It’s only natural that when you move to Italy with your children as an expat there will be a great number of issues and concerns that you will have to take into account to ensure a smooth transition to your new home.
One thing that you should always keep in mind is that as long as your children are happy, on a day to day basis, they are highly adaptable – in fact, probably more adaptable than you are! In no time at all, they will be fitting in with the local children and feeling themselves to be a part of the society; in ways which you, as an adult, with set patterns and routines, might actually be envious of!
However, that said, children do need to be in the right situations and circumstances to thrive, not only academically but also socially and culturally. Nobody wants their children to suffer as the result of an international move, a new schooling system or the challenges of making new friends; but with the right advice and guidance your move to Italy can work out fantastically well for you and your family!
The Age Of Your Children Matters.
When you move to Italy the age of your children is going to make a huge difference to both the ease with which they make the transition as well as the challenges and difficulties they will face.
Of course, a teenager is going to have very different needs to a younger, kindergarten aged child. Generally speaking, the younger your children are the more easily they will be able to move to a new country and start to settle in because as people grow up they start to become used to and reliant on the things they already know.
Younger children will find moving abroad to be a fantastic adventure and after they get over the initial nerves of starting at a new school they’ll soon settle in! Older children on the other hand, will inevitably struggle more with making new friends, picking up a new language and settling into their new surroundings.
However old your children are though you will have to overcome the challenges together. One way to help your children settle into their new lives is to ensure that they are busy, engaged in fun and new activities and getting all the encouragement that they need to thrive!
The Language Barrier.
Perhaps the most difficult thing that you and your children will face when moving to Italy is the language barrier. Unlike many other countries in the European Union, in Italy far fewer people speak English than you might have expected. Recent, up to date research shows that less than 30% of Italians speak English at a fluent or near fluent level! That means that the vast majority of people are unable to communicate with you if you don’t learn their language first.
This can be extremely isolating for children moving to Italy because when it comes to Italian children the figures are even lower! Of course, children are very adept at learning new languages but you will have to ensure that they get the tuition they need to master Italian.
It’s not always the case, but usually younger children will pick up a new language much faster than older children. This means that older children, such as teenagers, will need more support while they are learning Italian. They will face frustrations and hard work while learning the language but as long as you remain supportive the effort will be well worth it! Being bilingual is a great asset and as well as being able to meet their peers and speak in their own language they will also have a useful skill later in life.
There are several ways that you can approach arranging Italian lessons for your children. Firstly, you can hire a private, one on one, tutor who will visit your home to teach your children or else you can drop them off at their home for lessons. Learning a new language in a one-on-one setting is a very efficient way to pick up a new language quickly but you will have to pay a little extra.
Alternatively, your children can attend classes at a language school where they will not only learn Italian but they’ll also make some new friends in your area. No matter how you decide to help your children to learn Italian it’s going to be vital for their long term happiness in the country if they can communicate freely with their peers, regardless of their age.
One way to make learning Italian more fun is to do so as a family. When you learn Italian at the same time as your children do then you can have fun practicing together at home; for example, even though you might usually speak English together you can say that on weekends you only speak Italian! This way it will soon start to feel quite natural and while you’re in the early phases of learning Italian you can help each other out with vocabulary you don’t know.
Breaking The Bonds With Family At Home.
Although it’s more of a concern for older children, all children will suffer from losing their bonds with friends and family back home! This is something that you will have to take into consideration before you move to Italy and although younger children are more adaptable all ages are bound to miss their friends and family when they move away.
Living overseas will be an exciting adventure but it also comes with challenges. It’s hard enough for adults to leave their friends and family behind but for children it can be confusing and isolating.
You can help to mitigate this inevitable problem by arranging regular Skype calls to your relatives so your children can stay in touch with their family at home. Social media has also made it much easier to stay in touch with friends overseas so your children can tell their old friends all about their new life in Italy; in fact, the truth is that their friends back home might end up being a bit jealous of your children’s new life!
Finding New Activities For The Weekend.
Of course, school plays a major role in the life of your children but they also need to be kept happy and busy during the weekends. It’s quite likely that if you’re moving from the United States to Italy, your children will have been playing baseball and American football with their friends.
In Italy however, you really won’t be able to find baseball or football clubs (American football)! Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about this. That said, you can encourage your children to take up new past times after your move.
The national sport of Italy is soccer and it truly is the life blood of the country! When you move to Italy you can encourage your children to play soccer because not only is it fun but they’ll also be making new friends in their teams.
Alternatively, if your children don’t want to play football there are many other activities that they can take up, depending on where you live! If you live by the coast they can learn to kayak, swim and explore the beaches. In the mountains, or nearby areas, they can learn to ski or snowboard. No matter where you live in Italy though, you will find that there are plenty of new activities for your children to try out and expand their horizons.
Healthcare And Insurance.
One of the most important things to consider when you’re moving to Italy with children is healthcare. Hopefully, your children will not need much in the way of healthcare however you should always have your bases covered before you move.
Ideally, you should set up a comprehensive healthcare insurance scheme before you arrive in the country so that you know your children are safe, even if they experience an accident.
The Italian healthcare system is extremely good but as an Expat you should have a good insurance policy set up before your move. Italy has both private and public healthcare, which is interwoven in quite a complex way; however, if you have your own insurance you can access all of the services, even if you have to initially pay up front.
You can buy a health insurance policy for your children in the United States which is compatible with the Italian system (or get health insurance that will cover you and your children from Europe); although before you sign any contracts or spend any money then you should make sure your policy covers you fully.
Creating A Sense Of Belonging.
It can be quite isolating, confusing and difficult for children to move to a new country and although you, as their parent, may be pursuing your career or following a lifelong dream, your children might find it hard to recreate a sense of belonging.
On the one hand, children do adapt to new circumstances much quicker than adults but at the same time it can be hard for them to rationalize the move and feel positive about their new situation.
That means it’s vital for you, as a parent, to be encouraging and try to keep things as fun as possible for your children. This will help your children to settle into their new home and start to create an authentic sense of belonging.
Nonetheless, this will be one of the hardest obstacles you will have to overcome when moving to Italy as a family.
You Cannot Travel Around The Country With Ease.
As an Expat in Italy you will be more than tempted to travel around the country and see the sites! It is, after all, an incredible country that is famous for its cultural heritage, ancient history and amazing scenery; however, with children who have to attend schools it’s not always that easy.
If you do want to see the sites and travel around the country then you’re going to have to plan carefully in advance to ensure that your itinerary fits in with the school holidays.
The school holidays in Italy do give you plenty of time to explore the country with your children though, so there’s nothing to worry about! For instance, the summer holidays are nearly 3 months long while the Christmas holidays last for several weeks. This gives you more than enough time to travel around the country and as long as you’re willing to work around your children’s school timetable then you won’t miss out on the beauty of the incredible country.
Vital Considerations When Moving To Italy With Your Children.
When it comes to moving abroad there will always be challenges but if you have children with you it can be even more difficult. There are many things that you will have to overcome but as long as you are supportive and can see things from their point of view you can not only make the move as easy as possible but you can turn it into a fantastic opportunity that they’ll look back on fondly as adults!
Understanding the difficulties that you may face when moving abroad with children will help you to prepare and overcome the issues without impacting on your children’s long term prospects. This means that before you relocate to Italy you should do as much research as you can in advance so you’ll be able to prepare for any difficulties that you may face in the future.