Before the Move
Earlier preparations may have a huge impact on how easily your kids adapt. Start calmly breaking the news to your kids about a month in advance, so it gives them enough time to process the information. Let your kids take shots and choose pictures of your house, their friends, school, and favorite neighborhood spots. Put up the book together and the last picture should be your new home.
Talk to your child about what the movie will be like, and what challenges might occur during the process of relocation. Younger kids also benefit from transitional exercises before a relocation; let your child help out with packing, or encourage her to choose the color of her new room. Involving children in the move in this way has the added benefit of making them feel in control at a time when events in their lives can seem out of their hands.
When you talk about the relocation with your child, focus on the good things about the movie. Maybe you will be moving to a bigger house, or to a warmer climate. Maybe the child’s new school will have more extracurricular opportunities. Your own attitude toward the relocation can also have a tremendous impact on how your child handles the move. Try to stay positive, even when you are feeling overwhelmed.
During the Move
Assign children duties such as labeling boxes or helping to pack small items. Tell them how much you appreciate their help. In general, letting kids feel a sense of mastery, makes the difference in the move. Arrange for a neighbor, friend or relative to watch younger children during the moving process. Be sure the kids are close by to see what’s happening but not in the path of the movers. Mark boxes that need to be opened immediately, such as a box containing your child’s favorite stuffed animal or other cherished items. Set up the children’s rooms first, so kids will quickly get a sense of familiarity and keep occupied unpacking and arranging their stuff.
Create a cartoon map of the new location in which kids can fill-in-the-blanks. Include things such as the new address, phone number, closest pizza place, new school, and other recreational locations.
After the Move
Once you arrive at the new destination, remember that the child is just beginning the most important part of the transition. Talk to teachers at your child’s new school to check on how he or she is adapting. Kids must acclimate to a new school, where they might find themselves lagging behind the rest of their classmates. Many children worry about being “the new kid,” and some find it hard to make new friends.
Take family walks around the neighborhood. This is a good way to meet neighbors and potential new friends. For many kids, and especially for adolescents, the hardest part of relocating is having to leave close friends behind. Friendships are critical to older children, and teenagers can feel very isolated after moving to a community where they don’t have a built-in peer group. Signing kids up for extracurricular activities is a great way to help them meet children with similar interests.
It’s important for kids to know that moving to a new community doesn’t mean that they can’t hold on to meaningful friendships. Thanks to an abundance of social media outlets, children can stay in contact with old friends, and you should encourage your child to use social media as a means of keeping in touch.