Expat Planning: Moving Your Family-Part 1

by | Feb 17, 2022 | Global | 1 comment

I have been married 24 years, and have moved 19 times!  Yeah, really!  Six of those moves were to new places.  The rest were moves within the cities where I lived.  So I am not your typical expat family man.  But I am typical in the sense that my last move here to Cuenca, Ecuador was my first move with kids old enough to understand what a move meant.  So we left friends and family and wonderful memories behind and were off to a new life adventure on August 5, 2016.

That’s all well and good, and it has been very good, in fact. But there are reasons for that. It didn’t happen by chance, and yes, there were bumps along the way, and still, a few more to come for sure. Yet, there are ways to minimize the effects of a move abroad on the family.

Laying the Foundation

I will be sharing my experience with you on this topic in a series of four blogs. My first mental meandering will be about laying a strong foundation for the move. Really know your reasons why. My second blog will discuss the kids. Things to think about to make sure that they are okay. Third, I will talk about us…parents.

Finally, the physical move. Yeah, that’s going to be a good one!

Let’s start from the start.  Why are you moving from your home?  This is a bigger deal than you might imagine.  Here’s why.  I start with an illustration.

Your six-year-old has just done something you deem worthy of strict discipline.  So you discipline the child.  The result of the discipline, whatever form it took, are tears and sadness, and drama.  (Sounds like my 12-year-old daughter. Tweens!))

Yet, shortly after that, they are on your lap sniffling, and hugging, and maybe falling asleep.  Why?  Because they know you love them and yeah, believe it or not, they know they did something wrong.  They know the reason why.  Further, they know it was a good reason.

The First Big Step

So I assert that if your reason for leaving is one that your family fundamentally buys into, a reason that they understand and appreciate, you have taken your first gigantic step expat success. They will forgive the challenges of the change for the right reasons.

My wife and I were of the same mindset on this one, which makes one person less to convince.  We loved our lives in the States.  We have the best friends ever created in this universe, the kids were doing great in school, life was good.  Yet there was something we didn’t like about our life stateside.

That was a lack of time.  Time was flying by in a blink.  Between work and school and house care and all the blah blah blah of the famed rat race, it was clear to us that if we didn’t make a change, we would miss a lot of our kids’ lives.

We didn’t buy the line about spending quality time with your kids even if the quantity of time spent was low.  We believe in spending a significant quantity of quality time with our kids.  They are now 12 and 9 years old.  Six more years and my first child is 18.  That isn’t a lot of time.  It just isn’t.

Slowing Life Down

We chose to slow life down.  Make it slower and more meaningful.  Not trying to give a sermon here, but this was one of our prime reasons for the move.  My wife was all in for this reason, and my kids knew that this was key to us.

So, how did this play out?

I can tell you that the time I spend with my family has increased five-fold easily.

It is just the nature and character of where we live that make it so much easier to take the time.

A few months ago my daughter, the Tween, came home from school and wanted a cheese sandwich.  We were out of cheese, so we walked down the hill to the cheese shop, laughing all the way, spent about 15 minutes at the cheese shop sampling cheeses and laughing with the shop owner.  Then we headed back up the hill to the house laughing so hard we had to stop to catch our breath!

I asked my daughter, would we be doing this if we were back in the States?  “Of course not!” she laughs.  Yeah, of course not.

I got lots of stories like that that happened over the last nine months that I have been here. Lots more. In fact, my nine-year-old son told my wife last week that he didn’t want to go back to the States now because he really likes our life here now. Both kids knew our reason why, and now they are living it. It’s all good!

This is what worked for us. There are other compelling reasons that we had that our kids understood: be more active in our religious activities, better economic situation, learning Spanish, and a new life adventure. All super important. All understood. All are currently being realized in all of our lives.

Yes, we miss our friends, Vietnamese pho soup, real Mexican food, and Texas-style BBQ. Yet, because we believed in our reasons why…it worked.

I can’t tell you what will work for you. You know yourself and your family. You know their wants and needs and resistance to or embracing of change.

Yet, I can give you some guidelines to consider when considering your reasons why:

  1. Money is seldom a good primary reason. “I got a new job” is real. I am not putting that down, but it is a real reason for the job holder, not necessarily for the family.
  2. Think about what you want to change in your lives. What do you want to make better in your lives as a result of this move?  As parents you may see this clearer than your kids, so be clear with yourself and your reasons why.
  3. Whatever place you choose, make sure that the nature and character of life there will be conducive to realizing those changes.
  4. Make a decision either yay or nay to move. Make up your mind!  Indecision equals uncertainty which equals stress.  If you decide to go, set a date, make a plan, and make it happen.  That kind of clarity, even if it takes a few years, keeps the family-focused.

Even if everyone in the family buys into your reasons why for the move, expect pushbacks, doubts, some drama, etc. Welcome to life!  Push forward with a well-designed plan to reduce your uncertainty.  Nothing causes deeper stress and anxieties than having uncertainties. Minimize uncertainty, and push ahead.

So, what more can we talk about regarding the kids? Lots! Age matters and knowing the temperament of your children is critical.

Join me for Expat Planning:  Moving Your Family, Part 2. And let us know all about your experiences with your family move.

by: Darrell Forte