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Moving to a new home or a new city is a high-stress endeavor. Add kids to the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for serious anxiety. How on earth do you get through it all while keeping the kids’ hearts and minds in tact? Fortunately, it can be done, and all it takes is a little understanding and planning.
Kids rarely relish big changes in their lives. They have family or friends where they are, and the idea of moving to a whole new area with nobody they know is a pretty scary concept. Your willingness to include them in the planning and moving processes makes a huge difference in their ability to adapt.
Being open about the situation is key to getting the kids on board. Don’t wait until the last minute and spring it on them. Have a family meeting and sit down with the kids: discuss what’s going on and how it will affect the family. Keep it positive, too. Tell them about why you’re excited about the move and all the great things that will happen when you’re there. Even if the move is for an unhappy reason, try to find the positive in it.
If you’re moving to a new town, sit down with your kids and help them research the area. Look at the amenities available to them, and research the schools and sports that they might like. If they feel like they have some ownership in the area, they’ll be more likely to be excited rather than full of dread. Encourage them to make a scrapbook of the home they’re leaving and of the move itself. Help them put in photos of their friends, teachers and school, too. Older kids can journal about the experience, which will help them process their emotions.
Children’s friendships are extremely important to them. Help them navigate their friendships before and after the move. Remind them that they can call whenever they want and use social media and video chat to stay in touch. Moving away doesn’t mean the complete cut-off that it used to. Older kids can text their old friends and even visit at some point.
When it comes time to pack, get your kids involved. Let them pack up their own rooms and have older kids help out their younger siblings. Don’t get rid of their big things, such as furniture or a beloved toy. The continuity of these items can be comforting. Allow them to choose new paint colors and the furniture layout of their new rooms. If they have ownership of it, they’ll be more excited.
For very young children, it can help to pack their things when they’re asleep. Otherwise, they will keep unpacking things as fast as you pack them. But keep one box of toys out until the last minute so that the child doesn’t think all his things are going away. If you are getting rid of his items, do it at night. Kids often don’t know they want something until they see it being taken away.
Make sure you ask for help. If you have family members who can take the smaller children away while you’re working, use them. Even if they can keep them entertained in a room that’s away from where you’re working, it will be a huge relief for you.
When it’s time to go, allow your children to say good-bye. Sometimes kids just need to do a last walk-through and give themselves closure. Save a beloved family restaurant for the last day as a special treat and good-bye moment as you’re heading out of town. These also give your child special memories to take with them.
Become part of the new community. The more you join up, the more connected your family will feel. Encourage kids to join clubs and sports teams soon after the move. Get involved with these groups, too, so you can help your child meet friends. If you’re active in a faith community, quickly seek out a similar place in your new town and get involved.
There’s no way to avoid all the stress and emotions of moving with your kids. But with a few extra steps and a lot of understanding, you can make the transition a bit easier on the whole family.