Written by Lee Watson.
Moving to a new location can be stressful enough, but what if you are also relocating with children in tow? What do they need and what can you reasonably expect help with from your relocation policy. How does this shift your priorities?
Whilst all aspects of the move are going to be affected to some extent when you’re relocating with children, destination services, finding a home and schooling support are the key areas that will be affected. The timing of when you move could also be dictated to by moving with children, as you consider the academic year and school start dates. You might want to ensure that you and they move during school holiday times so as to make the transition from one education establishment to the next as seamless as possible.
Destination Services – where is the best place to live when you have children?
First off, having children has a heavy influence on where you’re going to live for a number of reasons. Your choices are going to be driven by their needs and requirements, both today and in the future.
Schooling & childcare
When you have children, schooling does end up being the main driving factor behind choosing a location. Some relocation policies will include specialist schooling support for parents looking for either state or private schools for their children. In the UK and Ireland, the location of a private school (confusingly called public schools in the UK) matters less as acceptance does not rely on being in a specific catchment area. However, for state schools, to be accepted you must live within a set radius of the school so keep this in mind as it will dictate the areas you target for your home search. The school search specialist will help you to identify good, appropriate schools that best cater to your child’s needs. They may talk you through the application process for the relevant council or borough, and research availability of places. The school specialist pre-covid could organise visits and accompany you to interviews. During the pandemic these activities changed to happening virtually. As we come out of the pandemic it is still unknown if these will return to being in-person. The school consultant will give specific advice and help with admissions, give a detailed description of the ‘in-country curriculum’ and comparisons with that of the home country. Additionally, they will advise on how to transition back to the home country curriculum when leaving and once your assignment is over.
When choosing an area, the family friendly factor is of great importance. If you have children, you’re not going to want to live in a busy, ‘nightlife heavy’ area where the noise from midnight revellers is going to stop them from sleeping. Instead, you’re going to be looking for a quieter area, perhaps somewhere outside the centre of town where playgrounds, childcare, family-friendly leisure activities and schooling are both in abundance and of high quality.
Whilst renting a property is, by its very nature, a short-term commitment, finding a neighbourhood where you want to live may be very much a long-term thing. If you have a family, it’s important to make ties to the community in which you live. You and your partner will invariably make local connections and friends and become engaged in local affairs. The same goes for your child, who will make friends at pre-school, school and at clubs and activities. Before long, you’ll be fully integrated into the community and might want to consider a more long-term living situation like buying a property. If you’re buying in the same area in which you already live, it will be far less upheaval for you and your children than if you are moving somewhere altogether new again!
The Home Search Days
So let’s move on to the home search itself. Perhaps the most important decision about the logistics of the day that you will have to make is whether to take your children along with you or not. There are a few factors to consider…
How to manage the home search days with children?
If you have just relocated to the country, it’s very unlikely that you’re going to have childcare for them right away, though this is potentially something that you can get advice on later on. Sadly, relocating to a new country means leaving behind the support network you had before, so you are left with two options. You or your partner will have to stay behind to look after the children or you’ll have to take them with you.
If one partner stays behind to look after the children, it does mean they miss out on seeing the properties in person. You can, however, mitigate this by taking photos and videos or even being in a video call whilst touring the property.
The next option would be to take the children with you on the home search. This does solve the childcare problem, but it also introduces a number of other difficulties. The home search usually takes up most of the day and, unsurprisingly, young children can get quite bored and restless. This can mean that the home search does not have your full attention and it’s more likely that it won’t go as well as it could. Ultimately, you know your own kids and if they’re kept sufficiently entertained or engaged, it’s sometimes not a problem.
In some situations, childcare might not be a consideration at all. Children may have remained at home with a relative or your partner whilst you get setup. Sometimes, slightly older children will be relocating at a later date, allowing them to finish out the school term/year before moving.
How are you getting around?
Typically, depending on the circumstances (location of properties, distance between viewings and traffic/parking conditions), you’ll either be going from place to place by car or using public transport. In either case, you’ll need to ensure that you have the right equipment. For young children, you’ll need to bring along a car seat or a booster seat if you’re going by car. Since requirements differ so much on this, depending on the child’s height and weight, it’s impossible for the home search consultant to be able to provide something that works for every child.
Whether you’re travelling by train or by car, for especially young children, it’s good to have a buggy, pram or pushchair, especially as it provides the child somewhere to sleep if it all gets too much. You’ll often find that you might have to walk between nearby viewings, so having an easy way to convey your child is extremely useful.
Choosing the Property
There are other things to consider when choosing a property fit for a child. For a start, they’ll need their own space, so a bedroom or an indoor play area. Outside space can also be important and whilst having a park nearby is good to have, it might be nice to have your own garden, or a communal area for all the residents of your building, where your child can play.
Safety is also a concern, so open balconies in high-rise buildings are to be avoided. Staircases without banisters would probably also be a hazard for young children too. There could be countless other safety aspects to look out for. So, it’s important to visualise how you will live in a property when you go to visit in order to identify potential pitfalls and, if possible, factor in rectifying them when you place the offer on the property.
Leaving friends and family behind
This is perhaps one of the hardest aspects for a child. Keeping up with relatives on video calls can certainly help, and making sure that family visits are arranged as much as possible is essential. That’s perhaps one aspect that you might want to consider when choosing a home; ensuring there’s space for people to visit. A visit from grandparents or aunts and uncles can do wonders to help a child settle into their new life.
Children will undoubtedly miss their friends from back home, but social media and video calling will invariably help with that. In time, as long as they have enough activities to attend, alongside school, they can surely make new friends. Children can be quite resilient after all, and you might be surprised at how adaptable to change they really are.
Moving to a new country with children can seem daunting at first, but if you take into consideration all of these factors, and get the right advice from relocation professionals, it should take some of the stress away!