When families move to a new home there seems to be a limitless number of things on the “to do” list. In the middle of all of the work and planning around the move are also all of the emotional effects created by the disruption of the traditional home life and family patterns, and the fears of leaving behind the familiar and heading into the unknown. This is seen most readily children.
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Most adults may easily forget how overwhelming a pending relocation can be to the younger members of a family. Children frequently “act up” during such periods, and it is usually due to their loss of control over almost every part of their lives. This is the reason it is so important to adequately prepare a child, or children, for an upcoming move, and to involve them in as much of the process as possible.
To help kids through the moving process parents and family members should:
• Communicate – parents and guardians should alert children to the need for the move, and explain what will be taking place in the coming weeks or months. While reassuring children about this period, they should also be introduced to the excitement of such an opportunity, i.e. discuss all of the new places, friends and things to do in the new home and neighborhood. Communication is, of course, two ways, and any questions a child may have should be answered honestly
• Involve – involving children in many of the decisions about moving helps to ease their fears around losing control. Involving children means discussing their possessions and identifying those things they want to bring to their new home, allowing children to express their opinions when looking at new homes or apartments, asking children about the decoration and design of their new bedrooms, asking children to perform specific tasks related to moving, including:
Creating an address book with all of the family’s friends and neighbors
Identifying toys and clothing they feel should go to charity
Creating their own “essentials” box of items that they must have access to during and immediately after moving day. This should include a change of clothing, a towel, toiletries, special toys, medications and special items like photos or special snacks that will soothe nerves during the moving process
• Pack – parents can really make packing and moving a bit more fun by taking their child or children to an office supplies store to purchase markers and stickers that identify each child’s boxes or belongings. This allows the child complete reassurance that none of their possessions will be misplaced because they are so clearly labeled. Not all children will be able to pack their own possessions, but none should be excluded from the decision making process. Since most homes are packed on a “room by room” basis it may be a good idea to dedicate an evening or afternoon to sorting through a child’s belongings, with their help, and packing those things that will go along to the new home together.
• Settle – once everything arrives at the new home and the children have access to all of their belongings, the “settling in” process can begin. This period can be chaotic as well, with boxes and unpacking to handle, but the first night in the new home should be as relaxed and casual as possible. Many families order special “take out” dinners and take a rest after all of the work. Additionally, most families find that settling in happens best when the children’s rooms are unpacked first, and when old routines are re-established. It is easy to let bed times slip, or to dine on the sofa instead of in the dining room, but it is best to re-create the traditional family life as soon as possible.