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How to Move Abroad With Children

Not only are retirees moving abroad—so are families with children. Rather than relocate as corporate employees, this new generation of expat families is flying solo, figuring things out on their own and networking with families who’ve gone before them. International Living’s correspondent Jason Holland is among these pioneers and shares his experience and guidance in a new report.

There’s no one-size-fits-all blueprint for expats moving abroad with children. Some families are moving temporarily, with parents taking a sabbatical from their careers for a year or two to give their kids exposure to the wider world. Some are full-on emigrating, leaving life in their home country behind. Some are traveling regularly, not having a home-base and traversing the world, a month here, a month there. Some are living in RVs, traveling Latin America or Europe by road.


Whatever mode they choose, it’s never been easier for families to make a move abroad.

Jason moved abroad with his wife (who was pregnant at the time), a four-year-old son, and two dogs to Costa Rica in 2012. Jason said that in their case, we were looking to have an adventure — along with affordable and good quality healthcare. Since then, their family has traveled all over Latin America, to places never dreamed of when they had a typical suburban existence in their home state of Florida.


Jason and his family now live in Mexico and continue to enjoy the expat experience. Here are some tips and advice for your transition;


Test drive first

Don’t sell your home and car and all your possessions and make the move. First, try it out. If you can, spend several months in your desired location. Try a few different spots in the same country to see which you prefer. You get to choose where you want to live, so don't let assumptions rule your decisions. You might even travel to a few different countries to see which one is the best fit.


Easing the Transition

There are some things that can ease the transition, especially for children, who, after all, are along for the ride. Often they feel uprooted from the comforts of their “old life”—school, friends, sports, after-school activities, and more.


The transition process should begin well before boarding the plane. Involve your children in the planning process. Let them have a say in what they bring and what they leave behind. Show them pictures and videos of the destination. Explain the benefits they’ll enjoy there. Talk with them about the school they’ll attend.

Make contacts in the new location before a move. With Facebook and other social media apps, it’s easy to connect with people. Most expat communities have a Facebook group; some even have groups especially for families. Most of these groups are friendly and more than willing to help.


School and Education

One of the biggest concerns for parents is what to do about school. In many countries, there will be several options. The quality of public schools will depend on the country. In some places, they offer high quality, in others, it’s best to follow the US curriculum via homeschooling. The positive of your children being at a local school is that it offers the opportunity to be immersed in the new culture and location. It is probably the best way to pick up the local language.


Private schools often offer U.S. level education, sometimes even a curriculum accredited by a U.S. state. The downside is that the language is often English and the costs can be high.


Next Steps

Moving abroad with your children can be very rewarding…the experience of a lifetime. It takes some preparation to make sure you have things set up in your new location and that the whole family is mentally ready for life in a new country and culture. In many ways, no matter how much you prepare it will still be a leap of faith because you won’t really know until you’re there. But that’s part of the fun.


Since 1979, Internationaliving.com has been the leading authority for anyone looking for global retirement or relocation opportunities. Through its monthly magazine and related e-letters, extensive website, podcasts, online bookstore, and events held around the world, InternationalLiving.com provides information and services to help its readers live better, travel farther, have more fun, save more money, and find better business opportunities when they expand their world beyond their own shores. InternationalLiving.com has more than 200 correspondents traveling the globe, investigating the best opportunities for travel, retirement, real estate, and investment.


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