Life is full of changes. Often times these changes affect children more dramatically than adults. A child’s perception of change and the way he or she handles change will differ depending on the child. This is certainly true when a child is faced with one of life’s most significant and complicated changes: moving from one home to another.
“Transition is hard for anybody at any age. Children are no exception. In fact, the emotional effects of change often influence children more intensely than even their parents may realize,” advises licensed marriage and family therapist Arlene Licata-Miller.
While some children tend to struggle with change, there are several tools parents can utilize to ease the seemingly larger than life transition from one home to the next. Licata-Miller advocates being proactive and talking to your children as directly as possible while remaining loving and open to any opinions or feelings they may have to share. “Sit them down and fill them in on what is happening, where the family is moving, when and (as much as it is possible) why. Take them to their new home before move-in day. Take them for a drive around the new neighborhood. Visit schools. Meet their teachers, if possible. Allow them to check out their new environment. Answer any questions they might have, I’m sure they’ll have plenty. If they get angry, tell them it’s ok. It’s ok for them not to be excited about the move.”
There is also another, less obvious step to help ease the transition from the familiar to the unfamiliar. Helping your child say good-bye to their old home is an important point of closure that may help him or her emotionally prepare for the move. “Let your child take anything important to them (within reason) from the old home to the new home (for example, a toy or some other keepsake),”suggests Licata-Miller. “Also, encourage them to take pictures of their old home. That way those memories will always be there for them in some respect. Allow children to say good bye or see you later to any friends in the old neighborhood. These are all ways to help your child feel more in control of the situation.”
Assisting your child’s transition into their new home presents another set of challenges. Once again, this process is largely about helping to promote the child’s feeling of being in control.
Licata-Miller offers a few simple tips that may prompt a feeling of being in control for a child going through a move. “Let them pick out their own room. Help them paint it a fun color. Ask them: what would make you feel at home here? At first they may be little melancholy but that is completely normal. They may just have to be sad for a while.” She goes on to suggest that teachers in your child’s new school may be able to help introduce them to new activities and friends. “Connect with the local YMCA. Utilize social media; see what’s going on as far as activities for kids in the area. Whatever sports or activities your child enjoyed while living at their old home, have them try at the new place so they feel less of a loss,” Licata-Miller recommends.
While a change in living situation is usually a very stressful process, we have seen that children are resilient and tend to bounce back (often quicker than adults). Licata-Miller emphasizes the importance of staying in touch with your own feelings about this significant change and taking good care of yourself throughout the process. “As a parent you are the most influential person in your child’s life. They will look to you for how to act. If the move is for positive reasons, kids usually do ok. If not, it’s harder. It depends on mom and dad. If mom and dad are all right the kids are usually all right. If not, kids pick up on that sort of thing.”
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Danielle Miller is a freelance writer and editor from the Boston area. She is a publishing project manager and has written articles on health and relationship-related topics for various outlets for several years. She is also a book editor, working mainly on books relating to science, technology, and user experience.