Moving can be one of life’s most stressful events, and with good reason! Even moves that go smoothly can be very time-consuming, but it’s ultimately change that makes moving stressful. And, there are added pressures for kids, who live in the firmly “in the moment” and have a difficult time seeing past the immediate upheaval to their lives. They’re largely – and rightly – concerned with their day-to-day routines and their friends. Altering those bedrocks can be extremely stressful for the whole family.
This guide contains useful information on how to help your children accept the move, see the benefits of the move and prepare for the move … and this is the key for a successful move for you and your family.
You may wish to point out to your children that millions of kids move with their families each year … moving is a part of life! The trick is helping your children see the bigger picture … Why do you need to move? And, how will the move improve your lives? Maybe you’ll be in a larger home, or be in a better school district, or closer to family. Or, maybe none of this is the case, but your new job will allow you to spend more time with your family.
Children tend to focus on the emotions associated with the move, while adults focus on the logistics. As challenging as it is for children, most will actually benefit from moving at least once in their youth, because it can help them develop the skills to meet new people with ease and to appreciate diverse communities.
Moving in general can be challenging, but moving with a family brings a whole host of new challenges. While adults can be emotional, we tend to have more control over our emotions. In contrast, children’s emotions can be much more dramatic.
Keep everybody involved!
One important strategy is keeping the entire family included in the process so that nobody feels left out. Keep everyone informed on plans and tasks and any activities associated with the move. It is good to allow the children to be involved in some of the decision-making. For example, take them with you on house-hunting trips at your new location. Ask them what features are most important to them in a new home. If you are unable to include them in the house-hunting process, be sure to share pictures so that everyone can visualize the new home and feel as if they have some input on the move. It’s also a great way to “up” the excitement factor!
Often, kids are most afraid of the unknown. The more you can do to familiarize them with your new home and community, the better. If your move is to another city, get as much information as you can and share it with your kids. Highlight things you know will interest them, such as a good baseball team or lots of kid-oriented activities. If the city is not too far away, schedule a family trip to begin to get to know your new home. Visit the local parks and museums or any other local attractions. Drive by your new workplace and other points of interest so your kids will begin to feel more comfortable about moving.
Trip to your new town
Take a trip to your new town. Visit your new church or synagogue and introduce your family to the priest or rabbi and inquire about youth-related activities. Take your teenagers to shopping areas, skateboard parks or other areas where kids their age congregate. Seeing and knowing what they can expect can reduce the anxiety and stress they are most likely experiencing.
Now, check out the new neighborhood. Visit places especially geared toward kids, such as the YMCA or Boys or Girls Clubs. Find out if there is a community swimming pool, basketball court or track. There may be an ice rink or baseball field near your new home, so try to find out these things before you move. These types of amenities are “selling points” that can get your kids excited about the move.
After the move, it’s especially important to reestablish routines as quickly as possible, particularly recreation and sports routines. It will certainly take your family time to adjust, but establishing routines is key to getting settled in. Keep a close eye on how your children are adjusting when you move. In some cases, it may take up to a year before they feel really settled. If the process is taking longer than a year, talk to them and consider getting professional help, if you feel it’s needed.
The Best Time to Move?
In many cases, the timing of a move is dictated by an event such as the start of a new job or the sale or purchase of a home. There are times, however, when families can choose when to move, and are confronted with the dilemma of determining whether it’s better to move during the school year or during the holidays.
There are several things to consider as you make your decision. Holiday moves have the advantage that children are out of school anyway, and so their studies will not be interrupted. Odds are good that your child will start the new term with other new students.
On the other hand, moving during the school term can be positive in that your children will meet new friends quickly … something they may not have the opportunity to do if you move during a school break. The other major advantage of moving during the school year is that your children will enter into an established routine right off the bat, and this can be very helpful in adapting to a new location.
Common signs of move-related problems
Obviously, parents know their children better than anyone else. You’ll be best able to judge how your kids are adapting after the move, but if you are concerned, there are several tell-tale signs to keep an eye out for. Any of the following signs can indicate your child is having difficulty adjusting:
o Loss of appetite
o Losing interest in favorite hobbies
o Becoming unusually argumentative
o Experiencing dramatic mood swings
o Not making new friends
o Not wanting to leave the house
o Changing sleep patterns
It’s important to note that if your move is precipitated by an emotional event such as death or divorce, you may want to consider counseling even before you move.