Over the last 50 years, moving multiple times has become a way of life for people all over the world. Moving isn’t a new concept, of course, but the frequency that we move today is considerably different than it has been in the past. It doesn’t make much difference if you’re moving across town or from your Portland, OR home to a Palm Beach, FL home. Moving is one of the most stressful life events for a family.
As an adult, you have the coping skills to deal with the move and changes; but, how will moving affect your children? A number of studies have been done in the U.S. and abroad, but the findings are different.
One study done by The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children (TLC) states that children often suffer from varying degrees of stress, from mild to severe. Another study done at the University of Sydney in Australia finds few negative effects in children who are moving or have moved. Australia has one of the most mobile populations reported in the world. So, you have the full range of effects within just two studies.
How moving affects your children is based on a variety of things including your child’s age, personality, previous experiences and other external factors. It’s up to you to set the atmosphere and attitude – to lead by example. For children, moving and the unknown can be frightening. They may also feel as if they have no say or control over what’s happening to and around them. Children may feel a great sense of loss. They may become resentful and angry, especially if they aren’t involved in the moving process. Giving children a sense of control can help with the transition from old home life to new home life.
Regardless of the factors that prompted the move, you can make things easier for your children. Involve them in the decision-making as much as possible. Even the kids’ simple, age-appropriate, decisions and tasks can help you and give the kids something positive to focus on.
Here are a few ways to keep children involved in the moving process and begin the transition on a positive note.
- If one of your children is old enough to drive, consider putting them in charge of collecting empty boxes and old newspapers for packing.
- Ask older kids to help with packing and labeling, while younger children sort items into specific boxes.
- Provide paint samples and allow children to have a say in the colors used in the new home.
- Older children can help you plan and write down the moving details, marking off each task as it is completed.
- Provide time when kids can use their creativity and imagination to express their feelings about the new home and neighborhood.
- Play games that involve the kids describing their newest friends (at the new house.) It can be serious or silly. For example, if your child likes to ride a bike, he or she could imagine that all of the new friends have green bikes. Make the game silly to lighten the mood.
- Begin talking about a time when your children can invite old friends to meet new friends, even before you leave the old home.
Unfortunately, you can’t accurately predict how your child will be affected by the move until after you get to the new place and the dust settles a bit. However, by communicating effectively, emphasizing the positive, and keeping the kids informed/involved in the process, you’ll help make the transition much easier for them and yourself.