Help your kids adjust to the move

Published On: May 23 2011 12:11:35 PM PDT
Moving family

"Hey, kids! We're moving!"

If your childhood was anything like mine, you heard that frequently. As the son of a college professor who also held maritime credentials, I moved into and out of more towns (and accent zones) than I care to remember. All that experience, however, is going to be valuable for you in the form of the following tips for helping kids adjust to a move:

Stay Positive
It would be unrealistic to say that every move is sparked by a happy experience. Job loss, divorce and death of family members are frequently the reasons behind a move, and while those problems and their attendant emotional upheaval must be dealt with, it's important to try to keep that turmoil separate from the move. Remember that your children may be living in their new home for a number of years, and if they connect bad experiences with their new surroundings, that will stay with them.

Now, that doesn't mean you should be the proverbial moving "cheerleader." Kids, especially once they hit school-age, are pretty smart little creatures, and they'll know in a heartbeat if you're putting on a big show. If there is a bad experience sparking the move, be honest about that, but be sure to portray the move itself in a positive light.

Account For Age
Infants aren't yet able to comprehend the idea of a move. What they know is their routine ... when they eat, where they sleep, who takes care of them, etc. A certain amount of upheaval is almost inevitable, but try to keep it to a minimum.

If you have a toddler, resist at all costs making big changes in his routine as part of the move. "When we move, you'll be sleeping in a real bed," may sound good, but what you're actually doing is taking your child into a new environment and making a major change in his sleeping arrangements simultaneously. That's going to lead to trouble.

School-age kids will have their own challenges, especially if the move involves a change of accents. For example, between fourth and fifth grade, my family moved from the suburbs of Baton Rouge, La., to Philadelphia. Needless to say, I was the "funny-sounding kid" in class for a few months. The good thing is that with society so mobile these days, there is a greater likelihood that Junior won't be the only one with his particular accent.

You can help your child get acclimated and make new friends by exploring the new area, finding parks and amusement spots and meeting other parents and kids. Don't wait for your child to make new friends at school, especially if he's not the outgoing type. Be careful, however, not to push too hard. A naturally shy child will need a bit more time to come out of his shell.

Get Them Involved
In business, launching a new plan involved getting "buy-in" from those involved. The same holds true for a new family plan. If your child is old enough, get him involved in things like packing up toys, deciding what to keep or leave behind. Let him, within reason, of course, do things like pick a paint color or wallpaper for the new bedroom.

Encourage your child to take an active part in the process in whatever way he wishes. If he's the outdoors type, give him his own garden plot and freedom to choose what goes into it. You are the best judge of your child's interests, and how to help integrate them into the new surroundings.

Set Limits
While the moving process can be chaotic, it's important that you not let your kids run completely wild. In some moves, you'll end up with a few hotel nights along the way, and of course the first few days in the new house will be consumed with unpacking and settling in, but as soon as possible, you should get a daily routine re-established. Most kids will take as much freedom as they're granted, and it's up to you to set limits and get them back in the swing of things.

Every child is different, as is every move, and you are the best judge of how your child will handle the transition. Just be sure that, in the tumult, you address their needs and vulnerabilities.