I knew that moving my children to a new country would come with its own adjustments and hurdles, but what I underestimated was just how long it would take my toddler to adjust to a new culture. I feel like I can talk about it now because I have a little time under my belt and I am beginning to better understand her process and just how we handled it.
It’s easy to blame behavior issues on being 2 years old, but I saw her struggle begin the first few days we were here. I saw her confusion and at times her sadness. She didn’t know how to explain it me, so she retreated. She clung to the only familiarity she could find, us. Literally, she clung to us. We have held her for the last 3.5 months. Not necessarily in the house, but I know she never felt comfortable enough to walk around town on her own. We came from quiet suburban areas and our daily activities here include a much louder city environment and much less personal space.
BUT, here is how I know she’s going to be okay, she walked to school for the first time last week, (well almost the whole way). Then later that week she walked around the mall with me just holding my hand, not nervous, not scared, but just enjoying the cookie I bought her at Juan Valdez. I instantly noticed the difference in her comfort level and my mommy heart felt at ease. It is easy to worry and wonder about the mental health of our little ones, especially before they really understand what they are experiencing. I felt an immediate relief that she would again begin to enjoy some independence here.
I do feel that our trip back home was the tipping point. I believe she got to reconnect with a lot of her relationships and it made coming back to Cartagena not so scary. As if she began to understand the concept of traveling and visiting and that we will come back again soon. We spend a lot of time looking at photos, talking about everyone in our life, and trying to keep long distance relationships alive and well; these are the struggles of living on another continent. We have also tried very hard to make sure we attend lots of social events here to foster new friendships and feelings of “normal” life. It just takes time to feel like you belong somewhere, and I should understand that very well by now. It just takes time.