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.
Age makes a difference
Kids have their own personalities, and their responses to moving will vary from individual to individual. In general, however, the younger the child, the easier the move is on them.
For very young children, the home is their entire world. This is really the family and household belongings in the house rather than the actual physical structure of the house. The change in routine can be the most stressful aspect of moving for little ones, and you may need to provide constant reassurance that they are moving with you.
Young children typically focus on the loss of routine and familiar items, rather than on the loss of friends. If possible, bring them with you to the new home in advance of moving so they can visualize their new surroundings.
Here are some useful things you can do to help them become accustomed to the idea of the upcoming move:
o Allow them to pack a box of their own (even if you need to repack it later for safety reasons!)
o Ask them to pick the colors for their new room.
o Act out what happens during a move so they can get an idea of what is about to happen. Toys can be used to help with this activity to make it a little clearer to them.
For young school-age children, moving can be difficult. They’ve made their friends at school and in the neighborhood and will find it tough to start all over again at a new location. However, there are lots of things you can do to help the situation. Check out the new neighborhood for children of their ages. Find out if the school has after-school activities and whether there is any orientation available to new students. Make plans for a playmate from the old neighborhood to visit at your new home.
Here are some useful tips to help young school going children cope:
o Keep them involved by assigning a specific move-related job, such as minding the family pet or watering the lawn before you leave.
o Get them to pack a bag of their own with a few key items to comfort and entertain them.
o Emphasize the good things your children will appreciate about the move – whether it’s a bigger bedroom, a backyard to play in or your proximity to a great park or playground.
o Keep a positive attitude and reassure them that everything will work out well. Your attitude will definitely impact theirs!
Moving is usually hardest on teenagers. They are old enough to have developed strong friendships and probably spend most of their free time with their friends.
However difficult it may be, try to be patient! Your teenager likely feels defined by his or her group of friends, so being separated from them is particularly difficult. And, don’t forget that in addition to emotional turbulence, your teen is coping with the physical changes of adolescence.
Here are some useful tips to help teens cope:
· Make sure they understand why you are moving, and what the benefits are to your family.
· Keep them involved in the move. Ask them to research your new city and share the info with you. This will help them feel involved and also help get them situated faster in the new city. Hopefully, they’ll uncover things that appeal to them and will give them something positive to look forward to.
· Never be too busy for your teen. Guaranteed, the move is far more stressful on your teen than you, at least emotionally. Make time for them and empathize with their turmoil.
· Encourage your children to say goodbye to their friends. While it may seem difficult, it’s far better than relocating without saying goodbye. Also, it gives your kids a chance to share new contact information, or perhaps to plan a get-together over a school break, if possible.
· If you have a choice, talk with your teen to get his or her input on the best time to move. Some people move during the holidays so their children can begin the new term in the new school, while others prefer to move mid-term so their children can begin a school routine immediately after the move.
· Encourage your kids to find out about clubs or groups that share the same hobbies or interests as they do, such as music or organized sports.
· Encourage your teen to collect phone numbers and e-mail addresses in order to stay in contact with their old friends after you move.
· After you have moved and are settled in, plan a trip back to your old city or invite old friends to visit you over vacation.
Advice for parents whose teens do not want to move
In some cases, teenagers will flat-out refuse to move. If this is your situation, it’s very important that you talk with your teen to understand why he’s having such a strong reaction against moving. There can be valid reasons for not moving a teenager: Perhaps the school year is nearly finished and it would be academically difficult to switch schools so late in the year. Or, maybe he wants to graduate with his class or stay on an athletic team that’s approaching a major tournament.
If it’s possible, try to explore other options, such as staying with trusted friends until the school year is over and re-joining your family at that time. If your teen insists that he or she could remain in your old town on their own, calmly explain what considerations they’d need to make, and ask how they’d be able to meet them. Where would they live if not with friends or relatives? How would they pay the rent, food, utility and transportation bills? Do not be surprised if he changes his mind after trying to answer these questions. No matter what the decision, at least your teen will have had a part in reaching it.
My spouse doesn’t want to move
If you’re in a situation where your spouse does not wish to move, open and honest communication are key to helping you and your partner make the right decision for your family. Create a list of pros and cons to pinpoint the your spouse’s hesitations about moving. When you have identified the critical reason or reasons, you can better discuss what can be done to help resolve the issue. Having this discussion is critical to a successful partnership and marriage.
Breaking the news
With news as important as a move to a new community, it is a good idea to have a family meeting to introduce the idea. A good way to break the news is at a meal, either at home or in a local restaurant. You can’t expect all family members to be pleased, but at least everyone gets the information at the same time.
You should provide as much information as possible and focus on the benefits and advantages of the move. Share specific reasons why the move is for the best, and how it will impact your kids. Perhaps you are moving because of a job promotion, or perhaps for a new job. Maybe you’ll have a bigger home, or be located in a better school district. Regardless, you’ll want to tailor your explanations to the age of the children. In general, the older the child, the more difficult they will find the concept and the more trouble they’ll have coping. Young children may just need reassurance that they will be moving with Mommy and Daddy. Older children will be concerned about leaving their old school and friends and having to adjust to a new school and make new friends. Teens will be the most upset by the move as they will have developed very strong relationships with their friends.
Here are some useful tips to use as you tell your family about the move:
o Tell them about the move as early as possible so they’ll have time to get used to the idea of moving.
o Discuss the advantages of moving with them, such as a room of their own, better schools, new entertainment facilities and so on.
o Be sure to maintain a positive attitude; show your enthusiasm and eventually it will rub off on your kids.
o Be prepared for negative comments and reactions. Don’t just discount the opinions voiced: listen to them.
o Listen and be patient and reassure them you will be there to help them through the transition.
o Let them know that this is a family event, and that they can help with the move. They may be able to help with some planning or packing.
o Answer questions to the best of your ability. If you cannot answer all the questions right away, say so. The important thing is that your kids see you are empathetic to their needs and open to any questions. This will make them feel more comfortable with the move.