If moving day is stressful for you, just take a moment to imagine how scary it must be for a child; New room, scary new hallways to navigate in the middle of the night, new creaks to get used to, new friends and a new neighborhood. Some may say “kids are resilient,” but let's face…
If moving day is stressful for you, just take a moment to imagine how scary it must be for a child; New room, scary new hallways to navigate in the middle of the night, new creaks to get used to, new friends and a new neighborhood. Some may say “kids are resilient,” but let's face it, they only appear tranquil because we want to ease our guilty feelings and because, quite honestly, what choice do they have? Fortunately, we can take steps to make moving day easier on children, and extremely parents.
Before the Move:
Depending on the age of the child, tell them the truth about their pending move. If appropriate, explain why they will be moving. Be aware that children can detect your undering emotions. It's okay to be honest about some of your personal concerns about moving, but do not share more than a child needs to know. Permanent sadness, choose to focus on the positive aspects of moving, like a new backyard or nearby park. If your child loves their current room, let them know you can make their new room just like their old room. What is obvious to us may not be obvious to them, so make sure to point out that they'll be taking all of their furniture, clothes, stuffed animals, etc. to their new home.
When it's time to start packing their toys, include them in the process and make sure to explain that you have to pack their stuff in order for everything to travel to their new room. Even if you label the box with a special label, let them write on the box too; Scribbling is fine. Your ultimate goal is to reassure them that their little world, their toys, are really going to show up in their new room. In addition, give them one, clear box that they can fill with their most favorite toys. This box will travel with them in the car, to the hotel, where they go until they reach their new room. While it may seem like an inconvenience to us, this clear box of goodies will remain a constant visual and tangible reminder that 'everything will be OK.' You'll be thankful for that 'box of distractions' when you need to keep them occupied, or on moving day, when you can not find their favorite toy in the sea of boxes. Even better, hide a new toy in this box when they're not looking! The box you thought was a nuisance is now a lifesaver!
If your new home is within driving distance, ease their anxiety or pique their curiosity by driving past their future home. Park the car nearby, walk to the ice cream shop or near park, and start to acclimate to your new neighborhood. Such simple, physical activities will make the transition less abrupt and likely more fluid. Familiarity is comforting, so if a child sees the ice cream shop where he had a double scoop, or the park where he enjoyed his afternoon, then feelings of joy are more likely to surface than feelings of sorrow and incompatibility. They will not miss their old park quite as much if they already have a new park, with fresh memories!
Help create excitement for your child by planning an ice cream social in your new neighborhood. Create a simple flyer letting the neighbors know there will be a new child in town, eager to meet new friends. Never state your child's name, but simply invite families to join together to make sundaes. Do not worry about inviting people into your home, simply set up a table at the end of your driveway. You'll be surprised how many happy neighbors will join you. Make sure to set a date and time, usually about one week after you move. Do not put this off. It is an easy way to make a big impact!
During the move:
Moving day is notoriously bad. Somehow, kids seem to enjoy moving boxes in and out of trucks all day. The act of moving boxes from one house to the next will likely be more meaningful to a child than simply showing up at the new house. Gauge your situation and decide what is best for you and your family. If tensions are high, figure out another option for childcare. Friends who do not want to be tasked with lifting boxes would be happy to take the kids to the movies! Who would not like that? Go ahead and ask for help. People want to help you on moving day, they just do not want to help you move all the boxes!
Once the dust settles and the boxes are piled high, focus on making your child's bedroom functional for immediate purposes, such as sleeping. Instead of a 'bed in a bag,' try to pack a 'room in a box'. Pack the basic essentials to pull their rooms together, such as linens, side light, nitelight, and favorite pillow, all in one box. Finding and opening just one box is much easier than locating multiple boxes. Open one box and you'll have the basics available to set up their room. The sooner their room feels familiar, the sooner they're drifting off to sleep.
You have not forgotten about the ice cream social we just covered, have you? Now is the time. Boxes will be piled up for weeks, but we're focused on the children, right? A simple ice cream social brings kids out to play, scooters start flying, and you'll get to meet neighbors more quickly than you'd expect. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, you'll get to meet the neighborhood children and the parents that belong to those children. You'll soon become familiar with who you want to schedule play-dates with and who might not be the best fit for your child's development.
Although your new home may feel chaotic to you, a child will be complimented by the simple routines that they enjoyed at their old home. Children may be afraid that they will not have the same fun family moments, such as family dinners, game night, and nightly bedtime routines. As quickly as possible, implement the same routines. Have a pizza picnic on the new family room floor or play cards from the top of a moving box. Do whatever you have to do to add an element of fun. These silly memories are the ones that stand out. Our simplest endeavors are remembered by our children and they are often unplanned.
In the end, children are resilient when they feel loved and protected. Let's not overlook the simplest ways to help our children transition throughhaps the most challenging time in their young lives.