Moving with Children | How to Help Your Kids with Moving Stress and Anxiety

 

When I was younger, we moved a few times before finally settling in “the family home.” Looking back on it, it was both exciting and unsettling.

On the one hand, it was kind of fun to get a new bedroom, rearrange all my toys, and play with my cat in a different rec room. I hardly had to think about packing, and unpacking was like exploring my own stuff. (Maybe I was a boring kid?) There were new parks and stores nearby and new neighbours to meet.

On the other hand, it was fairly stressful. I’d have to learn a different route to walk to school. I had to get used to different quirks in the house, and convince the cat that the world was not ending; we were just in a different home. The new parks may not have been a good substitute for the parks I knew and loved, and our new neighbours could be ones to avoid. (I definitely had a few of those.)

Of course your kids will be on your mind as you decide to move and close on the purchase of your new home, but having a strategy in helping them cope with the move is a must. Children understand the world around them—what they can see and hear themselves—so a move disrupts that in ways we don’t always appreciate.

Here are a few ways you can include your children in the moving process and help them transition from one home to the next.

Be open and honest

As soon as the purchase of your new home is final, have a talk with your kids. Children (like us) can take some time to process large changes, so giving them a period of time to digest this information is a good start. Try your best to highlight what won’t be changing, as well as the big positives to the new house, school, or neighbourhood.

Allow them to spend time with their friends

While you may be busy packing and preparing, your kids will be thinking about how their lives are going to change. Children spend a lot of time with their friends at school, so if you’re moving to a new school zone, allow them a lot of time to visit. While it may seem less important to you, as friends move in and out of kids’ lives, your child will only see the gravity of losing friends and being alone. Arrange play dates and excursions when possible, and assure them they’ll be able to see their old friends even after the move.

Introduce them to their new area

In order for a child to visualize their new life, you’ll have to show it to them. Take a drive to see the new house and spend some time exploring the neighbourhood with them. Visit a local shop or diner. Show them their new school. Create as much excitement as possible so your kid actually looks forward to the move rather than thinking about everything that will be missing.

If it’s not possible to show them physically—if the move is far away, for example—show them photos and videos online. A move over a great distance can be scary for anyone, so lots of preparation is necessary.

Include your kids in the decision-making process

While you’re packing up your life, get your kids involved! You’ll surely be throwing some stuff away, getting new things, and planning for the future; getting your children involved in that process will make them feel more stable about the move. Seemingly inconsequential decisions can include them significantly. Ask which knick-knack you should keep and which you should get rid of. If you have enough bedrooms, find out which one they’d actually prefer.

If you have pets, get their opinion on how to make the move easy for them as well. If you give them a role they see as important, like taking care of the cat and its feelings, they’ll feel less like this is being done to them and more like they’re there with you for the ride.

Give rewards for helping

Even if you’re a kid (or especially as a kid), packing is absolutely no fun. Getting the kids involved is a great thing, but packing loses any lustre after five minutes. If they lend a helping hand, be sure to reward them. If you have a few small things that are like housewarming gifts for children—a globe, a new book, a fun carpet—it will help out in more ways than one.

Just be there for them

Your kids will likely have a whole bunch of questions paired with a whole bunch of emotions. Being more available during the lead up to the move is imperative, as it gives your children opportunities to process what could be the biggest change in their lives thus far. Be honest but not alarming and excited but not crazy and you’re sure to have a smoother, less challenging move with your kids.

Flickr: Jay

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About Jam Michael McDonald

Jam is a content editor based in Toronto. He's been the editor of a community newspaper, a national magazine, and two startups. Although he lives in a tiny condo, he uses every corner, and is an avid cheerleader of the compact home movement. You can find him every day on Twitter @mcjamdonald.

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