Moving is one of life's necessities, but its unavoidable nature doesn't make it any easier on the emotions--especially for children. Uprooting a child from all that is familiar and placing them in new terrain can be a terrifying experience. But with a few strategies, a parent can help make the transition a positive one.
Set The Example
The first thing to do is set the example with how you manage your own emotions and fears. You are not immune to the emotions of moving, but how you express those emotions will set the standard for how your child will express theirs. Research, as reported by Slate, supports the notion that your words fall flat if your actions don't match. So if you act as if moving is a traumatic and stressful experience, your child will also find it traumatic and stressful no matter how frequently you tell them it's going to be okay. For them to be positive about the move, you must also be positive.
So be open with your emotions in a way that models to your child how to process the complicated feelings. Tell them that you've loved the place you've lived, and that you'll miss your friends, but that you're excited to love a new place and find new friends. Let them know that this was once a new place, too, and look how much you've grown to love it! Let them know that they can be a little sad even though they're excited. Giving them permission to feel all their emotions will help them process them and be open with you about what they're feeling.
The way you pack will affect your child's mood and behavior, so do it intentionally. While you need plenty of time to pack, don't start a month early and haphazardly pack whatever is in sight. Instead, start your early packing with things that are rarely used in day-to-day activities--things your family likely won't miss. Slowly move from there until eventually you're packing everyday items just a few days before your move. Going slowly can ease your child into the idea of moving without making them feel uprooted.
Your child's personal items and toys should be one of the last things packed, and your child should help do it. Allowing your child to keep their comfort items as long as possible will help them feel secure as everything is changing. Additionally, letting them help pack will reassure them that their possessions will be waiting for them at your new home. Their personal items keep them oriented, so be intentional about handling them. If you choose to hire a moving company that offers packing services to assist with this process, make sure the movers are extra careful with your children's beloved possessions.
Be Positive About Goodbyes
Your child will have to say goodbye to their friends, and you can help set the tone so this is a positive experience. Military parents, who move their families frequently, are given great advice for helping children say goodbye, which includes:
- Setting up a special event to say goodbye (perhaps even letting your child and their friends choose the menu and/or venue.)
- Letting friends help with the move. If they're excited about your new adventure, your child will be excited, too!
- Help your child and their friends exchange meaningful gifts.
- Give your child a special place to keep addresses, e-mails, and pictures of their friends.
The key is making sure both your child and the friends are excited about the change, and are reassured that their relationship is not ending.
Moving is hard on the emotions of the whole family, so you need to actively work to off-set the negative with a little planning and example-setting. These three strategies can help you ease your child into their new life with excitement and optimism.