If a three-year-old can feel this strongly about moving to a new home, it’s easy to see how older children and teens can feel equally done-to. Clearly, my son blamed Mom and Dad for his forced removal. Moving is difficult enough for a grown-up, who at least chose to make the move or knows the reasons behind it. How hard it must be for a child who can never really understand.
But you should try to help him understand. It’s never a good idea to announce a move to a new home suddenly or casually. You don’t want your child to feel like just a piece of furniture that can be packed up and hauled off without explanation. The more time your child has before the move, the more included he will feel in the process. You can include him in finding out about the new town or neighborhood and maybe even take him along on house-hunting or apartment-hunting trips. Older children can research their new schools online and use maps to figure out the closest playground or sports center in your new location.
At the same time, your child doesn’t need to be privy to the ups and downs of your dealings with a mortgage lender, to family debates over money, or to arguments about the best neighborhoods and schools. Bring your child into the process over the fun parts, not the stressful parts. Bring your child in only after you know most of the details.
Once you’ve signed a rental contract or had a purchase offer accepted, make frequent visits to the new neighborhood if you’re moving somewhere nearby. Get out of the car and walk around, visit the grocery store you’ll like use, attend services at what will be your new church. Do what you can to make the new place seem familiar.
At the same time, help your child before the move to assemble memories of the old place. She can take digital photos of her favorite people and her old house. The family can make a sort of farewell tour of well-loved haunts before finally packing up and moving away. The places we’ve lived stay with us. Make your child’s final memories of her home happy ones. If your family moved during your own children, you know some of the emotions your child will feel.
Once you’re in your new home, move quickly to help your children get established.
· Strike up conversations with other parents in the neighborhood and be proactive in hosting get-togethers with other kids.
· If you move during the summer, when there’s no school, children can be especially lonely. Think ahead and line up team play or a class for your child so she is assured of at least some kid-interaction each week.
· It’s okay if your child wants to maintain connections with his friends at his old home. Use Skype or email as a free way to keep in touch with old friends, particularly if the distance is too great for a visit. If an old friend is not too far, invite him to your new home; your child will enjoy showing him around.
· Take these steps yourself: get involved, invite moms over for coffee, volunteer to host your neighborhood Christmas party, get involved in the neighborhood association or school. If you are active in the new location, it’s easier for your kids to get acclimated too.
Moving is a leave-taking but it’s also an arrival. Help your child see the silver lining and the new opportunities hidden in the move.
© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.