Statistically, families are moving and relocating much more frequently than they did in the past. It might be from one part of the city to another, it might be right across the country, or it might be to another part of the world. Whatever the case, moves and relocations are difficult and stressful for a family, and particularly for the children. The truth is, all children, at all ages, will feel the stress, and will navigate through the process in a different way. The key is positive management.
Positive and Negative Attitudes
Children generally focus on the negative when the family is moving. They are leaving friends behind; there’s a loss of belonging; and a future as newcomers. Not only that, there will be an impending school change, along with academic and extracurricular adjustments. Here, the key to success is for parents to emphasize the positive aspects of relocation as much as possible, while still acknowledging the sacrifices and losses.
Children Need to Express Feelings
Children need appropriate notice with a life event like relocation – they need time to get used to it. They should be given every opportunity to express feelings, while the parents acknowledge the sadness of leaving behind everything familiar. Parents should also make a point of recognizing the stress of future uncertainties. But most important is to assure children that the move will be made as easy as stress-free as is possible.
Focusing More on the Excitement
With any move, the entire family, including kids, will experience stress of some sort. But moving and/or relocation can also be part adventure, part exploratory, and part experimental. In fact, fear can often be an exciting and stimulating experience. Here, a good exercise for the children is to encourage involvement - making actual plans for the move; making “to do” lists for tasks; even creating project ideas for the new home.
Visiting the New Neighborhood
Paying a visit to the new neighborhood has benefits. Indeed, things may not be that different. Driving by the new school, or dropping in for a visit can do wonders for reducing potential stress. It may also be good to visit the new home, explore the new bedroom, and even check out the local amenities. And there’s much to be said for letting kids participate in some of the key decisions, especially ones that have personal impact.
Keeping in Touch with the Old
Keeping in touch with old friends and neighbors should be encouraged. Having a farewell party, particularly for the kids, is highly recommended. Where possible, visiting the old neighborhood is also advisable, as well as inviting old neighbors to your place. There’s no reason to break ties with friends and neighbors who have become close and intimate. In fact, this aspect of moving is as important to adults as it is to children.
Moving is truly a Family Event
Whatever the size of the family, moving should be a team effort – its absolutely critical to support each another, and even more necessary when children are older. Everyone will need to adjust to the new home, the new neighborhood, and the new community. By any measure, moving is one of the most stressful life events, but with right approach and attitude, it can bring a family closer. Everyone just has to work together.