Whether you're headed across the country or across town, moving to a new home is a challenge. Add children to the equation and the to-do list gets longer, the logistics grow more complicated, and the stress level soars.
"Even babies react to the chaos and frenzy of a move, becoming fussier or more clingy than usual," says Stuart Copans, M.D., a child psychiatrist and coauthor of Smart Moves: Your Guide Through the Emotional Maze of Relocation (Smith and Kraus, 1996). When children of any age feel their parents' tension rising, they respond by expressing their own anxiety through whining, sulking, or full-blown tantrums.
But children aren't merely reacting to parental stress: The move itself is tough for kids even as young as 3 or 4. "At this age, children's identities revolve around where they play, sleep, and live," says Javad Kashani, M.D., a professor of pediatrics and psychology at Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, and coauthor of Raising Happy Children (Three Rivers Press, 1999). Preschoolers often have intimate relationships with objects such as their toy box or their bed, so for them, the packing process alone can be deeply unsettling. When the things that have always surrounded them start to disappear into boxes, "it's a unique kind of separation anxiety," Dr. Kashani says.
Older children often have an even tougher time because they've developed emotional bonds beyond the home -- with friends, schoolmates, and neighbors. "Moving can elicit feelings of sadness, anger, and fear," Dr. Copans explains. "It's hard for children to say good-bye to the only place they've ever known.
Many families don't have the luxury of choosing the time when they move. That decision is often dictated by the start date of a new job or the closing date on a house, or both. But if you do have leeway, it's best to move in late spring or early summer.
The pace of life is more laid-back at this time of the year, and you'll have a chance to settle in before everyone's schedule picks up in the fall. What's more, it's easier to meet neighbors during warm-weather months. Kids are more likely to be playing outdoors, and communities generally hold block parties, street fairs, and other neighborhood events. And if your children are school-age, this timing allows them an opportunity to adjust to their new home during vacation and begin school at the start of a new year.
Copyright © 2002 Emily Perlman Abedon. Reprinted with permission from the June 2002 issue of Parents magazine.