Moving with Kids

Few events are more stressful for kids than moving to a new neighborhood, the loss of old friends, starting at a new school – they’re bound to take an emotional toll.

Fortunately, there’s a simple principle that helps reduce kids’ stress before and during a move: get them involved.

Before the Move

Tell kids about the upcoming move as soon as possible. Waiting until just before “the big day” to announce the move, perhaps with the intention of lessening the trauma, is a big mistake! In fact, the longer the time a child has to adjust to the idea of moving, the more likely he/she will come around to see the positives, and become enthusiastic about exploring a new life in new surroundings.

Families can get kids involved by encouraging them to pack and label their own belongings. Young children might want to leave behind a “memorial” – planting a tree, or burying a toy where no one will ever find it as a way of saying the old neighborhood will always be a part of them. Of course, they’ll want to exchange email addresses and phone numbers with old friends.

With young children, walking around the new neighborhood with their parents, and visiting the new school and classroom together can help ease their minds. Consider meeting personally with the new teacher to talk about the transition. Signing up kids with activities (soccer, baseball, gym, dance, martial arts, art classes, etc.) in the new location is a great way to help them make friends.

Make the move an adventure that kids will look forward to – a night at a hotel with a great swimming pool, a visit to a theme park at the new location, new play equipment for the backyard, etc.

You’ll probably make several trips to the new area before you move. Taking kids along, or bringing back photos and/or video of the new home, neighborhood, and (especially) school will help them feel less tense and uncertain about the changes.

Be positive and upbeat about the move. Encourage questions, and enlist kids’ help. Your enthusiasm and their involvement will go a long way toward dispelling their fears. For example, you can help them plan their new bedroom – show them photos of the bare room, draw up a floor plan, and have them design the coolest bedroom they can imagine.

With very young children, explain the reasons for the move, and highlight the benefits (more activities in school, better music classes, a great soccer league, etc.). Frequently remind them of the many things that will be the same after the move: pets, school, mom and dad’s presence, lots of friends, a yard to play in.

Many of the tips covered so far will also help teenagers adjust to the move. Of course, teens may have issues that will make them fear the move will literally tear apart their lives. Longstanding relationships will be disrupted (possibly romantic ones). Teens may have difficulty discussing their feelings with parents, and may benefit from talking with a counselor, close relative, or friends. It’s particularly important to announce the move to teenagers as soon as the decision is made, and be straightforward and honest about the reasons for the change.

Moving Day

On moving day, it’s important to keep kids involved. Young children can work off a to-do list of chores. Older kids can pack and label boxes with their name and the contents. A going-away party, or an overnighter with friends is an excellent idea. It will help the children understand that you respect their feelings about leaving good friends behind. It’s a good idea to spend time together before the move – perhaps eating at a favorite restaurant, walking in favorite places, taking photos of the old house, neighborhood, and friends, etc.

Also on moving day, be sure kids bring items for entertainment: video games, books, crayons and paper, etc. Help them plan what they’ll need the first night in their new home, and have them pack it in a special box.

Make it easy for kids to stay in touch with old friends. To avoid breaking the bank with long-distance phone calls, consider getting them a Skype local account so they can call land-line or cell phones anywhere in the U.S. for about $9 per month. Of course, there’s always email, AIM, MySpace, and Facebook. Even better, talk to the kids about planning a trip to visit old friends, or inviting them for a stay in your new home.

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