9 ways to help kids thrive when moving shows compassion and helps them make a healthy transition.
Moving closer to the center of San Diego was on my mind when my brand new car hit 36,000 miles in the first year I owned it. Our son was three at the time and was not attached to many things so we thought nothing of it. It’s when he began hugging our living room walls good-bye and asking if he could bring at least one of his toys with him to the new house that we realized he thought moving meant he left everything he owned behind.
One of the top major stressful transitions in life is moving your family home – right up there with death and divorce and no matter how resilient you or your children are or how used you are to moving, each move is a physical, social and emotional strain on everyone involved.
As adults, we have better coping mechanisms in place to be able to deal with moving because it’s usually our choice whether we decide to move. However, our children aren’t the ones who were involved in the matter and it’s usually scary because it’s a surprise or new information that they haven’t had a chance to fully grasp.
Some children are more affected than others and according to Psychology Today, children that suffer the most with a move are those who are introverted, have tendencies towards anxiety and inflexibility and are in the middle school years.
It is our job as parents to help our children prepare for the move and ensure a smoother transition. With the right tools and strategies in place, we can do just that. In our list of 9 ways to help kids thrive when moving is more about the tools of patience and strategies of love for them.
Here are some thoughts to help your children thrive during this transition.
1. Talk about the move early
When you find out about the move, discuss it with your children. There is nothing worse than letting them find out from an overheard conversation. Keep your kids informed every step of the way of what is happening and when, as it pertains to them. If they are much younger, still talk about it but don’t confuse them with dates. Prepare them for what it will feel like, look like and what will happen on the day and the months afterwards. Don’t dwell on it but talk about it so they’re prepared. If you move a lot, be upfront about how long you might be in one place and make the most of it.
2. Focus on the positives of the move
The positives for your kids and family will change for every move. It might be that you are going to be closer to family and friends, moving to a new location with lots of adventure and travel, more sporting opportunities, having their own bedrooms or making new friends. You might be moving to your own house or a bigger house or a better location.
Research the location together and find the best parks, restaurants and places to ride bikes (if that is what your kids are into). If you can’t go to location beforehand, Google Maps are great to see where you will live and what is around.
Focus on positives from the last move. When we moved to America, we lived in a suburban street and didn’t know anyone. We had to form our own community and while we were doing it. We relied on each other for entertainment and adventure and it has been pivotal for all other moves to remember this. Maybe the last move was easier because you already knew people there or know the location you were moving to.
3. Be super organized before and on move day
Ensure the house is move ready. If the kids are old enough, have them to help you put everything in place.
Prepare the kids for the day by talking about the timings, what happens and where the truck goes with all their belongings. If your kids are young, organize for them to be else where on the actual day everything is loaded onto the truck. It is hard when their favorite bike or bed is put onto the truck and they don’t understand where it is going.
4. Organize schools in advance
Getting your kids into the ‘right’ school is so important to a great transition. It may be the reason you’re family is moving in the first place. If you know where you’ll be in advance find the schools and apply about a year early. Hedge your bets and apply to three or four schools that suit your family and your children. For example, if you are moving to San Diego or Carlsbad ask around and research three schools you can see your children going to in high school and do your best to apply to them as soon as possible. Use sources like Greatschools.org or Niche.com and California School Dashboard to help you understand how schools are rated.
San Diego Unified School choice is from mid October to mid November every year for the following school year. Charter schools usually want you to have applied by early February in the spring prior. Great private schools have at least a year wait list.
If your move is imminent and you know which school your child is going to, organize a school visit or attend an open house. Also, some schools dress code requires the children wear uniforms. Buy their uniforms before they start school so they can picture it.
Once your child is at school, make settling in socially and emotionally the number one focus. Academics will follow.
If your child has a supportive teacher, makes a good friend or two early on and enjoys the classroom – they will thrive. To facilitate this, be at school pick up to meet some of their friends and the other parents, organize playdates early on, find other community groups to join, take an interest in their new friends and talk about how their lunch was and who they played with. You may need to talk about strategies here with your child to help them make friends.
5. Validate EVERYONES emotions
All children will all react differently. Some will lash out with anger, other retreat, others cry – whatever it is, validate it as a real feeling and talk through it.
For example, if your child is sad because they will miss their friends, validate that feeling. Tell them is it completely normal to feel like this and you feel like it to. Talk about what they will miss about their friends and all the fun things they have done together. The worst thing to say here is ‘don’t worry, you will make new ones’. Right now, they don’t want to think about any new friends and it will probably spark more anxiety over leaving their friends to have to find new ones. Talk about their great ability to make friends and how easily they did it at this school.
A great resource for exploring emotions around moving is the movie ‘Inside Out’ – watching it may help your child name their feelings and talk to you about it. This is only one of the 9 ways to help kids thrive when moving tips that will keep you and your family sane.
Validate them and talk to your children about how you are feeling (without over catastrophizing). Talk to them about what you do when you are sad or upset to help them with their own feelings.
6. Stay in control
If you are strong and in control – your children will be too. If you are positive – you will help your children to be positive. While it is a lot of added pressure for parents at move time, we are our children’s biggest role models currently and need to remember this.
There is so much to do physically that tensions can build at this time between you and your partner. Try to resolve them quickly and work together as much as you can. Your children will pick up on every little bit of stress and adversity and react accordingly.
This is where you can use your support networks to help. Ask a friend to pick up your kids on the days of your move or bring you dinner or come over with a coffee on move day. Don’t try to do it alone – others will help you to keep it together and stay strong for your families.
7. Keep boundaries, routines and habits in place as much as possible
As much as possible, keep you children’s regular boundaries, routines and habits in place, especially around morning and bedtime routines. If your kids clean their teeth and then you read them a story before bed – keep doing it. Remind them to use their manners, if it’s already considered a habit. Continue to feed them lunch at a certain time, do it. Keep meeting their needs as much as possible; otherwise this puts added strain on emotions and relationships.
Be prepared that some of this will slip because everything is every where and that is OK if you can get back to it as quickly as possible. When the rules and boundaries stay the same, your kid’s feel reassured this is a relatively normal thing to do.
8. Create a Special Ending
Saying goodbye to friends is an important step to finishing in one place and moving to the next. They feel significant and belonging from the community they have been part of and leave on a good note. You could organize a class leaving party after school, or invite a few friends over for a sleep over.
Taking an idea from someone else- consider having your children take a school shirt in for every student in their class to sign and also made up little ‘Stay In touch’ cards with their new address to hand out to friends. As a family, you might spend the last few weeks doing your favorite things while you are still in your current home, like going to your favorite restaurant or going to your favorite park.
This will cement the fun memories you have had in this location. Share Skype or social media contacts with the parents (or among the children if they are old enough) and promise to keep in touch. This tip of the 9 ways to help kids thrive when moving is my favorite.
9. Give your family at least 6 months to settle in
This is so easy to blow off!! It takes TIME to settle in.
Give yourself and your family at least 6 to 12 months to feel like you are part of the new location and communicate this with your children. Don’t expect that after a month or two, it will all be smooth running. It takes time to break into any community and form the friendships and to develop routines.
After you’ve read 9 ways to help kids thrive when moving shows compassion and helps them make a healthy transition and still have questions, call me or send me an email, I’ll be happy to help you sell your home when you are ready.
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