When parents decide to move, children often find it very difficult to leave the home they've known. Besides becoming disjointed from a circle of friends, a move disrupts a child's feeling of mastery of his environment -- knowing where all the playgrounds, stores, and schools in their community are located, notes says Peter Gorski, MD, FAAP, a specialist in developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston.
It's important that parents try to spend a lot of time with their children before the move -- even though the details can be overwhelming, notes Marjorie Shorrock, president of Resource Careers, a Cleveland-based company that specializes in relocation services for families. Here are eight recommended methods to make the moving process as smooth as possible for your children.
1. Present the move as positive. Let your child know that relocating is best for everyone in the family. When both parents are equally excited about moving, it's easy to convey that enthusiasm to children. You can tell them, for example, "We're moving to a bigger house because we think it will be more comfortable for our family." Even if the reasons for your move are bittersweet, it's still important to present a united front and explain that the move is the best option for the family.
2. Explain the process. Talk about the moving process in detail. No matter what age you child is, the whole idea of moving becomes more clear when you explain what will happen step by step. Kids need to hear that their belongings will be packed in boxes, that a truck will come to take the boxes to the new house, and that they will travel by car to their new home, for instance.
3. Get your child involved. Have your child play a role in the move. For example, ask her to pack her most precious toys in a box and supervise the box being put in the moving van. You can also give your child crayons and let her color the moving boxes. The scribbles and designs make it easy to identify a kid's boxes when the moving truck unloads. Once the move is complete, let your child play a role in decorating her new room.
4. Visit your new neighborhood. Familiarize your kids with the new neighborhood before you move. If you live within driving distance, frequent visits to your new house or community are helpful. Even if you can't go inside, you can drive by the house and explore the town to locate favorite restaurants, playgrounds, schools, parks, libraries, and video stores. If your child is changing schools, it's a good idea to tour the new school beforehand and to meet the new teacher. If you aren't within driving distance of your new community, you can locate the town on the map, talk about the nearby points of interest, and make a list of the attractions your family will want to visit.
5. Encourage talking. Let your child talk about his feelings. The first questions toddlers and preschoolers have relate to their prized possessions, such as, "Can I take my blankie?" School-age children are more concerned with making friends and being able to participate in their favorite activities. They need reassurance that they'll be able to play sports, take dance lessons, or pursue whatever interests they enjoy the most.
6. Keep old friends. Encourage your child to maintain contact with old friends. Before you leave, pass around an address book so that you have all your child's friends' names, addresses, and phone numbers in one place. You might want to do this at a going-away party. It's also a good idea to hand out stamped postcards and envelopes with your child's name and new address. You can also budget for some long-distance phone calls back home to maintain close relationships. In addition, try to make at least one trip back to the old neighborhood in the first year, if possible.
7. Enroll your child in activities. Once you make the move, plug into community activities quickly. It's a good idea to investigate your child's options before you move so you won't miss registration days. School, sports, and scouting are obvious ways for kids to connect with others, but parents can also take an active role in moving new friendships along on trips to the mall or the movies.
8. Keep your child entertained. Keep your children amused while you pack and unpack. Seasoned movers advise that parents pack up their children's rooms last and unpack them first. That way children always have a place to go where they can rest and play safely. Try taking a break from the chores that accompany a new home and do something fun with your child.
The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.