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Preparing Friends and Family for Your Move Abroad

Preparing Friends and Family for Your Move Abroad

by Ilene Springer

Most people will not have to deal with this. But if you do decide to move abroad without your grown children, siblings or parents, telling your family may be the most difficult thing you ever discuss with them. Every family is different, of course, and every family's reaction will be different. But in general, here's what you need to consider:

1. Expect your family to be surprised or even shocked. You may have been regularly visiting the place you're thinking of moving to, you may have said how much you like it-and you may have even stated your desire to live there someday. But when it actually comes out, your family may express disbelief, anger, sadness, betrayal and denial. And you can't blame them. So would you under the same circumstances.

2. In response to your family's feelings about you leaving, you may feel guilt (lots of guilt) fear, anger and defensiveness. You may feel like you're rebelling. And probably the hardest part of all is admitting - especially to yourself - that your loved ones may be justified in feeling what they do.

3. Try to tell your family members before you tell anyone else. Sometimes this isn't possible. Often we tell our friends first because they usually won't be as affected as our family members by the news - even if our friends will miss us terribly. And often we avoid telling our family members because we're afraid of their reactions. So this becomes a vicious cycle of waiting for the right moment to tell - and then avoiding - and then the family finding out that other people have known for a while that you were considering moving abroad. All that makes it even worse.

4. Surprisingly, many expatriates say that telling their parents was not as hard as they thought it might be. Many parents - especially elderly parents - may worry about you and miss you, but most of them, these days, don't expect you to take care of them when they're infirm.

On a BBC show that showed UK couples telling their parents that they were considering moving 12 hours away to Australia, the parents expressed their sadness at their children leaving, but said they understood, even wishing they had made such an adventurous move themselves when they had the chance in their younger years.

On the other hand, it will probably be a lot more difficult telling your adult children, especially young adult children in their 20s, that you plan to move abroad. Somehow - whether you agree with it or not - there's an expectation that parents should stay where they are, but children can leave whenever and to wherever they want.

While in most situations that is the case, sometimes a parent (or parents) has very legitimate reasons for needing to move away. It may be that life will be easier financially in the new location. It may be that health care will be more readily available and affordable. It may be that the social life and the climate will be more promising. Or it may be that you - as a parent and as an individual - have always dreamed of living there and have waited until your kids were grown, in your eyes, to make the move.

In any event, if you and your children have been emotionally close, telling them that you're planning to move to another country will be very, very hard. As for your siblings? That all depends on your relationship with them. Some siblings may be afraid that you will never see each other again if you leave, while others will look at it as a new place to come and visit.

5. Expect a lot of questions from your family: about why you're leaving, how you plan on earning a living there, how often you'll see each other, how much it will cost to fly back and forth, how often you'll be able to call each other and how much that will cost. Depending on where you're moving, your family may ask about your safety in your chosen country, what you'll do if it doesn't work out and many other questions that you may not even know the answers to yourself - or even think that it's their business. Try to remember, however, that as uncertain as the adventure might seem to you sometimes, you're the one who is leaving. In most cases, it's always harder on the people who stay behind. So don't evade questions; when your family asks you, for example, what if it doesn't work out, say that you can always decide to come back - which is the truth.

6. Plan on having many conversations about your moving. The whole thing will not be resolved after one, two, three or ten times. You may feel that you've explained yourself over and over, but it just may not be enough for your family. You might find yourself defensively answering the same questions again and again. Be patient. Your family's questions are, in part, a way of getting used to the idea. There may always be some questions. To be honest, neither you nor your family will know how it will all be until after you move.

7. Come up with a clear plan of how you will communicate. Will you still call each other the same amount as before? Who will pay for it? Have an idea of how often you can see each other. Again, this is a plan - not reality. Some things will work as you planned; others won't. And maybe some things will end up better than either of you anticipated.

8. If you feel your family is so opposed that it's ruining your relationship, seek counseling with one or more family members. If they won't attend with you, then seek counseling for yourself.

9. If at all possible, try to have your family visit you at your new destination before you settle there. They may like the place or hate it, but at least they will have a better idea of where you're going to live. It will seem more real to both of you.

10. Don't expect some big family send-off at the airport when you leave. You yourself may not feel so joyous at the time, but, in fact, more scared and wondering what you're really doing. Some family members may have come to terms with your moving and want to see you off; others may not. Remember that the day of your departure is only a moment in the whole scheme of things. What really counts are the beginning days and months you're apart.

11. As soon as you settle in your new place, plan on when you'll visit your family. You may not be able to come up with a specific timetable immediately, but at least start the discussion. And don't be surprised if it's hard to find a time for your family to fit you in. After all this time of convincing them - especially adult children - that they'll be OK and will go on with their busy lives, that's exactly what they'll be doing. Don't feel slighted by this; this is what you wanted from and for them.

No one - not you, your family, a counselor or anyone else - can predict how it will work out when you move abroad. All you can do is be honest about your plans and respect your family's feelings and the need to express them. And hope that it does work out in a way that you both can live with - and even enjoy as time goes on.

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Bupa Global

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