We are moving to a new community. How can we help our children with this big change?
Most people think that, in general, moving is harder on an older child - high school students, for instance, who are asserting their identities, forming meaningful friendships and becoming achievement-oriented. Older children do benefit from permanence and stability. Nevertheless, youngsters in middle childhood have some major adjustments to make, too, even if they seem more flexible. Children, of course, are different, and no two will handle a move quite the same.
Positive and Negative Aspects
Children tend to think about the negative side when a family moves. There is the loss of friends and, along with it, loss of a sense of belonging. In the new community the children will be newcomers, strangers and may need to learn some different social rules. In changing schools they might have to leave behind extracurricular activities that were important to them.
In helping your child prepare for a move, place as much emphasis as possible on the positive aspects of what awaits her. This is an opportunity for her to live in and learn about a new city, perhaps even a new country, and its people. She may be exposed to new cultural traditions and interesting and different ways of life. It also is a chance to meet new people and make new friends. Explain how the family will benefit from the move.
Let Your Children Express Their Feelings
Give your children adequate notice to get used to the idea of moving - even a year in advance may be appropriate. Acknowledge their sadness about leaving behind friends and familiar places. Let them know you are sympathetic and that you understand that they might feel nervous about what awaits them, whether it is the new people, the new school or the new bus ride.
If you are also experiencing stress about the move, be open with these feelings. At the same time, keep in mind that your own anxiety might rub off on your child. For that reason, try maintaining and communicating an optimistic attitude about what lies ahead.
Emphasize The Excitement of Moving
Remind your children that while the move may be making everyone a bit uneasy, it will also be adventurous and interesting. Use the example of the pioneers or the immigrants who overcame their own fears and traveled to new lands, where they encountered new and stimulating experiences.
Take Your Children To The Community Where You Will Be Moving
Look for new things your children might enjoy. For example, if the family is moving to a larger house, maybe your children will get a room of their own for the first time. If you are moving to a different climate, there may be opportunities for new activities (skiing, sledding, ice skating; or, in warmer climates, the chance to play outdoors year-round). Plan in advance to enrol your children in lessons, and the like so they have something to look forward to and so they don't lose out on opportunities.
Make The Move A Family Event
If you plan the move as a family, and support one another as you adjust to the new community, it can bring your family closer together. Let your children know that you will be available to help them deal with any problems and concerns that arise.