Are you considering moving to Switzerland with young children? If so, you’re probably wondering if Switzerland is a good place to raise a family. While yes, this country is every expat’s dream as it has low crime rates and great standards of education and healthcare, when relocating to Switzerland with children, you will likely encounter some challenges along the way.
To help with these bumps in your journey toward settling in, here’s some expert advice on how to navigate the twists and turns of relocating with children, and how to enjoy your time in Switzerland
The Most Common Issues That Expat Parents in Switzerland Face
Many expat families experience dislocation on personal, family and community levels. On a personal level, many expat mothers find themselves thrown into the identity of housewife (or stay-at-home-mom). This disrupts their sense of identity, worth and purpose in their new world.
On a family level, many experience a sudden change as their wider family and friends’ support network disappears in the move. The insecurity, loneliness, lack of direction and dissatisfaction can result in an increasing strain on the family.
What to Do in Those Cases
If you’re an expat in Switzerland, you need to give yourself time to become more comfortable with change and transition. Your unhappiness often results from resistance to the current situation. The only way to be happy is to focus on what you have now, rather than thinking about the past.
Know that your thinking, not living in Switzerland, is making you unhappy. On a community level, there are many positive opportunities for friendship and support. The expat communities in Switzerland are used to, and enjoy, welcoming new families and showing them how things work and how to settle in this new land.
Typical Mistakes Parents Make Right After Moving
- Firstly, some parents underestimate the importance of their child’s bedroom. It’s crucial to create a safe and secure place for a child as soon as possible.
- Next, not identifying and bringing along key toys, games and books that can facilitate establishing that protected, familiar environment your child needs from the start.
- Another common mistake is not being prepared for a change of behavior in your child. Unfortunately, you can’t predict that change. It might include anything — slight behavioral regressions, increasing tensions, complete withdrawal or none of the above. Often your child behaves clingier because you, as a parent, become home. Be there, attention-wise, as much as you can for them.
Common Complaints About Children of Newcomers
Children of any age can display challenging behaviors as they process their emotions regarding the relocation, which might appear very disturbing to parents. Younger children, trying to learn two languages, can become frustrated and try to communicate by biting, hitting, kicking and screaming.
Parents have to be prepared for temporary changes and should give their kids some time to adjust to the new environment. This process can last from just a few days to two years.
Tips for Expat Parents to Help Their Children Adjust to a New Country
For a child, the parents will always be home. Therefore, focusing on a loving connection between a parent and a child is vital to help the child integrate. Children need to know that when they return home after school, they are in a safe, supportive, understanding and loving environment.
A resilient family can be happy anywhere. When we help our children understand that they are safe and loved, no matter what, it allows them to carry happiness inside of them in any school or country.
The Easiest and the Hardest Ages for Kids to Adjust
Usually four- and five-year-olds and under adjust the fastest but you do get more tensions and possible tantrums. This tension, however, is short-lived.
Practice shows that children who move after the ages of nine to ten years old have more trouble adapting. They have already developed important friendships and support networks back home that they had to leave. Also, brain changes mean that their ability to speak a new language like a native is lessening. But primarily we return to resilience.
The older the children are, the more their values and beliefs have developed which determine how they see the world. They have some fixed ideas and expectations on how things should be that can be deeply challenged by new cultures. It can be wonderful to challenge these beliefs, but it is not always a smooth ride.
International Schools vs Local Schools: What’s the Best Choice for Expat Kids?
Families staying long term may want to consider the benefits of fully learning the local languages and experiencing the local culture. The potential for your child to become bilingual has numerous psychological and neurological benefits. Experiencing cultures can help your child speak to and relate to a wide range of people, feel comfortable in diverse social situations and adapt to changes faster.
However, international schools offer a faster transition experience, and an almost immediate friend and support network. Here too, a huge range of diverse cultures and languages can be experienced. Read more here on the Swiss school system.
How to Prepare Kids for Local Public Schools
The truth of the matter is, it’s more about preparing the parents. The Swiss school system can be very different to how British and American parents perceive early childhood education. Children are introduced to reading, writing and arithmetic much later here. Many British and American parents are not familiar with the system and might become concerned about the educational development of their child.
The secret to success is working out how the teacher expects your child to behave and what standards of work are expected. This can vary greatly between teachers, schools and regions.
The Difficulties Bilingual Children Might Face
Bilingual children often have, initially, a smaller range of emotional vocabulary to explain their feelings. If you notice your child is using only a few words to explain a great range of emotional reactions, you can start using more words. For example, many kids use the word ‘angry’ to describe several emotional states, so parents might want to talk to their kids and introduce other terms, such as ‘sad’, ‘frustrated’ and others.
After discussing those terms, kids will understand emotions much better and will be able to calm down faster as they can explain what’s happening.
Dealing with Negative Emotions: Should You Hide Your Feelings or Be Open with Your Kids?
First and foremost, children want to be raised by parents, not robots. They need to know that they’re safe to express their emotions. If you show emotions, it helps them understand that all emotional reactions are relevant and valid.
However, it’s important to remember that emotions are a direct result of our thinking. So if you are upset, you can explain to your children that you got trapped in some ‘upset thinking.’ This can help them understand themselves and their own reactions better.
Are you relocating to Switzerland with children?
As an expat parent, choosing the right school for your children is an exhausting process, filled with anxiety and doubt. While the public Swiss school system provides both solid intellectual as well as emotional development, foreigners often need time to adjust to it and overcome the language barrier.
If you are wondering ‘’How can I find trusted sources from local education experts? or Where do I start researching the Swiss school system?’’ we’re here to help you get clarity and reliable information from Packimpex education experts.
Packimpex provides the full range of Destination Services, which also include consulting on Education & childcare. Our relocation consultants specialize in advising expats who arrive in Switzerland based on their specific family needs.
Packimpex has been supporting individuals and organisations with relocations to and from Europe for over 45 years, covering the following countries: Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK. We offer tailored relocation solutions for the future international workforce and are focused on superior customer experience. Our team of relocation experts have extensive global knowledge paired with on-the-ground expertise in their regions. Our full range of relocation services includes: Destination Services, Housing Support, Rental Furniture and Immigration Services.