Moving is a stressful time for adults and children alike. While adults are busy organizing, planning, and preparing for the future, children are busy trying to make sense of the changes, thinking about the friends they’ll leave behind, and wondering what their new lives will be like.
Whether you’re moving across the country or two blocks away, a move disrupts your family routine. Change is scary for adults. Change is scary for children, especially when they are not involved in the moving process.
Get Your Children Involved
If your child is having a difficult time, think about the situation from your child’s perspective.
Does your child understand why your family is moving?
Was your child involved in the decision to move?
Has your child ever moved before?
Has your child moved many times?
What is your child afraid to leave behind? Friends? A teacher? A youth club or sports team? A favorite park or zoo?
Will your child know people at your new home?
Will your child easily make new friends?
Will everyone in your household move with your child?
What will your child miss most about your old home?
As you know, moving involves more than simply packing your bags and showing up at a new location. We have emotional ties to people and things. Even when we know something better awaits us, change is hard. Moving is hard.
One of the best ways to make moving easier for children is to get them involved in the process. Your children may not be happy about the move. You may even encounter resistance, but your children will at least know what’s going on. Being involved and knowing what’s happening may lessen your children’s anxiety.
It’s Time to Talk
Be positive and reassuring throughout the move. Talk about the move. If possible, let your children help you plan house-hunting trips, search for new schools, visit your new home, and explore the new neighborhood. Assign moving responsibilities so they feel part of the move. For example, let your children pack their toys and personal belongings. Let them decorate their boxes. Let them know their roles and responsibilities are important.
Give children as much information as you can as soon as you can. Tell them about their new home. Tell them when you plan to move. Show them pictures of their new home and school.
Answer your children’s questions honestly. If you don’t know the answer to a question, let your children help you find the answer. For example, if your child wants to know if there is a park where you’re going, search a map to find the park nearest your new home. If there is not a park nearby, point out other fun places like a lake, sports stadium, library, or museum. Help your children find the positives. Assure them that you are listening to their concerns. Involve them in planning their new lives.
Patience, Patience, Patience
Your children may need special attention and lots of reassurance. Be patient with them.
If your children are very young (e.g., toddlers or preschoolers), they may not be able to tell you what’s bothering them. Their fear and anxiety may be expressed as clinginess, or they may exhibit regression of some developmental milestones (e.g., sleeping and toilet training). They may need a few extra hugs and kisses. Be generous with your compassion. They are just as worried as you, although they can’t tell you that.
If your children are older (e.g., in elementary school, adolescents, or teenagers), they may not want to tell you what’s bothering them. Their fear and anxiety may be expressed as anger. They may need a few extra hugs and kisses. Be generous with your compassion. They are just as worried as you, although they won’t tell you that.
The Knowledge Continues
For more tips to help make your child’s move easier, read Tips for Moving with Children.
Also check out Moving Books for You and Your Child.