If you plan to move this year, there’s a lot to know before you go, especially if you have children.
As difficult as the move is for adults, it has a far greater impact on children. Psychologists tell us that moving is the third most traumatic event in a child’s life, just after death and divorce. Not only do they have to adjust to a new home and school, but all their best friends will be gone.
With today’s highly mobile society, relocation is a fact of life. But just because it’s a necessity doesn’t mean it has to be traumatic. There are many things that parents can do to make a move easier for their children.
When you first break the news, don’t think you have to provide all the details right away. Family Psychologist Thomas T. Olkowski, Ph.D., says, “The best way to deal with the initial news is to give it some thought. I suggest giving it some time to sink in.” A child will talk when it feels right. Then, children will have lots of questions. So parents need to be ready with appropriate answers.
Let Them Participate
One of the most important things parents can do is to allow their children to participate in the planning process. Dr. Olkowski says, “This is a chance for a child to take part in the adventure of moving.”
In addition to helping with important decisions, children should be involved with packing and unpacking their own belongings. Knowing where their possessions are gives them a little control over a situation that, otherwise, seems completely out of their control.
Another activity that Dr. Olkowski believes can make a difference is leaving a memorial behind. A child can plant a tree or hide a special toy where no one will ever find it. He says this creates a lasting connection, and lets the child feel that “they’re a part of this house and it’s a part of them, even though they’re moving to a new neighborhood.”
Exchange Gifts With Friends
It may also help to exchange gifts with their best friends. In this way, they’ll know that something of theirs is with their friends, and they’ll always have something special to help them remember their friends. And, of course, it’s important to exchange e-mails and phone numbers so everyone can keep in touch. A reassuring phone call or e-mail can make it seem like nothing has changed at all.
When arriving in a new neighborhood, it’s essential that parents walk the streets with their children, so they can become comfortable with their new surroundings. And before a child has to face a new school alone, it’s a good idea to make a visit together, to break the ice. Just knowing the new teacher, and where the bathroom is, can reduce a great deal of anxiety.
Perhaps the most difficult moving experience for children is making new friends. This can be very awkward, but parents should take the time to teach their children how to easily introduce themselves. Using a few common tips, a child can have several new friends in no time.
Most Kids Actually Feel Better After A Move
Dr. Olkowski finds that most children adjust well in time, and actually feel they’re better off after a move. He has learned that “they discover how moving can be fun, and in the end, they end up having even more friends.”