A move is dramatic enough for adults, imagine what it is like in the small world of a child. Minimizing the trauma of a relocation can be done by allowing the entire family to get involved in the preparations and packing.
Start the Move With an Explanation
Age appropriate information is the first consideration. By having a family meeting that informs everyone of the need or reason for a major move is the first step toward normalizing the situation. Each child’s reaction will be different.
Provide an open environment for the children to express their anxious feelings. One may be concerned about having to leave close friends. Others may be disappointed or angry having to move to a new school. Be patient. Listen closely and respond accordingly.
Introduce Children to the New Location
Once the news has been discussed and concerns addressed, it’s time to bring out the information about the new location.
Do the necessary homework to provide photo’s, maps, school information and community area websites to introduce the children to the new community. Have specific information about the local schools, entertainment, and neighborhood opportunities. Be optimistic but open to resistance.
Even better, have the children join in the investigation of the area for a new home, shopping facilities and other related community needs and support services. Design ways for the children to become active participants in the decision making process. This way, they may begin taking ownership of the move; changing those feelings of something happening to them, to a welcome and excited sense of adventure.
Time the Move
The most difficult aspect of moving for most children is having to relocate to an entirely different school. If there is a way to post-pone the move until the summer break, this will go a long way in helping a child to adjust. If that delay is impossible, consider asking a local relative or close friend to temporarily house, especially an older teen, until the school year is finished.
If a summer move works out, invent ways to get the children involved in the neighborhood as quickly as possible. The sooner they make “new” friends the easier the transition will be. This is especially true for elementary aged children who will enjoy going to school with these new play mates.
Moving Can be a Life Teaching Moment
In the age of internet, text messaging and easy photo and video exchanging over the phone, teach children that the old rhyme still holds true…”Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.”
Help them gather and organize all the contacts they want to take with them. A note book to collect the various connections on Facebook, Twitter, phone numbers and a physical address will help them to not feel as lonely during the move or neighborhood transition.
Don’t Pack Everything
Every child, of any age, has a few items they will not want to part with when boxing things up for the movers. Allow children to choose their most important items, unless space prohibits, to pack with them. This way they will have the comforting awareness that they can access these familiar items any time they choose while everything else is being removed.
Remind them that this is a temporary situation, and they will see their other favorites once they arrive at their new home.
These tips; explaining the reason for a move, introducing the area, reaffirming friendships and keeping emotionally important items close at hand, should help a child wade through change with less drama and easier assimilation into their new community.