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How to handle friends and family

One of the first and most important aspects of moving to another country is the thoughts and mental processes which not only go into the decision making but also form the background against which we consider emigration in the first place.

If you are considering emigration, you are on the verge of a major life event that is characterized by stress, the feeling of loss and major change.

Ideas on how to acknowledge and process family and friends feelings and fears regarding emigration:

Before informing family and friends of your plans to emigrate it is important to be aware of the types of concerns and questions they might have and prepare clear responses that will provide them with the necessary information. Through addressing any uncertainties family and friends might have regarding the length of time you will be in the new country, the manner in which continuance of relationships will be ensured and the importance of the relationships the anxiety experienced by all involved is greatly reduced.

Some ideas on facilitating the above mentioned process with friends and family:

Remembrance braai / barbecue evening – Friends tell stories, brings pictures or videos of significant and good times spent together in your home country.

Recognition evening – Treating friends or family members by giving them small gifts or preparing a nice meal to thank them for their support given over the years and acknowledging the importance of your relationships with them.

Facebook group – Creating an exclusive group for friends and family members in your home country where everyday occurrences, feelings and thoughts are shared and relationships are continued and built upon.

Once the feelings and fears of family and friends have been acknowledged and explored they often become a form of support for the individual or family emigrating.

Family preparation for emigration

If you form part of a family you have to put family first, keep in mind your family is tied to your reasons for emigrating. Love and hope has to be nurtured like a fire. Walsh 7 identifies four aspects to be considered to facilitate adequate family adjustment after a crisis period such as migration, they are as follows:

  •    Acknowledging the family as an existing family structure
  •    The family’s ability to invest in other relationships and life goals
  •    The acknowledgement and sharing of the consequences of the crisis
  •    Open communication

The ability to openly communicate about migration as a family, to depend on one another and support one another, to work together to solve potential problems or obstacles and to create family times where the family unit is strengthened contributes to family adjustment.

Schedule a few evenings where the family can process different aspects associated with emigration. The use of different boxes on each evening which could include anonymous pieces of paper describing feelings and fears related to emigration, meanings attached to emigration, needs of the individual family members before, during and after migration could promote the well-being of all family members during emigration.

Create a space where the feelings of each family member can be noted throughout the week to create empathy and understanding through communication.

Family rituals such as Sunday lunches or family activities can increase family cohesion and strengthen the family unit.

Living the dream

Successful migration can lead to personal development, new experiences, new opportunities, marital and family growth, new relationships and fostering independence.

To be successful each individual, couple or family should be honest and open regarding how they are coping and their individual needs and if required seek professional help in order to access inner resources, facilitate communication and acquire coping mechanisms.

The migration to another country requires a period of adaptation and adjustment for all involved and the feelings regarding the choice to emigrate will often change as time passes. Each individual or family will experience their own positives and negatives after migration, which will influence whether they will return to their country of origin or remain in the new country and create a new and fulfilling life for themselves and their family.

“Losing your home country is like losing a loved one- there is this huge hollow feeling of loss that never really goes away. It gets easier to cope with in time. You get used to things, but the loss will always be with you.”

-Anon, human resources manager, New Zealand

I thank God every day that I did leave. I cannot begin to describe how grateful I am for the smallest things they offer here. I am so pleased that my children can now have that too. I am calmer and more tolerant than I have been in twenty years.”

– Pauline, portfolio manager, New Zealand