One out of 5 American families move each year and it's a pretty common event today with all the job transfers, getting closer to your family and chasing the American dream. Moving with children can be an exciting adventure or it can be a stressful challenge. No matter how experienced you and your family are at moving it can bring a variety of different situations. Many prepared families report back that found their moving experience brought them closer together.
Confusion and disorder will present many more challenges to a peaceful move. It can really take a toll on us physically and mentally. If your move is brought about by death in the family, divorce or even job loss there is an element of grief or loss that ads to our ability to plan and organize. When children are part of the move we need to be fully aware of the chaos, short patience, lack of attention, they might encounter from us. Remember, a successful move with children should include them whatever the situation is.
Infant / Toddler:
Generally speaking this is the best stages of moving with children as they tend to make the moving transition quite well. In the final weeks before the move they will often pick up on the stress and anxiety levels and could become fussy and demanding. Remember to plan ahead if at all possible giving yourself more time to pack as you may encounter more interruptions with child care needs. Your child may need more attention than usual and it is common for your toddler or infant to demand it with bad behavior or needy cries. You might consider a family member help out with child care, try packing during nap times or at night while they sleep. Keeping your routine as normal as possible during these times are especially important. Be sure to set enough time aside to play with and show love to your child. It is also a good idea to set their favorite teddy bear or security blanket in the DO NOT pack area.
Preschooler / kindergartner:
This is a great age to move as they tend to express a lot of excitement especially when they are involved in some way. They may not totally understand what is really going on so you might want to keep the details to a minimum. Keeping your routine stable and predictable will help with your child's anxiety and stress levels. Try to pack their belonging last leaving them their familiar toys and activities to occupy them. When it's time to pack up their belongings try to involve them by allowing them to place their stuff in the box. You might even let them write their own name on the carton and let them unpack the box at the new house. You might have to remind them that the same rules apply at the new house such as no coloring on the walls, no touching the knobs on the stove, etc.
Mid Aged Children:
By now your child has good knowledge of loss and discovering new. Often this age child is eager to help in the planning process and enjoy being included in the planning stages as well as the entire process. Using their eager enthusiasm to create a list in their bedroom of items they would like to donate or throw away will keep them busy and productive. They could help in many ways such as box labeling, taping cartons, bringing you items to be packed or even spending time with the family pet. Once you decide your new location it is a recommended taking your child to his/her new school for a tour. Be sure to point out familiar places like the bathrooms, cafeteria, library, the gymnasium. Finally, taking a family walk around the neighborhood with him/her will get them accustomed to the new houses and people in their new neighborhood. This may present a perfect opportunity to point out places and things that seem to be unsafe for your child.
This is the most difficult age for relocating to a new location. They have made some pretty good friends and have created some meaningful social groups. They have formed some tight bonds with teachers, neighbors, and may have developed a romantic relationship. Although, they are mature enough to understand the reasons for the relocation they might not accept it or be prepared emotionally to leave their friends and their status. There is no doubt, moving can very difficult at this age. Many parents postpone telling their teens they are moving, hoping that it will be a surprise and they will accept it easier but often that's not the best method. Telling your teens early on will generally make it easier all the way around. This will give them time to process the ideas and prepare for the loss of their friends. Saying good-bye to their friends takes time and it's not an easy task. Many of them like to do special things together so they will have good memories. You might even plan a moving away party for them with all their close friends.
Teens usually have their social skills perfected by now and have no problem making new friends but even the most social teens may worry about fitting in with the new crowd or starting over again. Before spending money on new school clothes it might help to visit their new school and let your child take notice of any certain styles or fads that may be new to your child. You can also help them by paying close attention to their feelings and concerns without lecturing them or getting defensive. Remember they are experiencing a sense of loss and need parental support. They will be less likely to show signs of anger, resentment or even depression.
We all need time to adjust to our new surroundings and new atmosphere. Research has suggested it could take up to 18 months to adapt and adjust. The most stressful time for us is two before and two after the transition. The adjustment can be less stressful when the family pulls together as a team and forms a tighter family bond. The team work should continue once you are fully relocated in your new town as occasionally the grief and reality of loss doesn't set in right away and may cause more stress once you are fully settled in. Depending on the child's coping skills and if they are pushed to the limit you may even wish to seek short term counseling.
Provide understanding - Allow your child to express his / her feelings and emotions. Let them know it's okay to feel positive or negative feeling about the move and that's its normal. Let them know it's natural to feel anxiety and grief. Encourage them to communicate with you.
Provide Stability - Be a positive role model for your child. Much of the stress and anxiety can be eliminated in your home by creating a positive atmosphere. Get exited, get motivated and make it pleasant for everyone involved.
Provide Patience - Often patience can lead the way and create a positive experience. We all have different comfort levels of the unknown or of new things. New or different environments can cause an immediate stress for some individuals and it's important to address those fears until a healthy adjustment has been made.
Provide Support - You might want to consider a pre-paid phone or phone card for your teen to stay in touch with their old friends. If that doesn't fit your budget than consider a book of stamps and a pad of paper. Keep in mind that your teen could blame you for their loss and resent you for it. The more support you can provide your teen could benefit you in the long run.
Provide New Activity - You will want to take some time to spend with your teen searching out activities in your new town. You may want to look up local churches that provide youth events, 4-H groups, Boy Scouts / Girl Scouts, local roller skating, community sports or even part time jobs. Remember to set aside a day or two just for them will probably make your life a bit easier.
Provide Proper Resources - With today's super highway of information on the web we have many resources out there that can help our children in tough times such as moving. There are many variables to moving and they all have unique situations. Using the proper information for your child's age group will benefit everyone.