Are your kids ready for that family move?
American Counseling Association
This is usually the busiest time of the year for family moves. It’s also the time, when a move is upcoming, that you’ll get an angry, “Move?!? Who said I wanted to move? Nobody asked me!” response from your children.
While household moves are stressful for all family members, there are things you can do to reduce the anxiety a little for the kids.
Start by answering that “Why do we have to move?” question. Instead of first trying to convince the kids they’ll love the new home, give them honest, age-appropriate reasons for the move. Explaining to young children that you’re moving closer to relatives, or that there’s a great new job or house waiting, often does the trick. Older children may need more detailed answers.
Next share with the kids any specific benefits the move may bring. The new house may mean a room of their own, a swimming pool, or room for a dog. While such information can help lessen the move anxiety, you still should be prepared for both anger and sadness.
A move is often a child’s first experience in meaningful change. There can be a real sense of loss over the schools, friends, sports and other things being left behind. What your child is experiencing is grieving.
Share with your child that you understand and care about such feelings. It can help to create a simple scrapbook of things and people being left behind. Include pictures of favorite places and people, and contact info to help them stay in touch with old friends.
You also want to provide information about the new location. Get a map and mark parks, schools, and other places your kids will care about. Pictures of the new house and neighborhood can also help lessen the anxiety. If possible, take the children for a visit to the new house and neighborhood, walk around and explore.
You can also do things to make the actual move less stressful for the kids. Pack some of the kids’ important personal things in specially marked boxes to be opened first. And make unpacking less stressful by taking your time rather than a race to empty boxes.
Moving to a new home is always a challenge, but with a little planning, understanding and support you can make it much less stressful for your children...and for you.
Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Send comments and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit www.counseling.org.