3 Tips for Managing Split Family Stressors during Relocations
A split family is common during corporate relocations. This happens when an employee has a transfer date that requires him/her to move before the rest of the family. This time away from each other is an adjustment for all.
In our experience, up to 30% of families live apart for a period of time during their relocation. Typically, this time apart takes place near the beginning and end of the year so children can finish the school year and families can spend time together for the holidays. The time apart varies, but we have seen it extend up to 12 months.
If you will need to be apart for an extended period of time, utilise these 3 tips to manage the stress of a split family.
1. Split Family Tips for the Employee
For the employee who relocates before the family does, there can be a feeling of isolation with no familiar support system. “Acknowledging the loneliness and the change you are experiencing is the first step,” shares Sapna Sukesh Kumar, Regional Team Leader APAC & Senior International Career/Transition Coach at IMPACT Group. She works closely with expatriates and their families as they embark on their international assignments.
The second step is taking active steps to build networks within your company and community. Ask to spend time with your coworkers outside of work. This serves a dual purpose, allowing you to better understand the dynamic of your new office while making friends. “This does a lot for helping you integrate into the workplace and allows you to pass your free time constructively.” Another tip is finding groups that align with your interests. Maybe you enjoy volunteering, biking, hiking, movies… Whatever the interest, you are likely to find others who share your enthusiasm in MeetUp or expat groups.
Regular video calls with your family and friends can ease the feelings of isolation as well. Sapna comments, “These calls will boost your spirits and allow you to stay involved.” Try keeping a diary of how you are feeling and what you are experiencing in the new city. These are good things to share with your loved ones over the phone and give you something new to talk about during each call. Consider using apps like Skype, WhatsApp, and WeChat to stay connected.
2. Split Family Tips for the Spouse/Partner
For the spouse/partner who stays back, acknowledge that things are going to be different. “Your partner will not be there to share your responsibilities, so it may be helpful to plan out your weeks and break to-dos into smaller tasks,” Sapna recommends. “Create a timeline on how you will manage everything in your partner’s absence.” Remember to speak to your children about the change and how it will affect them. They will likely have ideas on ways they can help out.
With this in mind, it is important to take each day as it comes. Some days will be better than others. Sapna points out that your attitude is crucial to how the days ahead will be. “Take time to celebrate the good moments. And make time to ponder on the stressful days to see what could have been done differently.” It helps to process these emotions out loud. Consider confiding in a friend or loved one. And make it a point to speak to your spouse/partner regularly to share ideas and garner suggestions. “Two minds as always better than one.”
During this in-between period for your family, Sapna recommends using your time to imagine the relocation and prepare for life in the new area. “Learn about the culture by joining online groups and forums to do research.” This early planning will enable you to identify your top priorities and potential challenges with plenty of time to address them before you move.
3. Split Family Tips for the Children
Always keep your children informed and involved in the relocation. “They will feel less insecure when they know what lies ahead,” Sapna shares. If you are the parent in the new location, be positive about the new area when you speak to your children. This will help them to be motivated and excited to move there.
Creating a schedule around when they will speak with their parent who is in the new location can be soothing for them. A regular cadence can also ensure it happens. “Start a list of questions for the children to ask during the calls.” Journaling can be a good way for children to remember what experiences they had throughout the week that they wish to share. Another fun tip is for the parent in the new location to take videos to share. This will help the children to envision what life will be like after the relocation.
While living as a split family at the beginning of your relocation can be exhausting, it is only temporary. Your IMPACT Group coach is by your side to help you adjust to this new living arrangement and ensure everyone in your family stays connected. Reach out to her/him today for more tips on minimising stress during your time apart.