Mc Cormick and Chapman (1996)

I suppose you already know the Mc Cormick and Chapman chart. Don’t worry if you don’t ; this graph is based on the “mourning curve” which represents the successive steps adults are getting through when relocating.  

But this is for adults. What is the process for children?  To be honest, it is not really different; the steps are quite the same. The most important difference is indeed the kinetic:  if everything is going smoothly, your kid is in the integration phase whereas you are still in the experimentation phase. (And that’s the reason why relying on your own kids may sometimes be really precious when it comes to your own settlement…)

The children process of relocation integration

Regarding the children, from the observation of several past experiences around me, I tried to conceptualize the challenges they have to face . Moreover, the schema below shows the emotions the kids may feel at each steps of the process

emotional steps of relocation for kids (A. Portier-Maynard)

When it is difficult

Nearly all the children are facing the same challenges, some steps may take more time than  others. Sometimes, some kids may have a hard time  switching from one step to another, so:

  • 1st case: they can express their feellings, leave the blocking situation behind them and switch to the next phase
  • 2nd case: they are not aware of the problem or they wouldn’t like to talk about it. It is highly recommended to consult a specialist (psychologist, GP, acupuncture,…. You choose your own tools…)

Of course, switching from one step to another is linked to the fact that the parents are able to follow their own settling in process at their own pace. If the parents are not comfortable in the new situation, children may feel it and they may develop a feeling of rejection for the new country. Reciprocity is true as well : if the children can not settle in well, parents will not feel comfortable in their new life abroad.

Sometimes, in some families, one kid (all the kids from a same family are not necessarily reacting the same way) refuses – consciously or not – to start the mourning process of his previous life and keeps regret his friends, his school, etc. It may have far-reaching implications for the parents : they are worrying, they can settle well in their new job, can’t meet new friends,… they are missing their expatriation. For a successful experience abroad, and to avoid all the family becoming anxious about the relocation, everyone has to find a way to settle in in the host country. Even the children. Not only the adults.

How can you help your kids ?

Therefore, how to help to smoothen the adaptation process until achieving the integration/ routinization phase? Dialogue. Speaking, explaining, showing examples, reassuring… This is exactly the aim of the series of books “Budding globetrotters!” : helping express feelings about beloved people or things, and at the same time supporting projection in the new life and getting familiar with the new environment.