Relocating can be exciting but also stressful for you and your children. Indeed the idea of packing and moving away from a childhood home and friends can create some frustration. For little ones, it can also be quite confusing. However, preparation, involvement, and understanding are keys to keep them informed and aware of the changes to come. Here is a story of how we are (still) adjusting with our relocation.
When I decided to accept a new job in a new city (2 hours away from our home), I knew that it meant a change for us. I also knew that it meant leaving a place that was so familiar to my son. Even more, I knew it meant starting over...for both of us. As adults, especially parents, starting over can be hard. We have to let go of our favorite hangouts and dining places, friends, routines, and even schools that we may love for our children. Imagine the world of a child who has no control over these changes, and the feelings that they might be experiecing. When I told my son that we were moving I showed him pictures of our new house, and even mapped out and showed him some places that we could visit and enjoy in our new city. For young children, pictures are helpful to make connections. As the days drew near, he visited the "new house" and scoped out the neighborhood. He loved it and looked forward to the move talking every day about how he will play at the playground, feed the ducks corn at the lake, and ride his new "big, big boy bike". I let him help with the move too. He packed up his toys that he wanted to take to the new house right away and chose which toys he wanted to keep at the "old house" to play with until we moved. He seemed to handle this part of the transition quite well. He was even a great sport with all of my commuting to and from work, and with taking a "vacation" to grandma's house because of the transition!
The hardest of all was getting him to understand that his friends were not coming with us and that his school was going to change. My heart broke when he said "But they are my best friends." He seemed sad for a bit of time and spoke about his friends often. I suggested a going away cupcake party and a chance to take pictures after we finished moving and was able to get back to the school. This was especially important because with our vacation and my immediate start date, he did not have a chance to say goodbye. We are planning his going away party so that he can see his friends again. Hopefully, it will not be a long goodbye. With us being close, hey at least we did not leave the state, I am sure play dates are in order really soon!
I close this by saying, parents keep your children aware of what is to come next as you move. The more predictable and aware they are, the least likely to have meltdowns. Second, include them in your discussion about moving and use age-appropriate ways to help them understand. Books, movies, and pictures are great for this age. Also, let them help pack their belongings if they can. It will ease their anxiety about where their favorite toy is packed or reduce them worrying about Teddy being afraid in the big truck. Third, be sure to check out local activities and fun places to visit near you. Transitions are much easier to deal with if you know that fun is just around corner. Last, be attentive and supportive of their fears and feelings. Change is scary, even for adults. With children the agnst surrounding change often multiplies their worries because they have yet to master those coping skills. So, just be patient and empathetic to their needs.
For more on supporting your children with transitions in life, please be sure to check out upcoming Workshops!