While moving to a new home can be an exciting and happy experience for families, it also can be a difficult adjustment for children. They may be leaving behind their friends, their activity centers, their school, and even other family members-many of the people and places that have provided them security and comfort.
Parents should take special care to talk with their children about an upcoming move and to deal with their concerns or fears.
Children respond to the general atmosphere set in the home by the attitudes of their parents. If you look at moving as an exciting adventure full of new possibilities, then chances are very good that you will infect your children with enthusiasm and anticipation.
Many times, we forget that making more money or moving to a larger home is not a change that children will understand. The younger the children, the less able they are to “see into the future” as you do. They tend to focus on losing the security they already know, along with missing friends and family. Your job is to turn the sadness and doubt into happiness. Ask yourself what advantages there are for the child in the move. For example, will the family be closer to Grandma, the ocean, or another favorite person, place, or activity?
One of the easiest ways to turn an unhappy frown into joy and excitement is to communicate frequently. Let your children know, step by step, what is happening and what is likely to happen next. Tell them what the move means to the family — how important it is that Mommy got a big promotion or that Daddy is opening a new office for his company, and how other aspects of the move will be good for the child. Be ready for those “What about me?” questions by researching schools, churches, activities, and community amenities in advance; and offer your child choices and ways to participate where it is appropriate.
Contact organizations with whom your child is already associated or with whom he or she has an interest, and ask for referrals to your new city. Knowing they won’t have to give up favorite hobbies or sports goes a long way toward helping children adjust.
Making contacts with future friends, classmates, and fellow hobbyists can also go a long way toward helping your child’s transition to a new home and environment. See if your counselor, other transferees, or family can put you in touch with other children your child’s age so that a chat room or e-mail friendship can begin.
Have your Realtor take pictures of your home and send them to you. Have fun by showing your child the new house plans, or draw them yourself and let your child cut out furniture and toys to place in the rooms. Show your child a typical day in the home as you go from room to room. Draw a map, and show how close Mommy and Daddy work, where schools are, where Aunt Bea lives, and other points of interest to help them orient themselves in their new surroundings.
If time and finances permit, take your child on a trip to visit your new city and home to get acquainted. If that’s not possible, get on the Internet, and show him or her the city, neighborhood, and home where you’ll be living. Most cities have Web sites available that offer a wide range of information, so you can plan activities for after your move, such as visits to the theater, a visit to the local zoo, or a trip to a local restaurant that serves your child’s favorite food.
Allowing your children to participate as much as possible makes the time they spend anticipating the move pass more quickly. Keep them occupied by letting them plan and pack a box or two of their special things. Consider their input on new decor and the layout of their new rooms. Encourage them to take the time to exchange good-byes with friends and loved ones and get addresses, e-mail addresses, and telephone numbers to stay in touch.
While you are preparing for the move, try to stick as closely to your normal routine as possible; and let your children know that, although they will soon live in a new house, the rules of the household will still be the same. Bedtime is still at 9 p.m., and homework must still be completed before TV time is allowed. And although Mom and Dad are a little busier and distracted with the move, they love their children very much and are giving the entire household a new opportunity to grow.
On moving day, have a bag of personal belongings packed for each member of the family, being careful to include medications, clothes, and personal items. Let your children choose the amusements and favorite things they wish to take along, and reassure them they will see their other favorite toys when they arrive in their new home. Your preparedness will go a long way in reassuring your children that their needs are being considered.