If you’ve moved recently, or are planning for an upcoming move, you know how disruptive it can be to your own, grownup existence. (My last move was a decade ago now, and even THINKING about it sets me on edge!) If you think it’s tough for adults, though, imagine how traumatic moving can be for a child.
The reason for the move – a new military post, a new job, or being closer to grandparents – doesn’t matter. Regardless of why you’re relocating, whether your kids are teens or toddlers, it will be a huge adjustment for them. If you’ll soon find yourself helping your child cope with moving, then read on for some tips.
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Practical Tips for Helping Your Kids Cope With Moving:
Accentuate The Positive
Your children will probably be pretty upset at the thought of moving. After all, they’re leaving behind all their friends, their sports teams, and the school they know. While you’ll be tempted to accentuate the positive aspects of the move to counter their unhappiness, don’t go overboard.
There’s a fine line to walk with getting your kids to see why the family’s moving will benefit everyone in the long run. In your rush to point out all the long-term benefits, you can’t brush your kids’ very real hurt feelings under the rug. Acknowledge that they are upset, and empathize with them about how difficult this can be.
I remember how upset a good friend’s sons were when they learned that Mama’s new job meant they’d be moving several hours away from us. My girls were also upset at the move; the four kids had grown up like siblings until that point. While having playdates now means coordinating a weekend road trip, the boys have had so much fun sharing their new surroundings with our girls. And whenever they come back here, they get to visit all their old favorite haunts again with my kiddos.
To help your kids get a good head start on building their new social network when you move, you can start learning about the kids’ new school options long before moving day. Schools like the Primary Montessori Day School, based in Rockville, Maryland, have an application process that works to ensure that your child’s needs are met.
Strengthen The Support Network
While you’re facing your child’s resistance to the idea of moving, it’s important to stay attuned to what’s really going on. Is your child really upset about the move itself, or is there something deeper going on? As any parent knows, we can have a relationship with our children that can be strained at times. So if your child is already going through a phase where you’re NOT their favorite person, news of a pending move is probably not going to endear you to them.
This is just one reason it’s important to work on strengthening your relationship with your child BEFORE the move. If you don’t, things are only going to get more challenging as time goes on. Let’s face it, not only will they need to lean on you a lot; you need them, too! If you’ll be closer to extended family after you move, this will help. But if your nuclear family unit will be all alone in a new place, you’ll need each other more than ever.
So work at fixing your relationship before you relocate. If you wait until after the move is behind you and you’re all settled into your new place, it may be too late. Your child may hold it against you that you’ve removed them from everything they know. You can either be a stern parent, and tell them to “suck it up.” Or you can be supportive and work through the issues moving causes for them together.
Try To Time It Right
If at all possible, try to time your move over the summer, or early in the school year. This will help put your kids on a more even footing with the other kids at school, and set them up for a successful academic year in their new school district. By starting with their new teachers/subjects from Day One, they won’t have the usual new-school-year adjustment to go through twice. And being the “new kid” will be less obvious if they’re there on the first day of the new school year, when everyone is the “new kid” to some extent.
Starting at the beginning of the academic year has certain other advantages, too. Most of my kids’ extracurricular activities – kids’ choir at church, Girl Scouts, and sports activities – run on this schedule. In our area, it’s hard to get into a Girl Scout troop after the school year starts, because they’re already full. So by timing your move right, you can better provide continuities in activities for your kids, too.
Do Your Homework
This gets to another important point: When you move, you’re probably researching school districts before you buy a new house. Don’t forget to research other areas that are important to your kids too, though. As much as practical, consider involving them in the process:
- If they’re into a certain sport, maybe you can research what youth leagues exist in that area.
- Do they take music lessons? Figure out their new lesson arrangements ahead of time.
- Are they upset about saying goodbye to their favorite park or children’s museum? Have them help you find the local equivalents at your new home.
These gestures may seem like small details to you. But they can mean the difference between anxiety over the unknown to your child, and feeling like they’ll belong somewhere. Also, having your child help with the research is something proactive they can do. This can help them regain a sense of control, in a situation that feels largely out of their control.
Provide A Gradual Change
It’s no wonder moving can be so upsetting for kids; so much about their world changes overnight when you relocate to your new home. New bedroom, new view out the window, new neighbors, new neighborhood, new school, new place of worship, new sports teams/Scout troops/local clubs. And most of all, their old social network of friends is gone.
Of course, a move doesn’t mean your children will NEVER see their old friends again. But if you’re a child, it will feel that way, especially if you’re going to a new state or a different country. Yes, we now have social media – but even this is not enough to maintain those relationships for your children, especially if they’re tweens or younger. And don’t forget about that intimidating first day at a new school, where everyone else already knows each other.
The best thing you can do for your kiddos is try to give them a gradual change, to minimize the amount of upheaval and stress they feel. Encourage your kids to hang on to their old friends (maybe they can be pen-pals?). If you know family or friends at your destination, see if they can set up some playdates for you. If you’ll be on your own, use social media to your advantage. Find some community groups in your new area. If possible, bring your kids to see their new neighborhood, house, or school before moving day. These will help them feel less anxious about the transition.