Moving to the USA with children – key things to consider for UK movers
Hundreds of thousands of British expats live in the United States of America, making it one of the most popular places for relocation from this country. The USA has a long history of being the place that people from all over the world are drawn to for a new start, a career boost or a better lifestyle.
It’s a country of much contrast and there are plentiful opportunities. Many of the biggest companies in the world were established in America and have, between them, moulded the modern world. Therefore, it is no wonder that so many British workers are drawn to the country, and choose to make the move long-term with their families.
Moving to any new country with children is a daunting process. It can be quite a lot for them to take in, and change is hard. It can depend on their age and how settled they are in their current life as to how much that change will impact on them. One of the advantages of moving to the USA over other popular expat locations is that there is less of a culture shock – the USA and the UK are quite similarly aligned in many ways and there is no language barrier.
In this guide, we will look at what you need to consider when moving to the USA with children.
Before you go
When making a big move abroad, it is worth spending some time beforehand preparing the children for the relocation. This involves lots of conversations about their new home, their new school and the practicalities of the move. You may already have a fixed location in place, based on work, but if not, then check out this infographic on the best places to live in the USA.
Children may have more of an awareness of American culture than other countries thanks to the many films and TV shows that are shown on our screens. They may give a somewhat idealised view of life in the USA, but using cultural references that they are familiar with might be useful in helping them to adjust to the idea of moving to the USA.
Pre-school aged children may be more adaptable than older children. It is important to respect the friendships and bonds that children have built up in the UK and discuss ways of staying in touch. For example, talk about things like video calling, emailing, instant messaging and other forms of social interaction that will help children to stay in contact with family and friends when they have moved. It may also help to give them a timescale of trips back to the UK so that they know that they will be coming back from time to time, where relevant.
Get the children involved in the move as much as possible so that they get excited about it. They could help you when you are doing a property search to look at pictures of houses on the internet and discuss the facilities that there are in their new city. If it is possible to do a family holiday in advance of the move, this can be a good way to show them around their new area and get a feel for the kinds of things that they will be able to do. It’s also important to highlight the things that won’t change, such as having their own room that they can decorate however they wish, and that day-to-day family life will be similar to how it was in the UK.
Education and childcare
Schooling is one of the most important changes that children moving to the USA will have to deal with, if they are of school age. Once a school has been arranged, it will be useful to sit down with the children and find out more about their new school, by looking at the website and talking about how they will get to school.
The school system varies wildly from state to state, so it likely that accommodation will be picked based on proximity to a good school. There are a lot of options for schooling in the USA, from state schools to private and international options. International schools can enable children to follow the British curriculum, which could be useful for those nearing key exam age so that they don’t have to adapt to a new curriculum. It can also be a good way to interact with other expat children and make friends in similar situations.
For younger children, the state schools can be very good, depending on the area. This can be perfect for building up a friendship circle outside of just the expat community, helping them to integrate into the local area.
For those who are relocating to the USA for a shorter period of time, then it may be worth considering an international school that offers the International Baccalaureate, as this can be studied in international schools around the world and offers a consistency of education to children who will be likely to move again.
We have a more detailed guide about the schooling options for your children when moving to the USA, which gives further information about the grade system, curriculum options and types of schools available.
For those with pre-school children, then childcare may be needed, as compulsory schooling doesn’t start until age five. There are plenty of good nurseries and pre-schools around to help prepare them for school, but there is no state childcare system. This means that childcare in the early years can be expensive. It pays to weigh up the different options, as for those with more than one child, a nanny can be more economical.
When moving to any new country with children, it is important to ensure that you have a good healthcare plan in place. In the USA, healthcare is a controversial topic and can be a big expense. Many companies will offer healthcare as part of an employment package, however you can’t guarantee that this will be comprehensive enough or that it will cover the whole family. It is important to ensure that children are covered for all possible health issues and accidents for peace of mind.
Make sure that your family healthcare covers prospective future children as well, so a woman should have maternity cover if they are likely to fall pregnant while in the USA. Having a baby is very expensive without the appropriate insurance in place. Dental health is also very important when it comes to children, so make sure that you have a dental healthcare plan as an expat moving to the USA.
Healthcare can be a real downside to life in the USA, as it is a huge expense coming from the NHS system that we’re used to in the UK. It is, however, of utmost importance for families making the move with children to have the right policy. On the plus side, once insurance is in place, the American medical facilities are among some of the best in the world and the care provided is excellent.
Hobbies and extracurricular activities
When moving to the USA with children, a good way to help them settle in is to get involved in activities outside of school. If they already have a hobby in the UK that they are interested in, do some research into what is available in their new hometown where they can still practise their skill. The USA has plenty of opportunities for children to get involved in all kinds of different hobbies so there is sure to be something to suit.
Many schools have much better sports facilities than we do in the UK, and this is a great draw for children who are active. They might have the chance to try something new and find a real passion. Getting involved in team sports is a great way to get them making new friends and building a new life.
There are also large expat communities through the USA, and it can be worth getting to know them as there will be plenty of children who have been through the move who can help your own children to settle in.
You could also plan to visit some of the USA’s great attractions while you are over there or schedule in holidays to visit some of the landmarks – having a trip to Disneyland to look forward to, for example, could certainly help to sell the benefits of a transatlantic move to children!
We have plenty of advice for moving to the USA on this website. When it comes to children, it is important that they can take things with them that are familiar and will help them to settle in. If they are attached to certain toys, it may be wise to pack some to travel with them in hand luggage. Children can get involved in packing up their toys for their journey and deciding what they want to take with them. Things like bikes are easy enough to arrange to ship, but it is probably just as cost-effective to buy new out there, unless they are particularly attached.
If there is a pet in the family, it is important to decide if they are also relocating as children can get very attached to their animals. You can bring many common pets with you to the USA, but it is worth explaining the procedure to children so as not to cause undue distress. If a pet can’t travel with you, give children plenty of time to say goodbye, visit them in their new home and take photos for memories.
When you engage Cadogan Tate to help plan your move, your Move Co-Ordinator can help to plan your packing and shipping, including all of those essentials that you would like to take with you for your children.