Call Margo to talk about happy and comfortable ways to move your children . . . 520-850-0001
The first thing any parent who is contemplating a move with children of any age must do is understand that, as stressful as a move is for you, it is likely more stressful for your child.
For the sake of discussion, let’s make the assumption that your move is for a happy reason. You’ve gotten the promotion of a lifetime and the area to which you are moving is the place that you’ve dreamt of living since you were small. Everything is going to be hunky dory, right? Not so fast.
If you are moving away from friends and family, please remember that your child is moving away from them also. You are an adult and you understand, fully and completely, that you can visit from time to time, talk on the phone, send emails, etc. Your child(ren) may be undergoing deep anxiety and anticipatory mourning for a loss that they may feel is permanent and final. Teenagers, especially if they have lived in one place for a long time, may want to finish High School with their group of friends and may be fearful of finding new friends to bond with at what is the end of their childhood.
First, talk about it. Kids need to know that, while moving or not moving is not up to them, you are concerned with their feelings. Explain that you will help each child transition to the new school and that you will make their new friends welcome in your home.
Help each child fill an address book, which you provide, with the names, phone numbers, addresses and email addresses of his or her friends and of cherished family members and other adults.
Likewise help each child write a note to each friend, to be sent by “snail mail” which will include your child’s new street address, new phone number and email address. If your child wishes to, encourage him or her to write a note to each saying how much they value the friendship and will work to continue it. You are moving your children to Tucson, not the moon, so let your child extend an invitation to friends to come visit now and then and a promise to visit from time to time also.
Have younger children draw a picture or make a craft gift to give to the teacher. Older children may want to write a poem, draw a picture if they are artistic or purchase a small gift. The purpose is closure and saying “Thank You.” If your child is a special needs student perhaps the teacher can provide the teacher in the new school some pointers about how to successfully work with your child.
Obtain each child’s school records and take them with you. If you are moving during the school year arrange a meeting for yourself, your child and your child’s homeroom teacher so that the teacher and your child can say “goodbye” and the teacher can give your child encouragement for his or her next educational experience.
Obtain each child’s medical records and dental records to take with you. Ask each health care professional if they have trusted colleagues in the new city to refer you to.
Make new location familiar through photos. If your child hasn’t been to the new location to see the new house or apartment, provide pictures, especially of the child’s new bedroom. Talk about how his or her “stuff” will look in that room.
Help each child carefully wrap and box their own possessions when the time comes. Don’t allow the mover to do it and don’t you do it alone unless there is compelling reason. Label each box with the contents. This will help each child take some responsibility for the move. Each will know that his or her possessions have been handled with care and respect will arrive at the new location safely.
The suggestions above were made with the assumption that your move is being made under happy circumstances. If your move is being made for any one of a number of “not happy” circumstances (Loss of job, foreclosure of home, death of spouse, divorce of parents and remarriage of custodial parent and so forth) you will want to consider all of those suggestions plus you must assist your child in working through the additional emotional upheaval and grieving that he or she is no doubt feeling.
This is difficult to do when you are upset yourself and you may want to consider some outside help from a pastor or rabbi if you are religious or a counselor that is familiar with the reactions of children to family situations over which they have no control. I’m suggesting short-term assistance here, not long-term therapy.
However you choose to help your children, the bottom line is that you reassure them first and foremost that you love them and that you will always protect them. Explain that things are bound to be different, but different doesn’t necessarily mean better or worse, it just means different.
It is always a good idea to read to your children. I hope that you have been doing this all along. Read some adventure books for children and talk about how the hero was brave during his adventure, even though he or she didn’t know the outcome until the end of the story.
Frame your move in terms of an adventure for your family and talk about how your child may handle some of the different, adventurous things he or she might encounter.
Margo Elson, M.S., has been a licensed Realtor® since 1985 and obtained her broker's license in 1990. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Philosophy and a Master’s Degree in Counseling from the University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ.