Whether you're changing neighborhoods, crossing state lines, or moving to the other side of the world, moving is always an upheaval.
Moving is never trivial for a child; leaving the family home and familiar habits can be a source of anxiety. Here are some tips to help prepare your child for change …
1. Show your optimism in front of your child
Children are particularly attached to their daily routines, and they need reassurance to embrace change with serenity. To help them with that, first reassure yourself — because kids pick up on their parents’ anxiety. If a child feels that you are leaving with no regrets, that you are enthusiastic about discovering a new neighborhood, city, or country, he will also approach this event in a serene and positive way.
2. Explain why you’re moving
It’s important to tell your child why you’re moving. Perhaps you think “less is more” and that sharing only a few tidbits of information will protect her. Some parents feel that a child is not interested in the details or would not understand them. They are wrong. On the contrary, do not hesitate to include your child in all the discussions and prep. She will feel safer, and be more excited about the new adventure.
3. Emphasize the positive points of change
New friends, a bigger room, the park next door … emphasize that moving is an opportunity that not everyone gets! Isn’t discovering a new place a chance to set off for a wonderful adventure, just like his favorite heroes do?
4. Help them get a sense of what’s coming
If possible, have the kids visit their future school and future city before the move. Organize activities there and find out about clubs where they can do their favorite extracurricular activities. Introduce them to their future soccer coach or karate teacher. This will help them imagine their new life.
5. Include your child in some of the preparations
Take him with you when you visit the apartment or house and ask him what he thinks about it. Invite him to help you pack the boxes, especially the ones that contain his belongings. Upon arrival, have him participate in setting up and decorating the new home. This will prevent him from feeling overwhelmed by events.
6. Do not send your child to her grandparents’ house for the day
Unless she really wants to … It’s important for the child to be there for the physical move so that she understands that her things are not vanishing into thin air. She must also mourn her old home. Nothing is more disturbing for a child than to find her room suddenly empty: this discovery is often the cause of a feeling of abandonment. Instead, stay together. Take her things with you and set up her room first with her help.
7. Redouble your attention; each child is different
Siblings can react in completely different ways to a move. One of your children may feel more vulnerable and take it harder than others. Be careful — from age six onward, leaving friends behind will get more difficult. They can also experience more stress if they are afraid to be the “new kid” in the new school. Pay attention to what is unspoken and to possible cues of anxiety.
8. Stay in touch with old friends
It is important for your child to stay in touch with his old friends. Remember to keep the parents’ contact information so they can call or write letters, especially in the early days. Little by little, he will move on from his old friends, but this break must not be brutal. As much as possible, allow him to return to spend weekends or holidays with his old friends. And do not hesitate to transform your new home into a summer camp at first … It’s tedious, but it is important to help him by making him understand that you are well aware that his old life was not summed up in a few boxes.
9. Read him a book about moving
Why do people move, what’s happening on the day with the movers, what does the truck look like, why do we need boxes, what will they discover in their new home, how will the first day be spent in their new school? Children’s books show a character who is going through the same situation as your child. She will be able to identify — which is a very good way of dramatizing the event and preparing her for the small details that could be stressful. Here are a few options for little children:
The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day by Stan and Jan Berenstain
Tigger’s Moving Day by Kathleen W. Zoehfeld and Robbin Cuddy