Relocating your family will always be tough. To make it a smooth move, it's important that you try and help your children understand the reasons behind the change. But transforming big matters into simple terms for our young ones has always been a challenge. Whether the family is just moving across town, or relocating hundreds of miles away, many children won't see this new home as home. Every move brings loss with it: loss of friends, of comfort, of favorite restaurants and parks. Temper tantrums might be thrown, as well as huffs of "I hate you," but no matter what the circumstances evolve to be, the most important way to prepare your children is talk about it. Age matters, and adjusting your language for a toddler and a teenager will be imperative. If possible, timing the move to allow your children to start fresh in the fall at a new school might be best.
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Give them information when you have the first inkling that you might be moving. Talking about the move well before the actual process begins has a huge impact on how the children will adapt. Calmly break the news early enough to let them digest the information. Your children will ruminate on the changes ahead, but don't make them focus on what will be different. Try and keep the conversation leaning towards what will stay the same: everything in the house, their rooms, their toys and pets will all come with you. But, also give them information about the new city: use the Internet to help them learn about the community, what activities they can involve themselves in, if there are amusement parks nearby, anything that will take away part of the mystery and add an element of excitement.
Involve them with the planning. Take them with you when you go house hunting. Let them be active participants, saying what they like and do not like about each location. Let them have control for now, in carpet choices and big basements. Show them which rooms could be theirs, and how awesome the basement will look once you add color to the walls! Show them the ice cream shop and let them run around the nearest playground. If your move is hundreds of miles away, see if the real estate agent can send you pictures of the house, the kids rooms, the neighborhood and new school so the mystery unravels itself. When packing up the van, put their stuff in last so it is the first to be unpacked so that familiar surroundings are there from the start.
Let them grieve. Even if they show spouts of excitement about the new home, sadness will inevitably rear its ugly head. In an article on Parents.com, Lori Collins Burgan, author of "Moving With Kids: 25 Ways to Ease Your Family's Transition to a New Home", says, "Even if your children are excited about the move, don't underestimate how difficult some of the losses may be." This will be losses in the form of friends, babysitters and buddies on sports teams. No matter what age, children will grieve those losses. You will grieve as well, but because children look to their parents for cues, try and stay positive about the changes ahead. Highlight the wonderful things about this magical new place!
Keep routines. Family game night, dinners and Saturday afternoon soccer games should all stay the same. Keeping up those rituals will be reassuring in that normalcy will again take hold, even in a not-normal environment. Dr. Michael Howard, M.D., spoke about the topic of routine saying, "Life is full of change and uncertainty, but a growing child thrives on consistency. Keep that in mind as you undertake a big move for the family." Customary bedtime procedures will help your children sleep better, something that many families find is impacted after a move.
With passing time, your kids will settle in. They'll have new friends to go down the slide with, a new favorite restaurant and book store. When people ask them where they're from, they'll proudly rattle off a list of cities, because all of them have become home. For more useful material, check out some of these book suggestions that help children cope with moving.