Helping Your Child Cope With Migration

It is a recurring question on this forum. How will my kids cope with this move to Australia? Because, let’s face it, the majority of migrants do so for the sake of their children. The last thing they want is for their children to not adapt to their new lives.

My first born was very small, only two and a half years old. Thirty months. His world was mum and dad. As long as we were in the surrounds he was fine.

In my book, Migrasie, die Eerste 1000 dae, (yet to be released) there were quite a few parents who came over with early primary kids, middle primary kids and teenagers. From what they shared with us in the book, I learnt that communication was a big factor in the settling-in process for kids.

I googled (my research) the impact of migration on children and discovered this website ( and according to them this is the way the children experience migration.

Babies and toddlers, apart from possibly picking up the stress and anxiety of mum and dad and consequently being unsure of what is going on, are the most accepting of the move. Try and keep to their routine, make sure they have their comfort toys or blankies ready and near and they should settle in without a hitch.

Children between the ages of four to eight years old also adapts fairly quickly. They are like sponges and absorbs things very fast. In Australia many of the schools have buddy systems and many have South African children. I have heard that some the children take on a “translator” role, helping their class mates cope with the new language and system. Many mums have told stories of how surprised they were when arriving home and hearing their children speak with an Aussie accent. And that was in a matter of months since arriving. Be careful what you say in front of them, they pick up on your conversations and can take on your anxiety. Be patient if they have questions. There are no ‘stupid’ questions, just ‘stupid’ answers. Respect their emotions.

Nine to twelve year olds may present some challenges when relocating. They already have a social circle and they have emotional ties to friends and family. Be honest and open in your communication with them and encourage them to ask questions about the impending move. Many parents gave their kids a camera to take to school and take photos of their friends. Class mates have written letters to the departing kids, that will serve as a memory in years to come. Some parents openend email addresses in their children’s names to communicate with friends left behind. If they have mobile phones, they can do ‘whatsup’ with their mates and stay in contact. 
Once here, be very attentive to your child’s emotional state. School may be challenging, especially the social aspect and finding his/her place. Get professional help if you need to.

A mum once gave the advice that if she could do things differently she would have chosen a school where there were more South African children, just so that her son could feel a bit more comfortable. If you go to church, most churches have youth groups where you can enrol your child. There are programs like the Boys and Girls Brigades as well as the scouts, that provide a social place for the children.

The early teens may find it difficult to find anything positive in the move. They have a strong social network and want to spend time with their friends. Once again, communicate with your child. You may even want to get their friends in to help them pack up their room. If your child has Facebook, encourage them to stay in contact. Many parents have found that moving either at the end of the year of half way through helps with the adjustment. When they arrive in holiday time it gives them time to settle in and get used to the way of doing things, and then go to school in the new year. In my previous post, I mentioned the site that you can visit to read up on the schools you are interested enrolling them in.

Every state’s Department of Education has a website where you can read up on the curriculum they are following. You can google the learning materials they use, and acquaint yourself with it. If you are a homeschooler, remember that it is legal here and the homeschooling communities are very supportive. You are welcome to contact me should you need more information on homeschooling. You can also contact for more information.

Sixteen to eighteen year olds see themselves as young adults and want to feel that they are part of this decision. They will be able to help with the organising and packing. Though they may be unsure about leaving most will have the maturity to think logically about the move and the adventures awaiting them. This may even be the beginning of a travel bug.

One thing that stood out when we did our research with the book, was that the families understood the dynamics of team work. They knew they were in this together. Communication was very important, as well as grace with each other’s way of dealing with the stressful situations that presented themselves.

Do your research on the areas that you are planning to settle in, show them the things they will be able to do, that they may not be able to do now. Talk to your children about what they are feeling and experiencing, and acknowledge that those are real feelings and emotions.

Dear Migrant to the Great South Land,

If I may give you my five cent’s worth? Our children are resilient. They are strong. They are our children after all. You are coming to a country where children may be raised differently than how you are raising your children. Differently, not better, not worse. Most parents, whether they are South African, English (from the UK), Aussie, Ethiopian, Ugandan, German or Dutch, are doing the best they can. You may find that some tell you kids have no respect. The Roman law man, Cicero wrote the exact same words in one of his letters, more than a thousand plus years ago. You may hear stories of bullies at school, or drugs and sex at school. I was at school twenty two years ago, and there were bullies, sex and drugs then. (Rock and Roll as well 🙂 )

Children are children. Some grow up quicker, some stay child for a long time. Some children let their hair grow and have pants that for some or other reason keep dropping to their knees. Some may get a tattoo the moment they are allowed. You know your child, the heart is what matters, is it not? I think of things I did and I shudder! Get them through it alive, I always say. 🙂

You will change because of this experience, it is only natural that you child will change as well. From what I have seen and experienced, our kids do well. They do not only do well, the excel! Many become leaders, talented sportsmen and women, they get opportunities they may not have gotten. They will follow your cue, as long as you stay positive, and have a ‘let’s learn’ attitude, they will be right along side you.

They’ll be all right mate, they’ll be all right.



Here are the departments of Education websites:

Help with adapting to your new country

2 thoughts on “Helping Your Child Cope With Migration

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s