Anyone who has been through a move knows how stressful it can be: the planning, the packing and unpacking, the legalities, the sadness of endings and the excitement of beginnings. Luckily, as adults, you generally have some control over the process. You decide where and when to move and organize the necessary activities to suit your schedule.
Children don’t have the same luxury. They may not even be old enough to understand what moving means. All they know is that they have been uprooted from familiar surroundings and routines, far from many of the people who made up their world.
As parents, it’s important to be sensitive to the fact that a child may feel as much anxiety and sadness over a move as an adult, even if they don’t express it verbally. There are steps you can take to help your children adjust to relocating to a new home or a new town. Make their wellbeing top of mind as you progress through the moving process with the help of these suggestions:
Preparation for a Home Move is Invaluable
If you prepare your children in advance, says parents.com, it will make it easier for them to adapt once the move takes place.
Children pick up on and share their parent’s emotions. If parents feel optimistic and enthusiastic about a move, then the chances are that their children will share that enthusiasm and optimism, even though they may have sad and angry feelings as well.
Fred Rogers, The Fred Rogers Company
Moving to a New Home Requires Different Approaches for Different Ages
Toddlers and pre-schoolers need different amounts of information about the move than older children. Prepare the little ones a month or so in advance so they have enough time to process the information, but not enough to fret. Don’t expect them to talk about the move for a long time or in detail.
Older children will need more advance notice to assimilate the idea and they will have lots of questions. Give them lots of facts and information that you deem appropriate for their age group.
Pay a Visit to Your New Home
If the new home isn’t too far away, visit it in advance to help children become familiar with the house, the property, and the area. It will also make it real, rather than an abstract concept. Be sure to point out spots that will be of particular interest to them: a new school, the hockey rink, the ice-cream stand, etc.
Involve Your Kids in the Moving Process
There are many ways to involve the children in the moving process so they can feel part of the decision and have some control over their futures. One option is to allow them to choose the colour and decorations for their new bedrooms. Another is to let them assist in packing a box or two of non-breakable items and labeling it for the correct room in the new house. This will help assure them that their belongings won’t get lost.
Before Moving Homes, Make Memories Tangible
If your children are old enough, they may want to take some photos of their current bedroom, house, school and friends that you can bind into a book. Why not add a photo of the new home on the last page, indicating the next chapter of their lives?
Don’t Underestimate Their Losses
Children may be young, but they, too, can feel the pain of separation from someone close to them, such as a grandparent or a caregiver. Allow them to grieve, but try to find creative ways of linking them to some of these close connections, perhaps with Skype chats or letters.
Allow tears to flow. Don’t negate their feelings; their sadness is real. You don’t want to teach them to suppress emotions or withhold their feelings. Each child adjusts at his or her own pace.
When life is changing around them, children require reassurance that some things stay the same. Even if the house is littered with boxes, try to sit down for a family meal or read them their favorite stories to demonstrate that life will continue as usual.
Hands-on Help Makes the Move Less Stressful
Involve your children in making your new house into your home. Allow them to organize the silverware or unpack books and put them on a shelf. When they have tasks related to the move, they may feel less unmoored and more connected to their new house.
Social Sea Legs
Help your child brush up on social skills needed to make new friends. Practice some opening lines, such as, “Hi, I’m Suzy, and I just moved to this neighborhood because my dad got a job here.” If there are local pastimes that are popular, see about teaching them those games or skills and enroll them in local programs. A pep talk won’t go amiss, either. Remind your child that he/she had friends at the old school because he/she is nice and friendly. Assure them that they’ll make friends again.
As the move unfolds and you minister to the needs of your children, also find time/ways to take care of yourself. Moves take a toll on everyone, and if you’re not happy, it will make it more challenging to lend your offspring a hand.