Moving With Children

Making Easy Transitions

Moving is seldom easy for adults or children; however, this area is a great place to live, and we'd like to make it easier to get the children excited about the experience.  If children are having difficulty adjusting to the idea of moving, parents can help them put it in proper perspective.  A change in houses or communities often means an important step forward for the adult members of the family.

Helping Your Children Feel At Home

On average, people typically live in a house for about four to seven years and then move on as their careers allow.  That amount of time is small for a 30- or 40-year-old, but those same years are over half the lifetime of an eight year old, and it includes almost all the years he or she can remember.  To children, this house may be the only home they have ever known. This is their home:  the place where they feel safe and comfortable.  A house is much more than a roof and walls to a child.  It is the center of his or her world.  A move threatens to take that security away.  The familiar friends, schools, shops and theaters, the streets, trees, and parks will no longer exist for them.  Everything will be different, and they will live in someone else's world. This can be very stressful for a child.

Be Positive

The impact of a move on a child usually starts about the time he or she first hears about a possible move and often continues until the new house becomes home, and memories of the previous place fade. Most teenagers see themselves as adult members of the family and will probably feel they have been left out if they don't hear everything from the first day.  But it is probably not a good idea to tell toddlers and preschoolers until they have to know.  There is no point in making them worry far in advance.  But be sure to announce the move in a positive way.

Set The Tone

You can do this by saying how proud you are that daddy's company has chosen him to manage a new office in Chambersburg.  Talk about what a beautiful city Chambersburg is, how good the schools are, and how friendly the people are. Tell them about how nice the new house will be. Ask them what the favorite things are in their lives now and then try to recreate them in the new home.  If the new house is too far away to allow a visit by the entire family after it has been selected, show the children pictures of it.  Videotape it, if possible.

Parents, Be Good Listeners

Emphasize the positive views, and be sure to include pictures of each child's new room.  Since children can quickly see the negative sides of most situations, parents must plan to deal with their children's worries and fears.  Children will lose friends they may have known all their lives.  They will leave behind their sports teams, their clubs, and their dancing teachers. They will have to start over in a new place, making friends, getting accepted, and fitting into different groups. Younger children need protection from fear of the unknown.  Listen carefully to their concerns and respond quickly to allay their apprehensions.  Find those anxieties, and address them positively.

Get Your Children Involved Too

The best tactic is to get the children actively involved in the process. Don't just promise to let them decorate their own rooms; take them to the paint store, and let them pick the colors. Shop for comforters and towels and carpets.

Since children must leave old friends behind, find ways to make that parting easier.  Plan a going-away party, and let them invite their own guests.  Take pictures of everyone, and make a scrapbook.  If a child is old enough, send him or her out with a roll of film and a camera with the assignment to photograph things they will want to remember.  Some relationships will be extremely difficult to break, and these will demand careful, thoughtful consideration by both parents. How, for instance, do you move a 16-year-old 1,000 miles from her steady boyfriend?

Stay In Touch With Friends Left Behind

Expect that your children may be even more distressed after the move than they were before it.  The new house will not be beautiful the night after the moving van leaves.  Your furniture may not fit the rooms.  The curtains won't be up, and every spot on the floor will be covered.  Your children won't know anyone at school, and, if you move during the summer, they may have little opportunity to meet anyone their own age.  They will need your help, and you should plan to give them the support they need.  After the move, give each of them a long distance telephone call allowance so they can keep in touch with the people back home who matter the most to them.  Buy a stack of picture postcards that show positive views of your new community, and encourage them to write positive messages to the friends and relatives they left behind.

Involvement Is Critical

To make new friends, make sure the children don't vegetate in front of the television. Get them outside where neighbors pass by. Have them pass out fliers to do babysitting or car washing. Encourage them to participate in as many school activities as they can handle.  Get them on sports teams and into clubs.  If they, and you, aren't making new friends fast enough, throw a housewarming party for yourselves, and invite all the adults and children on the block.

If serious emotional or attitude problems arise, help is usually available and probably should be sought. Ask a teacher for help.  Consider professional counseling.  Don't let a serious problem slide.  Remember that the newness will wear off.  New friends will become old friends and best friends.

This new house may become the family homestead your grandchildren will visit every holiday.  There will be discomforts, but in the long run, everything will work out just fine.  Optimism and planning is key to a well-adjusted family during a move.

Get you child involved in the homebuying process.  Why not sit down now and search for homes together with your child.

Questions? Just Ask!

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