Moving is stressful on everyone, whether they’re children, middle-aged adults, or seniors. But uprooting a family is especially hard on children who heavily depend on familiarity. Leaving behind the neighborhood, friends, activities, and schools is upsetting and traumatic. You can make the process of moving less painful for your children by considering the timing of the move, breaking the news appropriately, and helping your kids adjust to their new school and neighborhood.
Timing the Move
When you’re moving with kids, it brings up an important question: should you move over the summer or during the school year? While it’s not always possible to choose the timing of your move, if you have a say-so, think about what would be best for you and your children, as there are pros and cons to both options.
Moving during the summer gives children the opportunity to finish their current grade without interruption, say goodbye to friends, and start the new school year fresh. Some kids find it easier to make new friends and adjust to new surroundings when peers are doing the same thing. However, enrolling in summer activities can be hard because tryouts/signups have ended. Also, many families in the new neighborhoods may be gone because they’re traveling or involved in summer programs.
Moving during the school year means your children are immediately introduced to other children. They quickly establish a routine, making the transition much easier. School exposes children to many opportunities like clubs and sports, as well as familiarization with their new neighborhood, so being able to jump right in is helpful.
Breaking the News
How you tell your children about the upcoming move will depend on their ages. No matter the age of your children, be direct and positive about the move. Be upfront about what’s going to happen, how hard it’ll be, and what it means for them. Younger children may not understand what it means to move. Use the simplest terms when explaining what it means to relocate. Try drawing pictures, acting it out, or finding a book on the topic.
Older children and teenagers may know what it means to move, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be understanding. They have established social lives, and will be understandably upset. Prepare yourself for complaints, accusations, or guilt trips. While you shouldn’t dismiss their emotions, show empathy with firmness. Acknowledge feelings while treating the move in a very matter-of-fact manner.
New Schools and New Friends
As a parent, finding a new school for your kids is one of the hardest parts of moving. Look online for resources that compare schools in the area to which you’re moving. For example, GreatSchools offers school ratings and reviews from parents. Help your children with the transition to a new school by visiting before classes start and giving them a chance to socialize with teachers and faculty.
Some children may need help fitting in and making connections. Hosting a get-together at your house introduces you to new neighbors and gives you the opportunity to find out about the same-aged children in the neighborhood. “Kids’ relationships can form quickly and are very portable, often moving from the living room into the classroom,” says GreatSchools.
Before, During, and After
During all points of the moving process, be sensitive to emotional changes in your children. Kids can fall into depression when dealing with major life changes. Watch for symptoms of irritability, low energy, social withdrawal, change in eating and/or sleeping patterns, and poor concentration. If you notice any signs, spend more time with your kids and talk to them about their feelings. You may need to seek advice from a child psychologist.
When you talk about moving, and even after the move has occurred, focus on the good and keep a positive outlook. A parent’s attitude can have a great affect on the attitudes of the children. Expressing fear and disappointment are okay, but show your children how to deal with those emotions while also staying positive.
Relocating your family to a new home all the way across the country seems like a daunting task. Helping your children come to terms with the move and making the transition as smooth as possible is important. By trying to choose the best timing for your family, aptly discussing the move, and helping your kids adjust to their new school and neighborhood, you’re alleviating much of the stress for your children during your family’s big move.
Author: Alex Robbins (SafetyToday.org)