Planning a move is an unsettling experience for most people but children, who have literally no control over the event, can find moving home particularly difficult.
If you are getting ready for a change of residence, here are some steps you can take to help your children to cope with and even look forward to the changes ahead.
Prepare your children well ahead of time
Rather than springing a house move on them with little notice, introduce your children to the idea early on in the process, particularly older children and teens. You may think you are saving them worry by keeping them out of the loop but all you are doing is postponing those tough conversations and reducing the time they have to get used to the idea. Children are resilient and, with support, can handle tough circumstances.
If you are house hunting, consider bringing your children along with you. Ask them for their opinion on the houses you visit. Take them to some fun places in your chosen neighborhood. This will all reduce some of the shock factor when the actual move happens. If you are unable to take them with you, show them pictures online and tell them some interesting facts about your new home.
It is important to keep communication channels open throughout. Be sensitive to your children’s feelings and be willing to answer their questions honestly. Don’t belittle their concerns but remind them of the benefits of the move (e.g. a bigger home or garden, closer to relatives, nicer neighborhood, etc.)
Throw a leaving party – and make some memories
It would be a mistake to focus only on the future and refuse to acknowledge the connections you all have to the place you are leaving. Arranging a small leaving party can help your children accept the changes while ending your time in your current neighborhood on a positive note. Older children might particularly appreciate this as a way to say goodbye to their friends (social media messages are no match for a farewell hug!)
Whether or not you decide to throw a party, helping your children to preserve their fondest memories is important. Creating a scrapbook is a popular activity as you can help them to gather together happy photographs of people and places and perhaps ask their friends to write a few goodbye messages. This will give your child something to look back on when they are feeling sad or overwhelmed.
Get kids involved in the process
The best way to put power back into your children’s hands is to keep them involved at every stage of the process. For older teens, this could include asking them to work out how much storage you will need and ordering the moving containers.
Even younger children can be put in charge of their own packing. This softens the separation anxiety that many children feel when they see their treasured belongings disappearing into moving boxes and suitcases. Make it fun by giving them plenty of felt tip pens and stickers for them to personalize their box with. If you are ordering home moving kits and find you have a spare box or two, give them to your children to play games with.
To help them accept their new home, ask them to choose the color scheme, bedding design and furniture arrangement for their bedrooms. If there is scope, you could even ask them to choose which room will be theirs.
Accept help from friends and family
It is always a bonus when friends and family members offer to help us with the heavy lifting (or, if you’ve been sensible, pushing moving equipment dollies to and from the movers truck). However, assisting with the physical moving process is only one of the ways your nearest and dearest can get involved.
Children (especially younger ones) have a habit of getting in the way when moving day arrives so if you can take them to a grandparent or have a friend take them to a play cafe or a park you can at least get a few hours of free time to get things loaded. If this isn’t possible, perhaps a relative might be available to entertain them in your home, leaving you free to focus on the task in hand.
Leave packing toys until last (and take them in the car)
There are many reasons why it is best to leave packing your children’s most popular toys until the very last minute. For a start, it gives them something to entertain themselves during moving day. Children can also find packing – or having their toys packed away for them – very unsettling, potentially disrupting and delaying the move with sulking or tantrums.
Another good reason to wait until the end of the process before packing away toys is that they can be loaded last and unloaded first at the other end, helping your children to settle in more quickly. It may be best to transport the most popular toys in your car. This is likely to help to reduce your children’s anxiety as they will know their precious possessions are only a few feet away.
Throw in a sweetener or two
Giving your children important jobs to do not only helps to distract them from worrying, it also gives you an excuse to reward them. The thought of earning some money, candy or a video game can help children to approach the move with excitement and enthusiasm. Some examples of jobs any child can do include:
- Feeding the dog
- Personalizing their own toy boxes
- Making sure nothing is left behind
For older children, you could ask them to:
- Look after younger siblings
- Take the dog for a walk
- Help give the house a final clean
- Get together an essentials bag (items that will travel with you to help you get through the first day or two)
Make sure you delay the reward (or at least the biggest part of it) until you all reach your destination. This will not only help keep them motivated but will straight away create positive associations for them, linking their new home with pleasurable experiences.
Get them settled in quickly
The trick to settling younger children into a new home is to surround them with familiar things. Unload their toys immediately if you can, put a familiar bedspread on their bed and stick to their usual home routine (brushing teeth, bedtime story, etc.) These things will all help your children to feel that bit more secure.
This is not always necessary for older children. Instead, a celebratory family pizza and movie night could help to start things of on the right foot. After all, who wants to cook after a long journey?
The next step is to get involved in your new community by going to the local park and joining age appropriate children’s groups. Older children could be encouraged to join clubs where they are likely to meet peers with the same interests.
By following the steps above, you can really reduce the uncertainty and upset your children will be inevitably feeling. It could make all the difference between a fraught and stressful experience and a positive and easy one.
About The Author
Mr. Levine has served at New Haven for forty years. He has had several positions within the company prior to becoming CEO, including serving as General Manager of the Louisville, KY office; Vice-President of the Texas Companies, and President of New Haven. Get in touch via Facebook.