Moving abroad with children can be a difficult process for all involved. There are hundreds of things to consider from schools to housing. Here we talk to Carrie Lupoli, an American expat mum of two young daughters and founder of Live and Learn.
How did you find moving to Singapore with a newborn?
I imagine moving to Asia is a lot different than other places because it’s so easy to get domestic help in Asia. I moved with an experienced maid which made the transition much easier. I had to work out how to be an expat wife as well as an expat mother. I’d never lived abroad before, so I had to learn everything again.
Without help it would be almost impossible to settle into a new country with a baby. I feel American women sometimes struggle asking for help. This shouldn’t be the case though, as an expat mum you’ll definitely need help. I found other expat wives to be a great source of information. They or their friends can also recommend a maid or nanny for you for example.
What support did your husband’s company offer you?
We were given a relocation agency. Different people use them to different extents. In Singapore, my first move, I used them quite a lot. I had the agent take me on the metro and the bus to show me how to use them. This was a bit unusual, but for me it was useful. It made me feel more confident about getting around on my own.
So what advice would you give first time expat mums?
- Don’t put too much pressure on yourself most importantly. I rushed into things in Singapore and there were too many learning experiences. Set yourself a goal of learning one or two new things a week.
- Try to stick to a routine no matter where you are. Even if it’s just bedtime and wake-up time, everything in between can be up for grabs. We have been in 20 hotels in the last few months and having a routine has helped maintain some stability for the children. My daughter writes one thing she has seen or done each day on a card. She has been doing it for a year and can look back and remember things she might otherwise forget. This is comforting for her.
- Find someone you trust to take care of your kids for a few hours a day. In the beginning this gives you time to explore and get your bearings. With young children in tow this would be impossible.
How can parents help children settle into a new country?
It depends on the age of the children. My daughters are kindergarten/1st grade age, but only a year apart, so they are close and can support each other. In the last 12 months they have been in three schools which can be quite unsettling for children.
I would strongly recommend having kids start school as soon as possible after you move. This will help them make friends straight away. In the past we have moved with two weeks left of the school term. I still had my girls go to school to make friends.
Another great idea is to plan some fun activities in the area for you and your children. I get really excited about house-hunting, but my daughters hate it. We always plan something they will enjoy, the zoo, a sports match or a day in the park. If they have something to look forward to in your new neighbourhood it will help them feel at home. In my experience, if the children are settled it is easier for you to settle.
Carrie Lupoli has been an expat mum for seven years – she has two young daughters and runs an education consultancy business for children with special needs, Live and Learn, based in Singapore.
She orginally moved to Singapore from the U.S. in 2005, then to Norway in 2011. She is currently in the process of moving back to the U.S. with her family.