Moving overseas with children
SJ Begonja moved to Croatia when her son was just a baby. She discusses what she did to settle him in how she kept the ties to home strong.
Moving overseas with a young child took a tremendous leap of faith. As well as the usual considerations of my family’s financial security, logistics and social connections, I was also responsible for guiding my child in his new environment.
Looking around the playground in Australia before moving overseas made me contemplate how my son would communicate without knowing the local lingo. Even though he was a baby, making sure he learned the new language was essential. On one of my first trips to the supermarket, I tossed several Croatian children’s books into the trolley. I chose the brightest and most colourful books I could find and read them with gusto – often. I began teaching him about his new world in both languages with the use of flash cards. He earned stickers for each new word he learned. Before too long, his Croatian words outnumbered his English.
Leaving behind family and friends is unquestionably the most difficult part of the transition. While children are resilient in adapting to their environment – and do so much faster than adults – I learned that they are also more likely to forget a once-familiar face back home. Showing our son a map of the world and explaining how people choose to live in different parts of the globe made it clearer to my three-year-old son where his grandparents lived when he asked. What wasn’t so easy was dealing with the heartbreaking situation for extended family when he shied away from them at reunion time. I learned that showing photos and making regular Skype calls encouraged him to learn those faces back in Australia – and it alleviated that awkward situation at the next gathering.