Psychology of Relocation-Canada

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How age affects attitude to moving

  • Although very young children sometimes suffer deeply when they are separated from their grandparents and everything that is familiar to them, this is the age group that generally adapts most easily.

  • Teenagers are closely attached to their peers, and it is they who often find moving the most difficult.

Give kids control

  • It is a sound idea to give each child as much control as possible over his/her move.

  • Naturally the amount and type of control will vary with the child's age.

  • In the case of young children, it may be enough to let them sort out which child will get which bedroom, or who will get the top bunk and who will get the bottom bunk.

  • The older your children are, the more choices you should let them exercise.

Tell kids as early as possible

  • Tell your kids about the move as early as you can.

  • The more time they have to prepare for it, the better.

  • You may think that you will save yourself a lot of bother if you keep the move a secret from them for as long as possible.

  • Certainly that would delay the protests, the tears, the rebellion and the anger.

  • But it could introduce a lot of poison into your relationship with your children.

  • Imagine how you would feel if you had the rug pulled out from under your feet, if you were told that you’d be moving within a couple of weeks, and if you didn’t have enough time to process the information and say proper goodbyes.

  • Yes, telling your children early may create more upheaval for you initially, but it’ll make for a smoother transition in the long run.

  • It must be admitted that the long waits for permanent residence visas have added an unfortunate level of complexity. Do you tell your kids about the move now, when the actual move may take place in five years?!? Hmmm ............ That’s a tough question to answer. Five years probably is stretching it. Young kids probably could benefit from being told at least six months before the move, and teenagers probably would appreciate at least a year in which to get used to the idea, if at all possible.

  • But for some children, knowing five years in advance may be okay. Some families make a long term project of the move, and they involve their children. For example, these families do several recce trips to their proposed Canadian destination while they're waiting for their permanent residence visas to come through. They may have extended family members in Canada, so the children may already feel that they are partly British and partly Canadian.

  • Each family's circumstances are unique, but the general advice is to avoid springing a surprise on your kids really close to the time of the move.

  • If you submit an application for a temporary work permit or a Provincial Nominee Program, which you could expect to be granted in less than a year, it is recommended that you tell your kids as soon as possible.

Give kids a chance to plan their move

  • Tell your children as much about your new destination as possible. It would be nice if they’d seen the place during a recce trip. If that is not possible, try to show them pictures of the place and give them other information about it.

  • Depending on the child’s age, allow him/her (and, if necessary, help him/her) prepare for the move.

  • Give him/her a way of collecting his/her friends’ contact details, so they can stay in touch.

  • Give him/her an avenue for saying goodbye to his/her friends. Perhaps hold a leaving party. Let the child invite his/her friends to your house for pizza or something like that.

  • Let him/her pack a carry-on bag to take on the plane. In the case of a young child, this could include a special blanket, a favourite teddy bear, and so on.

  • Teenagers probably would enjoy doing their own research on the new destination, through The Youth Club here on BE and through the many other avenues that are available on the Internet.


  • Discussions on the BE forum reveal that different parents have different attitudes towards their reluctant teenagers.

  • Some parents say, “I’m the parent, and he (or she) will bloody well do as I say.”

  • Other parents (probably most parents on the forum) give children who are in their late teens some say in the matter.

  • One tactic that many families use is to have the child who is in his/her late teens or early twenties “land” in Canada and activate his/her permanent residence status. The child then returns to the UK to complete college or whatever. From that point onwards, the child has a couple of years within which to decide whether or not he/she will move to Canada. (Please see the Wiki on Residency Obligations.)

  • If you are an autocratic parent, do not underestimate the havoc that a bitterly unhappy teen can cause.

  • The BE forum has been witness to parents who “laid down the law” with their teenagers, only to move back to the UK because things went pear shaped once the family was in Canada.

  • Unfortunately, the length of the permanent residence visa application process increases the chances that, somewhere along the line, a teenager who initially may have been okay with the idea of moving to Canada will change his/her mind. Once again, this is an instance in which flexibility on the part of the parents is helpful.

Your visa's limitations on your kids

  • If you’re going to Canada on a temporary work permit, be aware that children of work permit holders to all intents and purposes are not entitled to work permits.

  • This is a major pain in the neck, and in fact has been a contributing factor in some families’ returns to the UK.

  • If you’re going to be in this position, figure out ahead of time a way in which your teenager can earn money (by doing chores in your house and garden or whatever).

  • As temporary residents your children may need special study permits, and also to pay international fees, in order to study in Canada.

  • If planning to get permanent residence, you need to keep closely in touch with the immigration laws to ensure that older children remain entitled to permanent residence based on your own application.

  • Whether you are temporary or permanent residents, your children need to understand that if they get into trouble with the police it may have serious consequences from the point of view of obtaining permanent residence or Canadian citizenship.

Be honest about your feelings

  • Be honest with your children when it comes to your feelings about the move.

  • Accept that your feelings about the move may be paradoxical. You may be very excited about your move, and yet you still may unravel when you say goodbye to your best friend in the UK. That’s okay.

  • If you allow yourself to have contradictory emotions and if you are authentic about your feelings, it will give your children “permission” also to have conflicting feelings and to be honest about them.

  • Some parents think that, to make the move easier on their children, they have to deny their feelings. They feel obliged to keep a stiff upper lip, even if they feel on the verge of tears.

  • Ironically, this is not the most comforting thing for children in the long run.

  • In reality, children are reassured to find out that their parents are human and that their parents have the same kinds of feelings as they have.

Compensating for the pain of moving

  • Let your children express their feelings but, beyond giving them a reasonable amount of control over the move, don’t try to protect them from the pain of moving.

  • For example, if you buy them a super expensive toy to make up for the move, you may be training them to expect a bribe whenever they face a challenge.

  • You’ll also be implying that throwing money at pain can make it disappear.

  • That’s not true, and it’s not helpful to give your children that impression.

  • Sooner or later they’re going to have to experience losses that no amount of money can help –- a defeat in an important sports competition, the death of a pet, losing out to someone in an interview for a much sought after job, the death of a person who is near and dear to them, and so on.

  • However, if your family is into animals, getting a new pet in the new neighbourhood can be fun for your kids.

  • Animals tend to have a therapeutic effect on people.

  • Loving and caring for another creature will help to take your kids' minds off their own troubles.

Adjustment takes time

  • Younger children tend to adapt more quickly.

  • In the case of a teenager, it can take as long as six months to settle into the new place.

  • Try not to fixate too much on academic performance in your child's first year in the new place.

  • Social adjustment in itself is a big job. If a child performs okay from an academic point of view and makes a good social adjustment over the first year, that is a worthy accomplishment.

Other information resources

The Canadian Relocation Systems website has some good articles on helping children to cope with a big move. They include:

The Psychology of Moving

Moving with Kids & Teens