Moving, With Children
Change is a constant in our lives, and for a child facing a move from their house, their neighbourhood, their friends, and their school, a move could create anxiety and turmoil. This could be a time of tears, fears, excitement, and insomnia.
Our homes are our castles, our safe-havens, and uprooting a child from their daily routines, is essentially the same as plucking them from their current world and dropping them into another.
Parents would be wise to seek the advice of professionals. As adults grapple with changes at the best of times, children are at a disadvantage as they don’t have the luxury and intellectual privilege to seek help and support from many resources. As a result, they may bottle up their feelings resulting in physical and emotional stress. So how should parents face a move, be it from one neighbourhood to another, or across the country, effective, compassionate communication can make the journey so much smoother.
According to Parents Magazine, roughly 10 percent of children between the ages of 1 and 14 will move in a given year, and the upheaval of changing schools will affect at least one-third of that group.
For toddlers and young school-age children, communication strategies parents can implement include simple conversations, including constant reassurance that the family, toys, pets, etc. will be embarking on this change together. Creating an age-appropriate “new adventure” can make things more exciting versus anticipating anxiety about the strange changes going on around them. Packing and decorating boxes, talking about the “new house, new bedrooms, new neighbourhood” is paramount, and if possible, visiting and touring the new area before the move, hence creating a visual experience, is a great idea.
For children old enough to be aware of having to leave best friends and their “old life” behind, through no fault or decision of their own, may feel their parents are being cruel and inconsiderate. What could follow are behaviours caused by anger, anxiety and depression. Parents find themselves between a rock and a hard place as they too may be facing monumental stressors forcing their move out of necessity: divorce, job loss, financial instability.
Fortunately, in this world of online experts and information being a tap away, parents can work together with their kids to create strategies and solutions.
What works for a middle-school child may not work for a teenager in high school. The common denominator that experts stress is keeping conversations about the move compassionate and reassuring, and that their feelings are valid, and they are being listened to. Like all of life’s changes, patience and time are needed, yet not always easy. Moving advice is not a “one size fits all strategy”, and sadly, not all moves are exciting and positive. Many families have to face multiple moves over many years, particularly if they are in the military.
In the natural world, not all plants thrive when they are uprooted, and not all animals survive a drastic change of habitat. As humans, and as parents, we must remember to exercise patience and self-care to help us cope, and adapt, so in turn, we can help our children cope. Knowledge is power and reaching out to family, friends, teachers, and therapists can make a world of difference for both parents and their kids.
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