Moving to a new city, let alone a new country is an anxious driven experience. More so for children than adults surely. Even though my wife and I are both Canadian, we met in Dubai, got married there, and had our son there. At 7 years he visited the country but only two weeks at a time, and so when we decided to move back we had to prepare him for all the changes he would experience. We were anxious ourselves even though we know the environment and knew how things work, but being away 12+ years many things have changed, and more so we both changed in our temporary home in Dubai. Having said that for him it is a bigger transition having not lived outside of Dubai (we haven’t even changed apartments during his lifetime. Needless to say this had to be handled delicately.
Ever since we knew we would head back, we started to talk to him about the good things in Canada, this would have been well ahead of our move date – I would say a year or two before. But to take it back a little, my son is a character all his own (as more kids are). He gets anxious about the smallest thing, he is a dataphile and loves stats and data. He enjoys his comfort zone, and get irritated when there is a lot of change all at once. You may say he’s borderline Autistic, ADD, OCD, Anxiety prone, whatever it is he is who he is and I’m not to diagnose him with all this B.S. I treat him with respect, give him attention and love, and discipline him regularly to keep him in line which he responds to well. I know how he operates, and I know he hates being left alone free to explore, for other kids that maybe the way to go. So know your child well, and what they respond to. This won’t come from doctor diagnoses, this comes from arguing with them, taking about life even if most of it goes over their heads, you’ll quickly see what their priorities are in those complicated topics, and by playing with them.
Luckily he’s not completely averse to change, but not permanent change. He travels everywhere with us, which is another way we can understand his personality, and he loves trying new things (on a short term basis). He’s also changed enough classes to not have life long school friends, but get along with everyone. His English is great and he’s on top of pop culture.
Still, when we moved he had problems in school, especially since his popularity was quiet strong in Dubai, and when he realised he’s not as popular (still has friends) he became frustrated – he was used to the attention. I compensated by giving him attention at home but talking to him about realities of life, not everyone will like you, not everyone wants to play with you. Why? He asks, well different people want to do different things, nothing can be forced. Give it time, either they will play with you later or you’ll realise there are plenty of other things you can do.
We’re not big on play dates so he needed to sort it out in school and deal with it, eventually he was OK. In Dubai he was spoiled for choice when it came to eating out, and going out almost every other day. That stopped. But rather than avoiding it abruptly I would take him mid week on a school night to a café or indigo book store to break the week and soften the blow. We automatically signed him to community activities, Karate (which he did – and hated – in Dubai, still hates it so that was consistent), swimming and ice skating. Even if nothing else, he got to see kids outside of school, and even if he didn’t make any friends, it gives him a sense that school is not his entire world.
On that same vain, of school not being his entire world, we would go on road trips, see family and friends even if they don’t have kids, play lots of board games, and yes even Nintendo switch. Yes, they are distractions, but gives him a small amount of comfort zone to take a breather before he has to face some more new changes to his life. He’ll grow out of it, but cold turkey scars rather than helps. I believe softening the blow, maintaining some of the things he used to do, within reason, and slowly phasing those out. That period of adjust makes or breaks his overall attitude during the change and for years to come.
But that’s my kid, and that’s how his personality works – know your kid and what they respond to. There is no one solution fits all, but almost always softening the adjustment period by maintaining some things and slowly phase them out is a help. Eventually they’ll get older and they’re issues will change anyway (in whatever setting they are in).