Moving: How to help your kids cope
The house is sold. The boxes are packed. You and your spouse are ecstatic. The kids? Not so much. So what should you do when your child isn’t taking to the move quite as well as you’d hoped? When he’s worried about making new friends and changing schools? We talked to the pros and got you the step-by-step advice you need to change your child's attitude about your move.
Most people will agree that moving is stressful. From packing to paperwork to the seemingly endless expenses, relocating is a lot of work. But these are all things that make a move stressful for you, the adult. It's also important to consider how changing cities (or even states), houses and schools will impact your child. While his reasons for feeling anxious may seem small in comparison to yours, it's still critical that he is able to communicate them to you and that you make him feel heard.
Talk to your child early
Don't let your child be an afterthought. It's easy to get so wrapped up in the move that you don't address your child's fears until the sold sign is being put in your front yard.
Understand why it's stressful for your kids
"Children like and need routine," says Jennifer Little, former teacher and mother who holds a master's degree in special education. "A move is a major stressor for them because it takes away all they have known. What adds to their stress is they probably had no choices with the move."
"The ideal situation is for parents to address the move with their children long before the boxes are packed and the truck is pulling away," advises Susan Weaver, author of the Rainbow Reach Book Series. "It will be easier to adjust to new circumstances if children know their concerns are being addressed, that their parents take their worries seriously, and they know someone will be there for them if they run into trouble and need help."
How to help your child cope
Even though your child's answer to feeling better about the move is likely going to be yanking that sold sign out of the dirt and staying put, that's obviously not an option. But there are some ways to ease them through the difficult transition, suggests Dr. Little.
- Have them help with packing their stuff. You might want to allow them to keep a security box open to the last minute; this is a box with their important stuff in it. It can be labeled with fluorescent duct tape as "Last in/First out" (or even taken in the car if it is small enough).
- Have they seen where they are going? If not, pictures (video or digital) will help immensely.
- Can they visit the school where they will be going before they actually move? Knowing someone there will help.
- Above all else, take the time to talk with them about the what, when, where, how and why of the move. Knowing information isn't as good as their stuff for security, but it will help.
Don't forget the importance of your child's friendships
- Talk to them about the friends they're leaving behind, who will be missed and why.
- Be sure each child has addresses and phone numbers of his or her friends so they can stay in touch.
- Help them make a scrapbook to include photos and brief descriptions of their friends, the old neighborhood, school, and also of the house they're leaving behind. What were their favorite places and activities; what was the most fun; what will they miss the most?
- Make it possible for them to say a decent farewell: Throw a going-away party.
- If possible, plan a future date they may be able to come back to visit. This will give them something to look forward to.