It can be really tough on kids to move. I see this a lot, so I decided to reach out for some expert advice on the subject. I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Kim Biggio, a credentialed parent educator certified in positive discipline, to get some tips on how parents can support their kids during such a difficult transition.
Here are a dozen ways to make moving as easy as possible on your kids:
- Get closure from where they’re leaving. Having the chance to say good bye to their friends and teachers and getting closure is incredibly important. Children process moving in a different way than adults do, so try your best to prioritize this time for them. Something as simple as hugging somebody goodbye can help them tremendously.
- Establish the child’s new room and home environment ahead of time. Involve the child in the experience of setting up their new room. There are a couple of easy ways to do this. Children love new bedding and choosing paint colors and curtains- allow them to choose something to personalize thier new room. This gives them something to look forward to. Another thing that can be incredibly helpful is setting up a walkthrough with kids at the new home to plan out their new spaces in their minds. Children have incredible imaginations so use those to ease the transition! Where’s the couch going to go? Where’s your bed going to go? That really helps them to see themselves in their new home.
- Explore the new neighborhood. A new neighborhood is an adventure. Get your kids outside their new house and explore all of the new places they will be spending time as early on as you can. Where’s their school? Where are they going to go to the supermarket? Where is the local park? Spend time in these places as early on and often as you can and get familiar with them ahead of time. It’s important for children understand and visualize their new space.
- Use clear Hefty® bags or clear plastic bins to pack young children’s blankets and toys. This involves your children in the experience and qualms any fears about losing beloved items since they can see inside. In turn, they don’t feel as powerless during the move.
- Unpack completely and immediately. Make it a priority to unpack and set up your child’s room first. It’s important that they can easily find his or her things. Don’t let household items sit around in boxes for months (or years). This can be subtly confusing and add to the disruption they already feel. Unpacking quickly allows for them (and you) to settle in to a routine faster and easier.
- Facilitate new relationships. Whether that means knocking on a neighbor’s door and introducing yourself, visiting the local elementary school, or discovering summer programs for children. It’s the parent’s responsibility to help foster new relationships. But the key issue there is that children, when they make a move, need the support and encouragement of the adults in their lives to explore these new experiences.
- Try to make unpacking fun. Unpacking is hard work. Make sure you take breaks to explore the neighborhood or to go for ice cream or some other treat along the way.
- Monitor your child’s emotional well-being. When a transition is rough, the child can exhibit some warning signs. They might withdraw, becoming very quiet and introverted or the opposite can happen and they can become defiant or disruptive. The key is to foster and encourage family communication. A great tool is weekly family meetings. This establishes a forum and a venue for effective communication within the family. This allows children to explore and process unfamiliar emotions, such as grief, or to celebrate their excitement.
- Take care of yourself. It’s really important for you, as the adult, to allow space to process the changes you’re experiencing and seek outside support if and when you need it. Moving is stressful on everyone and can be challenging for adults to navigate too. You can’t take care of everyone else if you don’t take care of yourself.
- Give your tweens and teenagers a break. Let’s be frank. The tween and teenage years can be a very traumatic time to move. Thanks to social media and other influences, they have a great deal more to contend with than we did. This is a pretty dicey time in life to begin with, so moving during this time needs to be supported.
- Help your kids stay connected with old friends. Make sure your kids have a chance to talk to or video chat with their old friends. Seeing one another really helps children maintain that friendship.
- Give yourself a break. Your children may blame you but try not to feel “guilty” for moving your family. Give it time. It may be tough at first, but things almost always get better.
Moving brings with it a unique set of challenges for everyone involved, but also an opportunity to become more comfortable with the one thing we all struggle with…change. Your children want what you want, to feel secure and stable. And, opening up the lines of communication offers the inevitable, growth, and a chance to become closer, more confident and to feel safer, and that’s what home is all about.
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