In today’s rapidly changing, ever-fluid world, families find themselves moving more often than ever, whether it’s across town, across the country, or to another part of the world. As the parents, you’re the ones making the decision to move (whether it’s of your own choosing, or in response to job or lifestyle changes), and your children have no choice but to follow your lead. Sometimes adjusting to a move can be difficult for them.
The very young usually adapt well. If your children haven’t had the chance to establish a friend network and become entrenched in the local youth community, it’s fairly easy for them to begin anew. Usually pre-school children and those in early grades bounce back quickly after a move. Once children have spent a few years in one school, it becomes harder for them to leave friends and change their lifestyles.
Keep in mind that no two children are the same, and even within your own family, your kids may react very differently to an upcoming move. For instance, your eldest son may be resentful and angry at having to change schools when he is an integral part of his basketball team and move away from his girlfriend, while his middle-school aged sister may fear having to leave her best friend and be worried that she won’t be able to find a new piano teacher she likes. Your youngest may be excited, eager to leave behind a street where he has no-one to play with and looking forward to starting at a new school, where he won’t have to deal with teasing and possibly, bullying.
There are several ways to make moving less stressful for your kids when you’re faced with a necessary change. Here’s some standards to keep in mind to ease them through the transition.
Don’t Keep It a Secret
Childcare experts are in agreement – giving your children the longest possible time to adjust to the upcoming move is best. As soon as the decision has been finalized, it’s time for a family meeting. Once you’ve broken the news, bring the approaching move up in conversation every so often to make sure they know it really is going to happen, and they need to prepare for it. Make sure you give as much information to your children as possible and try your best to answer any questions they may have. Do your best to prepare yourself for a wide variety of reactions and remain calm and reassuring.
Take a Tour
If you’re moving to an area that is accessible by a reasonable car trip, load everyone in and take off for the weekend. Book a hotel and go exploring. Get the lay of the land and look for fun, exciting things to do or tour some homes if you’ll be buying right away when you relocate. Ask their opinion about the homes you view, and let them know their input is important.
If you’re moving a considerable distance, collect as much information about your new home town as you can. Check out local websites with your children that give them a valuable look at the place they’ll be living. Get lists of new things they can do, nearby places they might like to visit, or activities available that closely mirror what they’re doing in their current location.
Let Your Child Express His or Her Feelings
Shutting down any communication they initiate is counterproductive and can be damaging in the long run. It’s important to acknowledge and sympathize with their sadness, anger and fear. It’s even a good idea to share your own feelings with your children. You can encourage interactive discussion instead of tantrums and acting out by letting them know that you’re a little apprehensive as well, and will sorely miss your friends, house and job. However, it’s important to follow this admission with a positive viewpoint of the opportunities presented to you for growth and change by the move. You can let them know that you’re looking forward to the adventure ahead and you’ll be there to help them do the same in any way you can.
Involve Your Children in the Moving Process
Don’t give in to the urge to pack your children’s things for them. Depending on how old they are, let them help you load boxes or sort items to be donated to charity or thrown away, or oversee them in a general way as they do these things themselves. Having some control over what is happening to their things can help mitigate fear and hurt feelings.
Involve your children in choices about their new home when you move. For example, allow them to choose the colors for their rooms, pick out new bedding, or if you’re feeling brave, even encourage them to adopt a new pet of their choosing.
If You Can, Facilitate Introductions
If you have new co-workers, old friends or family members with kids around the same age as your own in your new locale, see if you can set up e-mail exchanges, Skype visits or phone calls to start building social bridges for your kids. Knowing one or two children, even on a general acquaintance level, can be helpful directly after a move.
Take a Break When Needed
The stress of moving is greatest about two weeks before and after the move. Be sure to take some breaks to relax and play as a family during this time. You may have extra days off before new jobs or school years are started; if so, use this time to take a long-awaited vacation or to explore your new town. Make lists of things you’d like to do as a family during this time before it’s upon you.
Be Sure to Resume Normal Routines Quickly
Getting unpacked, set up and back to daily routines quickly can help your children by giving them an anchor to the reality they’ve known their entire lives. The sooner you can reduce the amount of disruption to their lives, the less likely it is that they’ll wallow in the negative aspects of this recent change.
Stay Connected to Your Old Community
Allow your children to telephone, e-mail or video chat with their old friends, and if it is financially feasible and logistically possible, arrange for a visit every now and then. Our wired, tech-savvy way of life allows us to keep in touch easily with those we love, no matter how far away they may live!