We’ve arranged another visit to France prior to our move this summer. One of the things we hope to do is give both our children, but our four year old in particular, a picture of what life there will be like. I think this is important as she is showing that in the back of her young mind there is an awareness that everything is about to change. Let’s face it, any change to a little one’s routine is life changing – La Belle Fille finds it hard enough when I change her coat let alone country!
Here are our tips for making this a (hopefully) joyful transition!
Create A Photo Montage
We’re planning to take lots of photos of our daughters at the places and activities we go to so we can make a photo montage. When we come back we can talk about things which will help them keep a visual of this life so it starts to seem familiar before we go. Even for the baby (I should start to say toddler, she is one and a half now after all) this is good as at this age her vocabulary is limited so the visual reminder really helps.
Visiting The House Where We Will Live
We’ve been lucky to have an offer to stay for a year in our parents’ friends’ gite. Anybody who’s ever seen a French rental property and the average kitchen therein will know what a Godsend this is (basically two cupboards, a sink and a space for an cooker are the average facilities that we’ve seen).
The gite has three bedrooms, a large sitting room and a kitchen diner. It’s directly next to our friends and out in the country – so it’s a good opportunity to try this type of rural living before we buy.
As it’s close to our parents house we plan on walking there (with a buggy and a bike) via the little boulangerie which sells bonbons. This way they’ll see how close they’ll be to nanny and granddad. Even if you’re not moving near someone, I think having an opportunity to see where they’re going to live, pick a bedroom, perhaps buy a new duvet set with a favourite character on it – any of these kind of things – will help them start to think of this new place as home rather than a formless black hole.
Taking Her Back To Ecole
La Belle Fille has of course visited her école maternelle, but as it was the Easter holidays there weren’t any children there. We hope to take her back when she can see all the children doing exactly what they do at her preschool, only in a different language. Again we’re trying to paint a picture of a life.
We’ve already been doing this of course. When we posted the dossier d’inscription we tried to attach it to a good memory, so Le Marie and I picked her up from preschool with her baby sister so we could post it all together. As I’d already been talking about how the école is near the bistro we love and often go to for hot chocolate as an extended family in the winter, we all went to the local Costa and did that there. Of course I spoke to her about how, sometimes, mummy, daddy, nanny, grandad and her baby sister could pick her up from school in France and take her for hot chocolate on those days too.
On this visit to France we’ll be going to the bistro and the play park near to where the school as a kind of demonstration of that life. Nothing teaches a preschool child like physical actions after all.
If you’re moving abroad with your little ones you may not have the history we have with where your child will be going to school but, if you can plan a pre-visit like this, you can do Internet research to find sites around the school beforehand to show them what life will be like too.
If you can’t visit, doing the Internet research together can help too.
Help Them See The Activities They Enjoy Can Still Happen In Their New Home As Well As New Things To Try
My daughter loves swimming; in fact it can be a by embarrassing at times when she refuse to get out of the swimming pool at the end of her swimming lessons! I have to part bribe, part threaten her to keep the public humiliation down to the minimum.
Of course in a little persons world the idea that there are other swimming pools isn’t a reality. So we’ll be taking her to the local swimming pool with her little sister.
When La Belle Fille was still in the latter toddler stage, about 3 years old, I took her to a ballet class. It’s something I’d done as a child and as she likes music and dancing I thought she would too. However the class environment, although run by a lovely woman, was too much for her. She doesn’t like to do things too publicly in case she gets them wrong and likes to try things in private first. So she just didn’t join in and spent three weeks sitting on the side of the class.
In the end I thought that maybe I should stop her going for a little while and, as it as just before Christmas I’d buy her a DVD so she could try it at home. She still watches it all the time and loves it, practising the dances. But at this stage I knew that we’d be moving to France and didn’t want to separate her from another thing, so I thought this would be something exciting for her to look forward to.
I’m now trying to locate a ballet class near to where we’ll be so that, hopefully, during this trip she can go along and try it.
New Places To Go For All The Family
We have a typical, English, pebbly beach where we live. The kind that is still full of English people walking up and down in the depths of winter, like latter day Victorians refusing to be put off by the weather. La Belle Fille and La Petite Fille love it. They mainly go with Le Marie on Saturdays, for fun in the park and stone throwing in the water.
Near to my parents in Normandy are wonderful sandy beaches and they get to do something they can’t at home – make sand castles! So we’ll be having a picnic on the beach and lots of sandy fun.
Emphasising exciting new things as well as what can continue is a really good way to talk about looking forward to this new adventure together and, again, making it real.
Try And Give Them Some Vocabulary
I’ve spoken before about how La Belle Fille gets so excited when she recognises French words that she knows in different mediums like French songs and tv shows. What I’ve started to do is give her more specific vocabulary to help her feel proud and excited by being able to make these connections and so come away feeling excited, not overwhelmed. So I’m putting some activities together to help her with this.
I know that a lot of people talk about how children just get together with other children and play, regardless of language. But this is different to being in situations where your expected to do specific things and, as we have time not just in relation to this visit but before we move altogether, this seems like it might be a useful thing to do.
Just a few of the things we’re thinking about – if you have any ideas I’d love to hear them!