Moving as a family can be quite the adventure- and quite the challenge! When it comes to adjusting to a new city or school, our job as parents is to support our kids through the transition and point out the wonderful opportunities it entails. So let’s put down the boxes and take a look at some of the things you can do to ease your kids’ way through the move.
Talk it over
The more you involve your kids in the transition, the more comfortable and confident they will become. Explain as much as you can about the decision to move, the new area and the new school. Encourage your kids to ask questions and express how they feel about moving. Share with them how committed you are to supporting them and helping them find balance in every way you can. Are they worried about losing existing friendships or failing to find new ones? Are they nervous about activities they love which might not be available in the new school? Or are they scared they won’t find the bathroom when they need it? Encourage your kids to articulate their feelings, respond with empathy and then see what you can do to alleviate specific fears and worries.
Take a field trip
Plan some reconnaissance work with your child before the actual move. Drive around the new neighborhood, making sure to notice any important landmarks, parks or buildings. Keep an eye out for points of interest that would be special to your child- spotting a nice pizza place, toy store, skate-park or pet shop in the new area will help them feel more at home. If your child is younger and likes adventure you can take it up a notch by setting up the trip as a Secret Spy Mission or a game of Imaginary Detective, but even a simple stroll or drive around your child’s new habitat would help to ease their feelings of uncertainty or nervousness.
Check out the school
Ask administrators at your child’s new school to visit before the child’s first day. Make sure to visit all the places in the school your child will be spending time in- their homeroom, cafeteria, gym, auditorium and so on. Don’t forget to note where the nearest bathrooms are! These simple things will help reduce anxiety and reassure your child that they can navigate these new surroundings with confidence.
Do some homework
Make an effort to find interesting or fun facts that could help your kids connect to the new school. Did anybody famous ever attend it? Was it ever in the news? Do they have a particular sports team or drama group that is famous, or even infamous? Knowing little bits of this kind of information can help kids feel like they’re “in the loop”.
Do it as if your life depended on it. Remember: you are your child’s role model, so set an example and have your new neighbors over for a casual get-together as soon as you can upon moving. This way you will help your kids meet new friends and show them a positive and proactive attitude towards change. You can also join a local community center or religious group to help meet new people and set a friendly and outgoing example for your kids.
Keep it steady
Routine is the key to maintaining a sense of order and balance. While your child might be overwhelmed with new experiences in the outside world, sticking to a predictable routine at home will provide them with the security they need.
For younger kids:
Hold off on packing up your children’s toys and bedroom furniture for as long as you can to maintain a feeling of stability. If possible, visit your new home with your child once or twice before you move and bring some of their toys in each visit. This way they can gradually say goodbye to their current home and get accustomed to the new one.
For older kids:
Give some thought to the ways in which your older children or teens can keep in touch with their friends. Can they visit, and if so, how often? If a visit is not feasible, look into online solutions. In this era of social media, there are countless ways to cultivate relationships online.
Give it time
Teachers assume most children take about 6 weeks to settle in. Some kids adjust more easily while others might need more time. Just like adults, all children have their own individual way to experience change and react to it. Be patient with this process and encourage your kids to communicate their feelings, reassuring them you’ve got their back, every step of the way.
Have you ever moved with your kids before? Share your lessons with us in the comments!