There are many reasons families move from one home to another. The most delightful is when the family can afford a larger home and finds one in the same school district. More difficult is when a family must move because of employment and they must leave their local for a location far away with a very different environment.
In each of these situations depending on the ages and personalities of the children, parents can make the new situations less stressful and more beneficial and even exciting by the way they go about preparing the children for the change and helping them adjust to their new environments. Let’s look at each situation separately and suggest tips for helping children with their new situations and environments.
MOVING TO A NEW HOME IN THE SAME SCHOOL DISTRCT
If the family needs a larger house because the family is growing or just can afford the luxury of more space, the adults usually look forward to the opportunity, but children may not want to leave what’s familiar quite as easily. Here are a few suggestions:
- Talk to each child separately about the changes that will be taking place.
- Reassure each child that they will be taking all their belongings and will have a say in where everything goes.
- Bring the children to drive by the new home or even go inside if that is possible.
- Explain if they will be having their own room or sharing it with a sibling.
- Reassure them that the routines will be the same, the food will be the same, bedtime activities will remain intact, and they will see their friends and get to school on time as usual.
- If they want, they can help with some packing and be around when the movers come with a big truck that can be exciting to watch.
Children essentially want to know that you’re calm about the change. If you’re calm, they become calm. They want to feel safe, secure, and loved which is why they worry about things changing. Once they are reassured they can enjoy the prospect of more space, maybe more yard, new neighbors, new bike paths, some new toys to spark up a new playroom, and of course, their loving parents who will be with them the whole way.
MOVING TO A NEW PART OF THE COUNTRY
This is a brand new experience that is harder to prepare your child for because of the distance. They are being asked to understand their parent’s need to move for his or her career, something they may not be old enough to fathom is more important than their friends and stable environment. They can’t look into the future like their parents to imagine what it will be like so the parents’ job is to help them build that vision.
- If it is not possible to actually drive or fly to the new location with the children ahead of time, show them many pictures and videos of the new home inside and out including the neighborhood and school.
- Reassure them that they will take all their belongings to their new home and that in time it will seem like their own once again. Detail those belongings from the stuffed animal they sleep with to their toys and books and technology.
- Detail the schedule for packing and actually moving explaining how you will be getting where you are going and how long it will take. Let them know many weeks or even months in advance depending on the age of the children.
- Make plans for saying good-bye to people you won’t see for a long time reminding your children that they can communicate with visual and verbal and typed technology every day as they get accustomed to their new surroundings. Face-time and Skype are great advantages because they lessen the deep feelings of loss that the children are feeling.
- Respect the weeks and months that it may take each child to get accustomed to their new bedroom, school, friends, and neighbors. They can be reassured but not rushed. Each child is different.
Children need their feelings to be respected. Even situations like home changes that bring many positive opportunities and eventually build resilience involve losses of people and things that are familiar.
When parents create feelings of safety and security all along the adjustment trail, changes can be very positive growth-promoting experiences.
Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst with an new upcoming book, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior, to be released Oct. 13. Pre-order discounts are available from Amazon.