they have called home. As sad and guilty as I feel for
uprooting them, taking them away from their familiar environment and friends, in
a way I am also grateful that they can embark on this adventure; that they get
a taste of living in a different environment and another culture; that they
don’t become “culturally lazy.” It will be an eye-opener for them to learn to
cope with different people, attitudes and mentalities.
It was an absolute priority for us to involve the
children (at least the older ones) in all phases of the move. They are old
enough to understand why we are doing this and to be part of the decision-making, in
the matters that concern them. The more involved they are in the process of the
move, the more likely they are to “own” it and the higher the chances that adjustment
will be smoother. That said, there is a delicate balance to be struck between keeping
them informed and involved in major choices and making sure it is clear to them
that, ultimately, we as parents are the ones making the final decisions. There
is a lot of potential for tension and conflict if those terms are not well-defined.
What is most important right now is to make sure that
this move “works” for our children. Are there things I can do now to make sure
that happens? And how important is it to involve children in the process of an
international move? I look forward to your comments.
Have a productive week!