The Best Way to Prepare Children for a New Home
While a new move can bring excitement, a sense of adventure, and many other positive emotions in adulthood, it can negatively impact children and adolescents, especially if the moves are frequent. According to the AACAP, children who move frequently can have issues in school and social situations. This is primarily because children often don’t have a choice regarding a move. They feel powerless as one of the most comforting things – their hometown – becomes a fond memory.
If you are planning a move and have children, it is critical to show your child compassion and grace. Childhood is a vulnerable time for many people, as children are constantly learning, changing, and finding comfort in their surroundings. A new move can throw a wrench into a child’s development. It is best to make the experience as positive as possible for your child.
When relocating becomes a traumatizing event for a child, it can also be traumatizing for the parent. Preparing your child for a move ahead of time can significantly help make the experience a positive one, which is beneficial to you as the parent or guardian. Here are five tips to help prepare your child for a move.
Acknowledge their emotions
No matter why your family is moving, it is essential to be honest with your child, regardless of their age. Months in advance of the move, sit them down and calmly explain that your family will be relocating to a new place and why it is happening. Your child may have an adverse emotional reaction when you share the news. If they do, remember to breathe and validate their feelings.
For a child, a move can be more than just a change; it can also be a loss. Your child may be losing the only home and friends they have ever known. Just as with the loss of a loved one, the loss of familiarity comes with a rush of mixed emotions. Encourage your child to treat a move as they would a loss and allow them the opportunity to grieve the life they are leaving behind.
As your child goes through the five stages of grief, it is critical to support and understand them. Your child will experience feelings of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression before they may accept a drastic life change such as a move. As their parent, allowing your child to feel all these feelings is essential. Enforcing cheery emotions can have the opposite effect and essentially worsen the feelings of grief.
Once your child shows signs of acceptance, you can start helping them embrace the move. Creating a timeline of when you plan to put the house on the market and when the actual move will occur (and everything in between) can help your children understand the process and know what to expect ahead of time. It can also help keep them involved throughout the various stages of moving.
Let them make decisions regarding the move
When moving into a new home, there are numerous decisions to make, such as what banks and lenders to use for a mortgage and what moving company to use, just to name a few. While parents make these decisions, there are plenty of other choices to make that you can allow your child to participate in. Allowing your child to help make decisions regarding the move is a great way to help get them involved in the process.
- When you start looking at houses: Sit down with your child and ask what they would like in their new home. Maybe they want a playroom or a basement. Is having a big backyard important to them? Considering your child’s wishes shows them that you care and that their feelings matter. Having them tag along to showings and asking them questions about what they like and do not like also makes them feel important to the process.
- Once you close on your new house: When it’s time to make the move after closing, involve your child in deciding on furniture, paint colors, and a room’s purpose. You may also want to let them pick out their room and give them complete decorative control over what they want it to look like. Take them shopping to pick out a new bedroom set and new bedding. This can be a way to bring some excitement to this often stressful life event.
- When it’s time to make the move: Can you drive to your new house? If so, make the move fun! You can plan out a road trip with your child for the drive to the new house. Let them decide on places to go and things to see on the way.
Plan a trip to your new town
If you can recall from the days of studying for exams, you will understand the concept that repetition is the key to familiarity and knowledge. You can apply this concept to moving to help your child adjust to their new surroundings. Exposing your child to their new town before moving can help them adjust faster when it’s time to move into their new home. For this reason, planning a trip to your new town is a great idea to help your child become familiar with it.
When visiting your new town, show your child where their new house is. This structure will be more than just a home, but the place where their life will happen. Allowing them to see the house ahead of the move can help bring some excitement to the transition for your child.
Besides your home, your child spends most of their time in school. Be sure to visit your child’s new school when taking this visit. If it’s during the school year, you can contact the school administration to arrange a tour of the school if permissible. If your child is able to meet other students and teachers, it can help ease the burden of starting at a new school and lift some first-day jitters.
Think about all the places your child enjoys in your current town. They may have a favorite park, playground, or ice cream shop. Take the time to note these types of places in your new town when visiting. You can even check if there is a parent’s group for your town on Facebook and plan to meet up with other parents and kids for ice cream.
Get them involved in their new community
Did your child play sports in their hometown? Were they part of a club or other activity? Researching extracurriculars before moving is a great way to help your child get acquainted with their new city.
Reaching out to the proper authorities to get your child registered for an activity they enjoy gives them something to look forward to and provides a method to make new friends. Thanks to social media, your child can connect with future teammates or group members online before the big move. This means their addition to the team is not only expected but welcomed, and they will already be acquainted with their teammates.
Getting your child involved early on is beneficial not only to them but also to you as the parent. You also need to have friends you can count on in your new city. Who better to befriend than the parents of your children’s friends?
Plan visits to your hometown
Our hometowns are more than just a place where we grow up; they are also a piece of our identity. The surroundings and people are engrained in our being. The same goes for our children.
So many people who have loved and cared for your child will remain in your hometown. Therefore, your child needs to have a connection to their hometown even after a move. Just because they will not be able to see their old friends daily does not mean they will stop thinking or caring about them. Parents must do their part to continue fostering those original friendships.
Stay in contact with your child’s friends’ parents to coordinate visits. Knowing your child will be able to go back to their hometown and see familiar faces will help give them something to look forward to while adjusting to their new home.
Staying connected to our hometowns keeps a part of our past with us, no matter where life takes us. For children, this is especially critical during a move. When parents take the initiative to help foster the friendships previously made in their hometown, they will have an easier time adjusting to their new environment.
Check-in with your children
Moving can be overwhelming for anyone, especially children. Knowing this, of all the tips discussed here, the most important thing is to check in with your children regularly before, during, and after a move.
Simply put, moving is stressful. Packing can take days, even weeks, to complete, and unpacking can take even longer. Not to mention, the financial toll that buying a house can have on parents and guardians can trickle down to children and even pets. If you find that you, as the parent, are feeling overwhelmed with stress, your children are most likely feeling the same way. It is critical to watch for signs of stress in children. Knowing these signs can help you to respond accordingly.
As any parent could imagine, a child may be on a rollercoaster of emotions during a move. Their thoughts and feelings may vary from day to day as they adjust to their new surroundings. Without peers to turn to, the only true foundation they have during a move is you, the parent. Just as before the move, it is just as vital to validate your child’s emotions after settling into your new home.
Packing it Up
Moving can be an exciting yet stressful time for all family members, especially children. With new places, faces, and surroundings, it can take your child some time before getting used to their new life. The best way to help your child when moving is to prepare them as best as possible.
As with any type of significant news, children will experience many mixed emotions, some rather daunting. When this happens, allowing your child to feel their feelings is critical. Make your support known as they process the changes that are about to enter their lives.
Once your child has processed their emotions, you can get your child involved in the moving processes. Asking for their opinion on furniture and paint colors, or even letting them choose their own room, can help keep their spirits up during this difficult time.
To help your child adjust seamlessly, be proactive when getting them involved in community activities. This will give them (and you) a jump start in making new friends and obtaining a sense of belonging, something they will surely miss from their hometown.
Despite how stressful it is for you as a parent, experiencing a move as a child can be equally as stressful, if not more. Above all, being there for your children during a move is important. Your child should be comfortable turning to you for support as they cope with the loss and new beginnings that accompany a move.
Do you have a move coming up? Contact Move Central to get get started planning your move.