This is a guest post by Christian Mills, a freelance writer and family man who just recently moved and thought it would be a great idea to share some ideas that helped him and his family through their move.
When growing up, kids enjoy things to be stable and steady. Sudden changes unsettle them, and, as a rule, they take more time to adjust to them than adults. Among the things most likely to upset children, moving house is one of the major kickers, especially for young children who have less experience in dealing with it.
They have to say goodbye to their old room, the garden they played in, the kitchen they ate in, and the comforting sight of their front door. Instead they’re dumped into a strange new building that smells odd, has none of their furniture, and their parents may be too busy to give them the attention needed to explain what’s going on. In cases where they’re moving to a new town, this is also compiled with leaving behind their school, their friends, and all places familiar to them.
Combined into one sum, moving sucks.
However moving is also one of those things that often happen in life, and parents often have little choice themselves. Thus many have found ways of helping their children cope with the confusion of moving and the distress of suddenly being uprooted.
1. Give Your Kids the Benefit of the Doubt.
Kids are a lot more rational and intelligent than many grown-ups give them credit for. If you explain things to them, they’ll generally accept any reasoning that seems plausible to them. So if you’re moving, tell your child about it in advance. If nothing else, it will give children time to adjust to the fact that they’ll soon have a new house. You should encourage your children to speak honestly about how they feel about the move too, as doing so will help them vent their emotions. Be honest about your emotions too. Be sympathetic, even if you cannot do as they wish.
Likewise, if you’re moving for a specific reason – such as a promotion – explain that to your kids too. Expressing excitement for a new job, for example, will make the move seem more positive, and will encourage your child to be excited about it as well.
One very helpful trick is to share your experiences of moving as a child with them as well. Tell them how you felt, and how the move affected you. Doing so will make the problem seem both relatable, and at the same time something that can be overcome. After all, if you moved and seem okay, then surely they can too.
2. Involve Your Children in the New House.
Before the move, you can help a child feel more at ease and enthusiastic about the new house by inviting them to help pick a new home. Allow them to mention something they’d like the new house to have (in reason) and promise to look for a house like that. Bring them with you to house viewings if you think they’d enjoy it, and ask them for their thoughts about the homes you visit. If you’ve settled on a house, let your kids help you with your room plans.
During the move, give your child something to do. For example, send them out to their new room and invite them to unpack some of their things. Keeping them busy will keep their mind off the move as a whole while also making them feel useful and a part of the process. This in turn gives them a sense of control over what’s happening, making the move more bearable.
3. Make the Most of Your Kids’ Bedtime.
It’s inevitable that some things will not make the move, and some of them may well be your children’s. Unfortunately, they may not always understand why something that’s “theirs” has to be thrown away, such as old kindergarten artwork or a toy that just won’t survive the journey and must be left behind. Even items they’ve not touched for months may suddenly become as precious as fresh water in Death Valley when they’re suddenly spotted in the trash can or a charity box. If these things are to be removed, do it when your kids are asleep and make sure to leave as few traces of their vanishing as possible.
4. Throw a Party for Friends.
One of the hardest parts of moving is leaving old friends behind. To help ease the pain, give your child a chance to properly say goodbye by hosting one last party for them in the yard. Use it as an opportunity to remind your child that “goodbye” doesn’t have to be forever, and that they can still keep in contact with friends if they want to. Towards this end, also make sure you collect contact details from parents so that your children can still communicate with each other over the phone, through letters, or online.
If they’re close enough, you could even talk with the other parents about potential weekend visits or joint vacations in the near future.
5. Let Your Child Get to Know Their New Home.
A short time into the move – certainly at least within the first few days – take your child out to explore the new neighborhood. Include the house in this. Investigate any strange cupboards, have a look around the backyard, and inspect the strange boxes the former homeowners left in the attic. Then take them out to check out surrounding landmarks, such as their new school, local cafes, urgent care, like Night-Lite, nearby parks and playgrounds, or anywhere else that catches your mutual interest.