I’ve tackled the subject of moving before, in a general sense, but the fact still remains that moving is one of the most stressful times for families. Now, if you are moving for a reason that involves another stressful hurdle such as divorce or losing a loved one, my heart goes out to you. As someone who has likewise been involved in a move due to divorce, I understand how difficult it is. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t do any research to anticipate all the hurdles that would accompany such a move. Thinking back, I would do many things differently to help prepare us all. Providing what I’ve learned through research and my own experience, I hope to help you and your little ones (and big ones!) transition more smoothly.
Here is some basic advice to keep everything running smoothly as and your children move!
The first step is to tell them. Often, kids will pick up on the change in your focus and stress that comes with selling or leaving your current residence. Yes, it feels like they never pay attention to you when you are asking them to pick up their room, do their laundry, or shut off the computer, but they quickly pick up on the slight change of your focus. They will figure out that your recent interest in painting some rooms, fixing the leaking faucet (that has been leaking for two years), and cleaning things that have never been cleaned before means something is going on.
For babies, it’s true they may not understand what is going on, but they will feel the effects of stress that their parents are displaying. For this reason, you must take good care of yourself and have a positive attitude. Even if you have your own worries, find time away from the kids to express it and receive support from friends and other adults in your family.
Moving With Younger Children
Younger children may have a lot of questions and you should encourage them to ask. Be truthful but don’t overload them or burden them with details that they may not comprehend and will feel inclined to share with your neighbors. Their home is all they have known. It represents security.
If everyone in your household is moving reassure them that you are doing this together. Take a trip and check out playgrounds, the library, and any fun places in the town. Have them go with you to look at new houses, even though they may not have the same priorities you do (as a huge Thomas the Train set may be the reason they like one house over the other).
Offer to give them their own special boxes that they can decorate to personalize the packing experience. This may not be the time to have them “weed through” and donate some things. In their new uncertain world, they may have a melt down after you donated the items that they chose to get rid of. Take everything: you will find a better time to purge discarded toys.
If the children are school-age, there are additional things to keep in mind.
- Be prepared to answer questions about the new town and school. If possible, tour the new school beforehand.
- Talk to them about the move and see if there are things you can do to alleviate their fears.
- Give them some control in the areas that will be their space in the new house. Can they choose to paint their space a different color? Decorate it the way they like?
- Help them make a friend collage and collect the contact information from all their friends. Reassure them that they can continue to communicate with their friends and family after they move.
- Share with them the benefits of moving (new friends to make, new sights and activities, maybe they will have their own space in the new house).
Predictability will be your friend. This may not be a good time to buy them a new bed and bedding, or forgo any routines that you have established. Changes can wait until the transition has been completed. Try to have patience: emotional transitions like this can take months. If you have preschoolers, you may find that they are clingy and regress. Older children may be more inclined to display anger and sadness. Be careful not to add your uncertainty to the mix. Children can pick up on it and may use it to their advantage, to negotiate the pet you never wanted. Stay focused on why you decided to move and don’t waver. In the end the children will be better-off with the consistency and confidence you show.
Moving With Teenagers
Discuss the move with your teenager as soon as you have made the decision. Include them in the conversation about why you have come to this decision, where you are planning to go and what the time frame looks like. It might help if you have already scouted out the area and found places that might be of interest to them. Or, better yet, take a drive, if possible and show them.
- Ask what type of space they would like in the new house. If they are asking for their own room and it’s not possible, what other considerations could you agree to? One option may be a finished basement where they could hang out with friends.
- Make plans to have their friends come for a weekend or for them to go visit for a weekend. It’s much easier for kids to keep in touch now with all the social media platforms available to them, so encourage them to do so.
- Be sensitive to their transition. This is a tough age to have to figure out where they will fit in all over again. “You may even get accused of “ruining their life” as they grapple with the thought of losing friends and starting over. If your teenagers struggle with the thought of relocating, give them time to process those emotions and to talk through what would feel comforting to them”
Encourage your teenager to pursue their current interests in their new school. However don’t push or succumb to your own guilt and make promises that you can’t possibly keep as a result. Give them the support they need. Just because they’re older doesn’t mean it’s any easier for them.
Kids pick up on our stress and can reflect it back at us in different ways. Be sensitive to the fact that their views and thoughts about the move may not align with yours and give them space to express that. Your move, for whatever reason, will help everyone develop resilience when dealing with changes. This is a great skill. We are teaching our kids to eventually thrive on their own and major changes like this -whether painful or not- can help build their confidence. Remember to take care of yourself, get enough sleep, eat right and remain positive. Together, you and your family can make the transition smoothly!