Advice for Families with Children Who Are Moving Across the Country
In the United States, more than 35 million people moved in 2015, and 60.6 percent of the moves were to another state. Most moves were related to housing, such as wanting a larger home or seeking a less expensive mortgage. Other reasons revolved around family, changes in work or health, or a desire for a different climate. Regardless of the reason, moving is stressful, and when you move with children, the stress seems to grow astronomically. Parents can find moving to be disruptive, but it’s even more traumatic for kids, who don’t have a decision in the matter and who may not understand it. There is some advice to follow to help make the transition easier for everyone.
Preparing for the Move
Most children need routine, and they find comfort in familiarity. Moving means giving up their established surroundings, school, friends, and social life. The best way to help children is to talk about the move and give them as much information as possible. Provide complete and honest answers, and be sympathetic to both positive and negative reactions. Share photos of the new home, neighborhood, and school.
Try to involve your children in the planning as much as possible so that the change won’t feel as though it’s being forced on them. Let them share opinions about potential homes, and allow them help pack their own belongings. While you may not be excited about the move, it’s best to keep a positive attitude. Your moods and attitudes have a big affect on your children. If you’re anxious or angry, they will feel those same emotions. On the flipside, your positivity can rub off, and your children may be looking to you for reassurance.
Finding the right school in your new location is a helpful step in easing the transition for children. Create a list with your child that includes what you are both looking for. Consider your child’s abilities, interests, and learning style, and ask current teachers for their opinions. Real estate agents in the new area should be knowledgeable about local schools. You can also contact the schools directly, and check GreatSchools.org for test scores, ratings from parents, and more.
Children under the age of six have a limited capacity to understand the changes involved, but they still need guidance. Keep all explanations clear and simple. If possible, don’t change their bedroom furniture or bedding, as it can provide a sense of comfort in the new home. Arrange furniture in a similar way in the new bedroom, and avoid other big changes, such as potty training or switching from a crib to a bed.
One of the biggest obstacles for elementary-aged children is transitioning to a new school and making new friends. Some experts believe moving in the summer is best because you avoid disrupting the school year. However, others experts believe a midyear move provides children with the opportunity to meet new kids right away. The best choice varies by each family.
Teenagers may rebel against the move. For teenagers, the social life they have built is extremely important, and moving away from all of this seems like torture. Talk with your teen and let them know that their concerns are heard and respected. Perhaps planning a visit back to see old friends is feasible or returning home for prom or homecoming is possible. Some families find that it’s best to allow the teen to stay behind with family or friends to finish high school.
After the move, unpack and organize your children’s rooms first. Also, maintain the normal schedule for meals and bedtime. Before your child actually starts classes, make a visit to the school so your child can meet teachers and be familiar with the layout. Younger children may need help making new friends. Encourage them to join clubs, sports, or other activities and to invite friends over for playdates. When parents join in on community activities and clubs, they’re making new friends and potentially meeting other parents with children of the same age.
Most children need about six weeks to settle into a new school after a move. If you’re still concerned about your child’s transition, contact a family therapist for guidance. While moving with children presents many challenges, you can help make the transition smoother for your family. And who knows? Your family may grow closer by supporting each other and sticking together during the process.
Photo Credit: AllesPappe, Pixabay