Moving a family is stressful and if the relocation comes with another emotional event like a death in the family, divorce or job loss, the transition hardly feels like a party. But while it probably won’t be immediately obvious, with careful planning and generous discussion, your child can benefit from a move.
According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), “With the proper attention from parents and professional help if necessary, moving can be a positive growth experience for children, leading to increased self-confidence and interpersonal skills.”
Here’s how to ease the transition for your children:
1. Discuss the move as soon as possible. Stay positive, explaining why relocation is necessary. Discuss the perks of your new home’s location. Help your child learn about the area with resources like maps, photographs, and the daily newspaper.
2. Say your good-byes. A week or two before you move, throw a farewell party to give you and your family an opportunity to officially bid friends and neighbors adieu, exchange contact information, and take pictures. Keep refreshments simple, like delivery pizza or sandwiches and refreshments.
Peer groups are especially important the older your child. Host a slumber party for your child to say good-bye to close friends. Provide a keepsake pillow case for your child’s friends to doodle and autograph with fabric markers.
Create a memory book for your kids or provide them with a few craft supplies to make their own. They could include pictures of their friends and memorable outings.
Ask their friends, teachers, coaches, and other people they’ll miss to sign it.
3. Revisit favorite haunts. Whether a park, zoo, or local eatery, take time to honor the places your family enjoyed most. Together, make a list of your family’s favorite hot spots you each want to visit before departure day. Make a video journal or a photo book documenting the outings.
4. Coordinate moving day. Ask the movers to load your children’s rooms last so their things come off the truck first at your new home. Consider hiring a sitter or enlisting a family friend to watch your kids while working with the movers. Unpack your children’s rooms first, which can help ease initial anxieties by surrounding them with their personal and familiar belongings.
5. Celebrate a new chapter. On the first night in your new house, organize a “Family Fun Night” with pizza and games to celebrate a new beginning together. Invite your child to help make choices about their new room’s decor. Return to the comfort of old routines like regular meal times and naps as soon as possible.
6. Use technology... with boundaries. Help your child use technology like Skype or Facebook’s video app to stay in touch with old friends and extended family.
Keep extended family and close friends updated on how your family is settling in via email or a private blog. Discourage older children from spending too much time on social networking sites. Seeing their friends returning to life without them can be painful and reinforce a sense of loneliness.
7. Get acquainted. Take walks around your new neighborhood. The exercise and fresh air will help relieve stress and familiarize you and your children with your new surroundings. Play outside on nice days. Chances are you and your kids will meet a few neighbors. After settling in, invite a few neighbors over for a potluck barbecue.
8. Prepare your child for a new school. Before the first day, make an appointment for you and your child to tour their new school and meet their teacher. Shop for required school supplies and go over the school day schedule, including pick-up and drop-off procedures with your child. If possible, connect your child with other children their age in the neighborhood or through an extracurricular activity before school starts. A few familiar faces can help ease the transition to a new school.
9. Integrate into your new community. Volunteer in your neighborhood, your child’s school/daycare, your church or other community organizations. Check with your library, your child’s preschool/daycare, your church, or online to find parenting support networks in your area that fit your personality, needs, and parenting philosophy.
Devote at least one weekend day each month for your family to explore and discover a new restaurant, museum, park, or attraction in your new community.
A transition can take at least six months. If your child isn’t adjusting well and exhibits signs of depression, consult your family doctor. Signs include changes in appetite, social withdrawal, a drop in grades, irritability, sleep problems, or changes in mood/behavior.
Raised in a military family, freelance journalist, wife, and mother of two, Christa has lived and traveled in Europe and across the U.S. Her latest book is Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator in a Digital World.
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