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Moving Tips – Helping Kids Cope With the Stress of Moving (part 1)

By: Sean Zharfati

When I was five my family moved to Florida; it took me three years to find them… That’s not actually true but behind this famous joke is the reality that moving can be stressful and traumatic for children. To do this issue justice, we’ve split the moving tips into two parts starting with what factors you need to consider…

Why Are You Moving?

Families end up moving for all sorts of reasons; a lot of the time this can be for reasons which are beneficial for kids – a better job for one of the parents, relocating to a bigger place to make room for a new arrival or to be closer to a preferred school. Unfortunately, even in good circumstances, moving home can be unsettling for children if the process isn’t handled in the right way.

Additionally, children moving home often arises from less fortuitous circumstance, including family break-up, or financial restrictions, which make the whole experience of moving more stressful for both parents and children as old certainties vanish simultaneously.

Bottom line – it’s important to understand that the strategies you use will depend on the reason(s) that you are relocating and to cut your cloth accordingly.

The Age of Your Children

Of course, that age at which a child moves and the individual personality of your child will have an impact on both the level of stress felt and the child’s ability to cope. An extroverted child may thrive on the challenge of making new friends whilst a shy one may be filled with anxiety when confronting new social situations.

The good news is that if the right approach is taken, meaning an individual approach designed for each child, then the stress felt by children during the moving process can be minimized or even eliminated. By following our moving tips you can turn moving into a positive experience for your children.

  • Babies and toddlers don’t really understand the intricacies which might prompt a move. While all kids read the reaction of parents and caregivers, this is the most important clue for very young children. The key here is to minimize, where possible, the changes that will take place. Scheduling toilet-training to coincide with a move, or changing bedtimes will only confuse the child; where possible stick to existing routines.
  • School-age children will naturally be concerned with how moving will affect their social status. How will they integrate into a new school environment? Or cope with parting from existing friends? Being able to place two or more siblings in the same school will lessen the impact of moving but even when this is not an option there are other strategies that can be employed such as touring the school in advance. In this case your child will have some familiarity with the school when they begin studying and may even find one or two allies before they’re dropped in the deep end.
  • Adolescents can fully understand the reasons why the family is relocating and, therefore, can be involved in the process of house-hunting, choosing a neighbourhood, or which school they will attend. Giving adolescent children a feeling of control is important in helping them adjust to a move when it might otherwise seem that they are being ripped from established social groups, sporting or academic paths. If handled the right way moving can seem like an exciting adventure rather than something to for your children to dread.

Bottom line – tailor your approach to the respective age of your children.

The logistics of the move

It is also important to factor in the distance you’ll be moving. Local moving obviously involves less drama than schlepping from one side of the country to another.

  • Local moving offers opportunities to minimize change. In this case, children may not even need to change school or kindergarten and even where the distance is such that changing school is more convenient, consider the impact. At the very least ensure that your kids will be able to maintain regular contact with existing friends.
  • Cross country moving is a double-edged sword offering opportunities to exploit the sense of adventure surrounding your move but also by nature long-distance relocation entails significant changes. Involve children where possible, with younger children this might mean letting them choose their bedroom, or giving them a say in how their bedroom will look. Older children can be given a specific responsibility that is relevant to them such as choosing their preferred school (from a list of parent-approved options).

Bottom Line – tailor your approach according to the distance you are moving.

Overall, remember that irrespective of why you are moving; the age of your children; or the distance moving involves; making children feel a sense of ownership in their home is key to helping them cope with a move.

When handled correctly, moving can be a process which enables positive growth for you children leading to better social skills, increased self-reliance and self-confidence.

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