Dear LME – How do I know if there’s a perfect age to move my kids abroad?

Dear LME

February 20, 2022

Welcome back to another post in the “Dear LME” series! This is my advice column specifically for expats, internationals, and TCKs – a place to ask those questions that you just can’t google. You can read all about the series here.

This week’s dilemma:

For this week’s dilemma, I can’t give you a concrete answer; I’m not a parent, but I can give the perspective of a child who has moved abroad. I don’t know if there’s one specific age that I would recommend moving at, but I thought I would give you the pros and cons from my own experience. I moved from London to Dubai when I was around twelve years old, I wrote a detailed story about my move you can read here. But in this post, I thought it might be helpful to give you some of my own perspectives so you can apply it to your own situation!

Pro: moving at a younger age gave us time to change things

What I mean by this is, because I moved when I was twelve, I had time to try out new things and make changes before things had to be set in stone. For example, I really didn’t like the first school I attended in Dubai, and because I was only twelve I had time to move school and try a completely new curriculum. I imagine that if I were a little older things wouldn’t have been so flexible because I’d have to worry about different exam years and college prospects. I’d also say the same applies to other activities; I tried so many new things when I moved to Dubai, I remember I did cross-fit for a while, I was in the choir, and a trampolining club – so random. Because I moved there at a younger age and I knew that I would be there for at least 6 more years (until I graduated), I had time for trial-and-error. I feel like if I had moved when I was older, I probably would have stuck with something even if I didn’t really enjoy it because I wouldn’t have felt like it was worth it to start something completely new.

Con: it’s hard to know who you are when you’re 12

I feel like this one is so obvious, but when you’re twelve, you don’t really know who you are! In some ways, this can be a good thing because it can mean you’ll adapt better to the place you live in, but it can also be so confusing and overwhelming. At the age of twelve, I didn’t really know what my true interests and hobbies were, I kind of just followed everyone else around me. I also didn’t know what my personal values were, and being in a whole new environment with lots of new stimuli really threw me off. I will agree that these are feelings that happen to any teenager working out who they are, but I will say that moving around and being in a new environment can exacerbate these.

Pro: I was more open to learning and adapting

One of the pros about moving at a young age was that partly because I didn’t have myself figured out (and I’m not saying you ever really do) but I really didn’t at that age, was that I was more open to learning from other people and growing and adapting than I might have been at an older age. I think that if I had moved when I was 18 or so, I might have been quicker to say no to things and not listen as intently to other people’s perspectives because I might have thought that I had it “all figured out.” What I’m trying to say, is that I definitely gained more from the experience of moving in terms of personal growth because I moved when I was younger.

Con: there’s so many other things going on at that age

I feel like this one can really apply to any age, but I will say that when you’re twelve your whole world kind of revolves around school and your friends and your extracurricular activities with those friends. I will say that at that time there were so many other things going on like friendship drama, first crushes, struggles with personal confidence, basically all these teenage things that you’re trying to work through for the first time! So, one caution I’d have about moving at this age is that there’s already a lot of change happening at this stage in life, and adding more change to that situation might be too much. But, I got through it because I had a good support system, and I know lots of other people did too!

Those are a few of my perspectives on moving at a young age! I hope that they’re helpful in giving you more insight into your dilemma! As always, you can dm me on Instagram @little.miss.expat and start the message with “Dear LME” to see your question answered here.

See you next week,

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