Tips for Smooth Relocation with Kids
It doesn’t matter if you or your husband got a better job opportunity or if the house will be bigger and better for your growing family. It doesn’t matter if you’ll be closer to extended family or if the weather will be perfect all year long. To your kids, all that matters is that you’re leaving behind the only place they’ve ever known (or at least remember) as home. That can be scary, sad and confusing when you’re a kid.
According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, children who move often tend to perform worse at school and develop behavioral problems. But, as research shows, those children aren’t receiving the support they need to thrive after each relocation. In part, how well your kids adjust to their new surroundings has to do with how well you prepare them for the change. To make the transition easier, try these four tips:
Involve Them Early On
Just like you, kids need time to process the idea of change. For pre-schoolers, calmly break the news about a month in advance. Focus not as much on what will be different, but what will stay the same — like that each member of the family and all of their toys and belongings will be moving too. For older kids, you may need to break the news earlier so they can prepare by saying goodbye to all of their friends or even hosting a going-away party.
Give Them a Say
When possible, give your kids a sense of control by allowing them to help make some of the decisions. If practical, involve them in the search for a new home. Consider having each member of the family make a wish list — like a house with a big backyard or an apartment with a playroom. Then, whether you’re looking for an affordable apartment in New York or a roomy residence in Rhode Island on a site like ForRent.com, they can feel like they helped pick your new place. Doing so helps them feel like they’re choosing to move and it’s not being totally forced upon them, according to KidsHealthy.org.
Allow Them to Be Anxious (or Angry)
It’s normal and even healthy for kids to be anxious and a little bit angry about impending change. They may even regress in areas that haven’t been a problem before, such as potty-training or struggling to sleep at night. But try to stay positive. Your kids look to you for cues — if you seem apprehensive about the move, they will be too.
On the other hand, especially for grade-school-aged kids, it’s also important to be honest. When appropriate, let them see your feelings of sadness when saying goodbye to friends or neighbors or when talking about the things you’ll miss. What’s important here is to show your kids how to constructively express these emotions and then move on.
Make It Home
When you arrive in your new city, do your best to quickly make it feel like home. Unpack and decorate their room first. If possible, tour the new school and other stomping grounds, like nearby parks, stores and the library. Show them how fun it can be to explore a new city by acting like a tourist and visiting all of the local hot spots — like finding the best pizza place or locating the nearest arcade. If school isn’t in session, try to find opportunities for them to socialize with future classmates who could be potential friends.
Making use of these tips will not only help to soften the blow of moving, they will also help them quickly acclimate to their new surroundings, which will put smiles back on both of your faces.