About eight million kids move with their families each year. And, unbeknownst to them, 99.7% actually survive the move. And an astonishing number even benefit from the move—whether or not they like it.
Moving upsets everyone. Routines change. Emotions boil. Fears emerge. Confusion reigns. Especially in children. How can you break the news? A family meeting is an excellent way to tell your children about a move. Home is the best place for the meeting, especially around the dinner table. If you don’t have frequent (or any) family meetings, take everyone to dinner and broach the subject. But, if you’re expecting fireworks, have dinner in a neighboring town where no one knows you. Sound tough? It can be. Here are some tips.
Mobility magazine, published by the Employee Relocation Council, includes articles about relocation and children. You can reach the publisher at 800-372-5952 or visit their Web site at erc.org.
Break it to them gently. Tell your children the reason for the move. Tailor your explanation to their age. The youngest children only need to know that mommy or daddy has to work at a new office in a new town—or that the family needs to be closer to grandma and grandpa to help them.
Older teens will want and deserve to know more. They can understand that the family needs the increased income of a better job—or whatever the reason for the move. They may not like the move, but they will probably understand the reasons behind it.
Here are some useful tips:
- Tell them the advantages of moving (new sports, entertainment, a better school, a big MALL!).
- Be prepared for negative reactions; children seldom like change.
- Let the children ask any questions they want and answer them as fully as you can with language and examples they can understand.
- Maintain a positive attitude yourself, but don’t sugarcoat the subject.
- Let them know you understand their wariness and will help them to make the transition in any way you can.
- Give them some influence and control over some aspects of the move. A toddler can pack for a teddy bear or help you do serious packing.
- Be a good listener! Be patient.
As the move moves along, make sure everyone knows how things are going. Keep everyone up to date on plans and tasks. Maybe you can have a weekly moving meeting at a favorite restaurant.
Also, keep everyone involved. Let the children help make some decisions. If possible, take them house hunting with you, or at least take them to visit the new house after you have found it. Ask them what they would like in a new house and point out those features when they ask. If they cannot visit, try to get photos of the new house so that everyone can begin to get to know it.
If the move is to another city, get information about your new home town to share with the kids. If it isn’t too far away, make a visit. Tour the neighborhood and the city. Find some city parks. Visit a museum. Tour the children’s new school. Drive by where mom or dad will be working. Find an attraction that you can promise to visit as soon as you are settled in the new house. And keep your promise!
After the move, your children may need help adjusting to all the changes in their lives. So rebuild family routines as quickly as possible.
Make the routines similar to those at the old house. Have meals at about the same time, and keep curfews, bedtimes, and other familiar activities.
Remember that the adjustment will probably take longer than you think it should. Unless serious problems occur, allow your children up to a year to become fully adjusted.
If a year goes by and your children are still unsettled, seek professional help to address any residual problems brought on by the move.
If you’re moving the family because of a divorce or death, your children could benefit from counseling even before the move.