It’s important to remember that children like familiarity and consistency, and a move is as stressful to them as it to you, only that younger children lack the ability to vocalize their concern and anxiety. Here are a few things I’ve found might help if you have a move upcoming and children still living at home.
Set the Stage
As with any relationship, communication is the key. Prior to beginning the process of looking at new houses or packing boxes have a “family meeting” explaining what you are doing and how the process is going to work. While your children might not have any questions at that time make sure to explain that you will answer any questions later. As this article from KidsHealth explains:
Try to give them as much information about the move as soon as possible. Answer questions completely and truthfully, and be receptive to both positive and negative reactions. Even if the move means an improvement in family life, kids don’t always understand that and may be focused on the frightening aspects of the change.
Involve the children in as much of the planning as possible. Doing so makes them feel as though their feelings, and thoughts are important and they are an active participant in the home search.
If the move is more long distant, provide lots of information on the area where you’re moving to. Doing an internet search of the area, highlighting local attractions, restaurants, proximity to activities the child enjoys doing.
Nobody to likes to say goodbye to their friends. Children as young as 3 have play friends that are really important to them. Plan ahead on how to help your child say goodbye to their close friends. Perhaps help them make a photo album or scrapbook full of good memories. For older children, provide a notebook for them to write down friends’ addresses, emails, or even Skype usernames. Technology has enabled communication for all of us, including our younger children.
Boxing and Unboxing
Clutter is the enemy that every seller deals with, and anyone who has ever lived with children understand that clutter seems to grow in multiples of 10 with each child in the home. From my experience with sellers who had children, the best first step is to include the child in finding out-of-date or broken toys to either donate or throw away. The children often appreciate the fact that other children will be able to play with their old toys. I’ve heard of other parents do a 10 for 1 toy exchange– 10 toys donated in exchange for 1 new toy.
When the day comes to move in, keep the important toys in a box that can be easily reached. Once at the new house, have the child help unbox it and start the process of creating their new space with familiar items.
Meanwhile, maintain routines as much as you can. Even though you may be surrounded by the mess called packing, dinnertime and bedtime rituals can stay the same. Children thrive on predictable things happening at usual times. You may find that it helps you feel less scattered as well.
Don’t forget that moving is extremely stressful for everyone involved. Often children will find negative outlets as a way to express their stress. Doing a few small things to prepare children for the move and the change in friends, can help reduce anxiety and make a smoother transition.