Your boss walks in and says, “Clean out your office. We’re moving you to Timbuktu for awhile. Don’t quite know what’s there or what you’ll be doing, but, uh, good luck!” Of course, you can always refuse and go find another job. But what can your kids do when you announce that the family is moving: Find another family? Add this bombshell to the frustration of not knowing how to express what you’re feeling. “What about…What can I…How will I…Now what will I…?”
Best advice: Before you announce the move, empathize with each child, considering how the child will handle the emotions of the move. Then look for ways to make the situation easier.
Very young children may not need to know about your upcoming move as soon as you make a decision. In fact, telling them too far in advance can expand their fear of the unknown. If possible, put off telling very young children until the last few weeks—or until packing begins. Home is the young child’s entire world. A particular house is not their world; the family and things in it is. As long as the family remains intact, most preschoolers will focus on the loss of their familiar home rather than friends or other outside influences. So, if you can, bring children to your new home in advance of the move—or at least as soon as you arrive—and help them get acquainted. Help them pick out their room. Remember that some children seem to handle moving well, but are really in turmoil about the change. Consider each child’s uniqueness and needs as you help them move.
Young school-age children usually have strong friendship bonds and also take a while to make new friends. Check the new neighborhood for children near their ages. Find out if their new school has an orientation program for new students. Get them involved in after-school activities. Also check out your favorite church, synagogue or spiritual meeting place for activities that can help your kids cope and socialize.
“I’ll live on the streets!” As appealing as this proposition may seem to you, resist the urge to let them! Teenagers find moving more difficult than younger children. And they will typically make it more difficult. Their life probably revolves around friends and activities outside the home. You’re now threatening to disrupt their entire social structure. And teens know what fun they have with “the new kid.” Actually, teens can benefit from a move, but they have to realize the benefits themselves rather than be told. So the approach for helping a teen move is different than that for younger family members.
- Don’t be too busy for your teen. No matter how stressful and time-consuming the move is for you, take time out to talk to your teen. Express sympathy for his concerns and offer suggestions to help him make the transition.
- If you have a choice, move during the late summer so that your teen begins the school year with other “new” students.
- Encourage your teen to get involved with others her own age who share the same interests. If your teen belonged to a Stamp Club or a Bible Study Group in your old neighborhood, chances are there’s one associated with the school or church in your new neighborhood.
- If your teen is involved in sports, find out about schools, teams, and facilities in the new area. Find out where the tennis courts, basketball courts, ball fields, or ice rinks are in your new neighborhood and send your teen to check them out. She may get a chance to play for a better team than she would in your old neighborhood.
- Expect outrageous behavior. Teens often can’t communicate their real feelings—or even understand them. You may want to overlook the green hair, odd body piercing, or appalling clothes and concentrate instead on communicating your support and understanding.
It goes like this:
- Young children focus on the loss of their room and home.
- Teenagers focus on the emotions that moving brings.
- Adults focus on the physical move.
Many teens will be shocked and angry when told of the move. These feelings can lead to depression and panic. Such feelings are helping your teenager to disconnect from the old life and prepare for the new. You can help by knowing what to expect, explaining to your teen that the emotions they are feeling are normal, if uncomfortable, and allowing them to talk about their feelings.
But, guess what. After the move to your new home, your teenager will probably get used to the new home, school, neighborhood, and town. Expect the acclimation to take six to 18 months from the move until your teen really feels at home. And understand that they may have roller-coaster emotions after the move: loving the new place one day and hating it the next. Ride it out.