Moving to a new home can be stressful for everyone, but especially for children. Younger kids often become confused when their daily routine is disrupted, while adolescents fear the loss of old friends and dread the prospect of having to make new ones in a strange school or neighborhood. But there are steps you can take to help alleviate their fears and get them involved in the move.
First, it's important for parents to demystify the moving process by providing children with as much information as possible and allowing them to participate in decision-making discussions. This will give children a sense of control and help relieve anxiety.
Talk about the positive aspects of their new home, school and neighborhood. Try to communicate the idea that the new home, if given a fair chance, can be even better than the old one. Encourage questions and invite children to talk about their worries.
For younger children, the move should be made into an exciting adventure. Encourage your child to pack his or her own things, but be sure to leave favorite toys out until the very end. Act out moving day well ahead of time. A conversation could go something like this: "On Friday when you wake up, there will be a big truck in the driveway. We will have breakfast, then go into your room and show the movers which things to put on the truck. Then, after the truck is filled we will get in our car and go to our new home. Then we will tell the movers exactly where to put your things in your new room...."
Because we all fear the unknown, if possible, take children with you to look at potential neighborhoods, homes/apartments, and schools. It may be more expensive and require extra effort, but it will ease the transition and help children begin to make the adjustment. If this is not possible, take a camera or video recorder with you when you go. Your children will appreciate the photos and/or video that you bring back, and it will help them begin the transition. You can also use a map to help them understand the new area and the route you will take to get there.
If your children are really young, consider hiring a baby-sitter while you pack and on moving day. Otherwise, resist the temptation to send children away during the move. Participating will help them understand what's happening and adjust more easily to their new surroundings. Even so, don't be dismayed if your child exhibits regressive behavior such as bed-wetting or thumb sucking. It's quite normal.
Make it fun
For older children, a move that involves leaving friends, sports teams and favorite hangouts behind can be extremely difficult. Help them say good-bye to friends by hosting a good-bye party. Emphasize how easy it is to keep in touch through e-mail and the telephone; you could even give each of your children his or her own address book and make the party an opportunity for friends to write in their personal contact information.
Give older children a disposable camera and ask them to photograph your move. Once you arrive and are settled in, make time together to create the "moving" chapter of your family photo album.
Have your kids draw a picture of how they will arrange their new room.
If at all possible, time the move to coincide with the start of a new school year or term. Contact coaches and club advisors at the new school and ask them to assist your child with the transition.
Get back to status quo
When you are settled in your new home, resume familiar routines as soon as possible. If it is a tradition in your family to watch cartoons on Saturday mornings, for example, you should continue the practice as soon as possible in your new home.
It's O.K. to cry
Finally, don't take it personally if your children blame you for the difficulty of a move. No matter how well you've prepared them, expect them to be a little upset and allow them some time to grieve. They will almost certainly grow to love their new home just as much as the old one.