Moving Day Fears: Helping Kids Ease Through the Transition
By Allison Bisbey Colter
Once you break the news to your children about moving, they will must likely not be as excited as you are. However, there are a couple of things you can do to help ease the transition.
The first is to empower your children in as many decisions about the move as possible in order to get them involved. In most cases, children have little to no say in the decision to move, and this can leave them feeling powerless. "It can be overwhelming," said Lori Collins Burgan, the author of "Moving With Kids: 25 Ways to Ease Your Family's Transition to a New Home."
For toddlers and to some extent preschoolers, their sense of self revolves around their parents. As long as their parents are supportive and the daily schedule remains the same, the time leading up to a move doesn't require a big adjustment.
But it is important to help children understand that all of their belongings are going along with them. Set aside some special toys that will stay with a younger child while the rest of the house is being packed up.
For preteens, something as simple as allowing them to choose whether they want to tell their teachers about the move themselves or have a parent do it, is empowering. You can also involve preteens and older children in bigger decisions, such as the type of neighborhood and house they would like to live in. Mature preteens may also be able to help you locate moving companies or sit in on the moving estimate - taking notes and learning about the process with you.
Collins Burgan said that the last time her family moved, when her oldest was in seventh grade, she and her husband narrowed their housing choices down to four and let the children pick. "My husband and I preferred a different house, but the neighborhood had more stuff for kids to do," she said.
Fortunately, all three children liked the same house.
Collins Burgan also advises parents to involve older children in the decision about the timing of a move. For example, they may want to finish the school year at their old school. Some families even make arrangements for older teens to stay behind with a friend or relative until they finish high school.
For children of all ages, it's important to recognize that they need time to grieve. Sure, they can still call and text old friends after them move, but it won't be the same as living next door to their pals. "You have to ... put yourself in their shoes, not to minimize their feelings," adds Leslie Levine, author of "Will This Place Ever Feel Like Home?" Adding, "you might think they don't have big sweeping feelings, since they don't have any responsibility for planning the move. But in their world, it's huge," Levine says.
Collins Burgan also emphasized the importance of having some kind of goodbye party, even if you're moving quickly and there isn't much time to plan anything too formal. "I equate the goodbye party to a funeral service... it brings closure to all those relationships so they're ready to move on," she said.
Even the smallest children need to say goodbye before moving day. If they have a favorite park, take them there and say "It's the last time here." Likewise, when you leave to go to your new home, drive by your old house one more time so they can wave goodbye.