One of the most problematic and overlooked issues within the moving process is children. No matter how much you involve them as you hunt for your new home, the actual move will have an extreme effect on them. Every parent needs to take the time and effort to address needs, worries, thoughts and wishes to ensure your children are not feeling tossed about.
Moving affects even the youngest children. From a young age kids can recognize their environments – and home is somewhere they feel comfortable and secure. As they get older, you factor in other concerns such as school, friends and even how attached they are to their bedroom. No matter how great your move really is, you have to remember that they may not see it that way to start with.
Communicate with your children at all times. You may not think they are paying attention, but the information will filter in somewhere! Tell them why the move is necessary and ask their opinion. Allow plenty of opportunity for them to voice concerns and really listen to any positive feelings they may have. Not hearing anything positive from them? Try asking them what they would like in a school and give them time or have them with you while you do your homework- researching appropriate schools. Don’t have a choice? Let them know that. Even the most complicated situation can be dumbed down and edited for the smallest children.
Treat your move as a positive thing and they’re most likely to do the same. According to the age of your children you may see various reactions ranging from over-excitement to apathy to downright resentment. Help them talk through their feelings about the move and explain why you are moving. Even young kids can understand reasons. You can avoid having rebellious children who feel they have no control over the change. Involvement and being honest is the key. They may still act out in stress, pretty much par for the course, but they won’t make the process purposefully harder if they know why, how, when, and have a say in the matter at all times. Their “say” does not mean they have the power to change the situation, but it will give them a better sense of control.
Don’t just tell them you’ll be packing up their stuff, let them help and encourage them to pack and unpack it themselves at the other end. If this part worries you teach them how. If they do something wrong tell them why. If they do something right or think of a way you had not concidered give them full credit. Talk to them about your new home and let them plan redecorating their bedroom or help them think about where their furniture will go. Encourage them to keep in touch with their friends and tell them they can phone or email as much as they like and have friends come visit once you’re settled. Take time out of moving for last time sleep overs and play dates. There is no such thing as “there is no place” and “we are too soon to leave”. Just as you are mentally and emotionally preparing in your own way, you need to give a little and allow them the same courtesy. Most of their old friendships will die a natural death if there is distance involved (just don’t tell them this – it’ll make them feel worse!).
The timing of your move can have a serious impact. Sometimes we have no choice but, if you do, talk to your kids about when you plan to move. Teenagers often find it hard to change schools during a school year, for example, when they’ll stand out as the new boy/girl. It’s easier to get lost in the crowd at the beginning of the year when everyone is settling down again. Younger children, however, often benefit from moving mid-school year, as they aren’t so embarrassed by the attention. Though many families tend to gravitate towards moving during a holiday (other than summer) this may not be your best option since your family may need to celebrate something to help relieve stress.
The actual process of packing up for a move can alarm some children – especially if they don’t like disruption. Try to leave the packing up of their stuff until late in the process and then let them help you – no matter how young they are – and explain that their toys and games will soon be back with them. If your older kids are protective of their privacy give them some boxes and packing tips and a deadline to pack then let them get on with it. With young children be prepared for constant questions through the moving process – kids will often show their anxiety by asking the same things over and over again. Don’t pack up favorite toys and comforters etc., until the very last minute – they’re going to need them! Kids of all ages should be allowed to have a bag or box for the moving day and the next few days after that to cover their immediate needs. Let them choose what goes in here – if they have stuff they want it’ll take the pressure off you on your moving day and until you start getting them settled into your new home.
You’ll probably find you have the most problems with kids approaching or in their teenage years – especially if you’re moving to a different area. By this age kids have built a solid base of friends, are settled in their school and are extremely self-conscious. This can make them VERY difficult through the moving process. The key is to remain firm but to communicate with them. Don’t apologize for the move – if it’s necessary they are old enough to accept this. Do talk through what might be worrying them and try to reassure them. The older your kids are the longer it will potentially take them to settle into their new home and you need to be ready for this. In all cases you may well see the effects of moving on your kids for weeks after the move is done.
One of the biggest kid problems is the actual moving day. Young children can get overexcited and get underfoot. It’s always good to involve your kids in the process but you also might want to think about letting them do something else for the day instead. They might actually prefer to spend the day with friends or family having some fun rather than moving. Don’t just make a decision on their behalf however – if they’re old enough ask them what they want to do.
As for your older children, it is common to feel they might be more of a hindrence then help and better to be off elsewhere, but allowing them to bow out can be permission for them to be rebellious on the other end and they might believe that if they refuse to pack or unpack then the move will not be permanent. Being a parent does not mean making their lives easier. We are teachers and our main goal is preparing them to leave our homes. Moving is now a regular part of today’s economy and they must be trained to have the mental and physical strength as well as the knowledge of the process or they will not be capable self sustaining adults. Teach them how to use a dolly and how to properly lift and carry boxes. Show them how to pack the truck and give them the chance to have an opinion of how to piece the puzzle of boxes and odd shaped items. Assume they are doing something wrong for lack of knowledge and not a driving desire for sabatoge.
Alternatively, you may all have a long journey ahead of you before you get to your new home. This is where your box/bag of essentials will be useful – they can divert themselves by playing with toys or listening to music etc., while you manage the drive or the move. In these cases you might also want to buy them a new toy or treat so they have something to look forward to on the journey.
Finally, when you reach your new home it’s a good tip to give priority to setting up their room first of all so that they can start to see their furniture in their new surroundings. You don’t have to unpack and arrange everything but a few pieces of familiar furniture will help. Babies up through teenagers will feel more comfortable if they spend the first night in their new home in their own cot or bed surrounded by their own furniture and stuff.