Moving can be stressful regardless of whether the move is an exciting change and part of your growth as a family, or as a result of a tragic event like a death, divorce or job loss.
Whatever the cause for the move, there will be some stress associated with this significant change. As a parent you want to minimize any negative impact that it may have on your children.
Amanda Gummer, child psychologist and founder of Fundamentally Children, says in an article in the Huffington Post: “Children may focus on what they are losing [friends, schools, teachers, their bedroom], rather than what they are gaining, when moving to a new house.”
One way of combating this is to help involve them in decisions around the move, where appropriate and by making an effort to stay in touch with friends who are left behind.
Talking about moving home
Teenagers and older-elementary school children should be told about the move well ahead of time. Young children experience a sense of time differently and if they are told too early, it may leave them feeling anxious. Younger children can be told about a month before relocating, or when there are visible signs that a move will be happening. If you have a realtor bringing potential buyers into your old home, you’ll need to prepare children beforehand.
When speaking about the move it’s important to focus on all the positive aspects and to share these with your children. Will the new home be closer to the beach, a lovely lake or skateboard park? Try and find out as much about the new neighborhood before moving and share these highlights with them.
At the same time don’t be surprised if your children express anger or sadness at the prospect of moving. Give them the space to express their true feelings and process the change.
Visit the new neighborhood together
In addition to taking your children to see the new house before the move, if possible, you can also explore the new neighborhood with them.
If they will be moving schools, visit the new school and get as much information about classes, the lunch program and extra mural activities, so that you can answer your childrens’ questions.
Go looking for the best ice-cream or pizza place in town and visit the local library or parks. Drive from your new home to the new school and show them the route that they will be traveling.
Give your child some control
Children can feel powerless to change the decision that parents make to move, but by allowing your child to be part of decisions, it can help give them a sense of control.
You can allow your child to choose the color to paint her new room or where to position the furniture and other belongings.
Moving may seem like the perfect time to declutter and get rid of old or broken items. However, let your child decide on what she feels comfortable with giving away and what she may need to hang on to for a while longer, as a means of comfort and to minimize the sense of loss.
Although initially it’s good to keep familiar items, let older children know that they can decorate within a specified budget after you've been in the home for a little while.
Help your child or teen set up their room first
When you get to your new home, help your child or teen set up their bedroom first, so that they can have a safe space filled with familiar belongings to settle into even if the rest of the house is still a chaotic jumble of boxes.
Avoid buying new bedspreads or cushions initially, even if you have agreed to a room makeover at some stage. Give your child a few weeks to get comfortable in their new room before making any changes.
Throw a farewell party
If you are moving to a new town or state, throw a goodbye party to help your children get closure on the move. The party can be as simple or extravagant as you like but it’s important to express gratitude for the friendships and to make sure to exchange contact details, so that your children can stay in touch with old friends as they begin to build new relationships. For younger children, ask their parents for phone numbers and email addresses and older children who have phones can exchange social media handles.
Get involved in your new community after moving
Children thrive on routine and familiarity. If they were involved in certain clubs, like girl or boy scouts or a particular sport, see if you can find a local version in the new neighborhood.
The library can help inform you about kid-friendly facilities in the area. Visit the YMCA, sports clubs, the community pool, and if your family is religious, explore places of worship where you feel your family may feel at home. You can also do some research on child- or teen-friendly activities in the area and try some out.
Get friends and family to visit
Cathy Ranson, editor of ChannelMum advises that having familiar faces visit will help to get the new house to feel like home. She says, “arrange for family members and friends to visit soon, so your child sees familiar faces early on. If it’s too far to travel for visits in person, then arrange video calls.”
While moving is never easy, I hope you found these tips helpful.
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