BY LESLIE POYTHRESS
Moving to a new home is an exciting, yet stressful time for a family. Preparing for a move can be difficult for adults as well as children. It is important to include children in all steps of the moving process from looking for a new home to unpacking boxes. By allowing them to participate in all stages of the move, they will be better able to adapt to a new environment.
Prior to the Move
* Talk with your children about the move and explain the reasons for moving. Allow them to express their feelings, both positive and negative. Reassure them that you may have some reservations so they will not feel as if they are the only ones with worries. Make sure to stress the positive aspects of the move.
* Children need to be included in parts of the house hunting process. Allowing them to go house hunting with you will help them feel more involved. However, be careful not to get their hopes up when you find the “perfect” house. Problems can arise while a sale is pending and disappointment may follow.
* Once the home is selected, take your children to visit the neighborhood. Look for local parks, libraries, and other areas of interest. If your child can’t visit, arrange to have pictures taken of the house and things around town.
* Pull out a globe and a map and acquaint your child with the area.
* Find out where your children will be going to school. Most schools have websites these days so you can get a glimpse into the academic programs and activities. Schedule a meeting to tour the school with your child. If possible arrange for your children to meet some students from the school so they will see some familiar faces on their first day. If your child needs a day care, they also offer tours and many have informative websites.
* Look into the recreation opportunities in the community. Children involved in sports will find great comfort knowing that they can stay involved.
* Enroll your child in an extracurricular activity. This will not only help your child make friends, it will also help him/her feel like part of a group. Activities can include: karate, dance lessons, Boys and Girls Clubs, a scouting troop, gymnastics, and art lessons.
* Arrange for new pediatricians and dentists.
* Help your child create a personal address book and encourage writing as a way to keep in touch with friends.
* Host a going away party for your school-aged children to give them a chance to say their goodbyes. Adults may also want to consider this suggestion, as leaving friends can be hard for all ages. Get an autograph book or an autograph stuffed animal for signatures and special notes from friends that will last a lifetime.
During the Move
* While moving, stress can build up and create tension. Try to remain calm during the process. Children will quickly pick up on your anxieties and it can add to their worries.
* As much as possible, try and retain a routine. Getting children fed and to bed at their normal times will help things run smoother.
* Schedule some quality time together. In the hustle and bustle of moving, don’t forget that movie your child has waited weeks to see or their favorite bedtime book.
* Young children may be bothered by the thought of moving because they are unaware of what it really means. The thought of leaving their bedrooms and backyards behind can be very distressing. Talk about the move in positive terms and consider their feelings as you prepare to move.
* Allow children above the age of two to participate in the packing process. Even if a three year old can only throw a few toys in a box, being a part of the process will make the transition easier. Take special care to pack keepsakes carefully. If hiring a moving company, it is wise to pack and carry these items yourself.
* Pack your children’s “must have” items in a separate box. Keep some books, favorite teddy bears and blankets close by to offer comfort during an uncertain time. Consider packing your children’s things last.
* Take pictures of the house as you leave to include in a scrapbook. Goodbyes can hold good memories!
* On the actual moving day arrange for a friend or relative to take your child on an outing. This will eliminate distractions for the movers and allow a fun day rather than a stressful day for your child.
After the Move
* Don’t rush to unpack too quickly. Take time to talk with your children, explore the new neighborhood, and spend quality time together checking out the community.
* Let your children help decorate their rooms. This will help to personalize their private space.
* Enter your child in school. If school is in session, make sure your child begins when you get moved. Waiting for your child to get settled or for the boxes to be unpacked is not a good idea. Children need the routines that schools offer. When parents unnecessarily keep them out of school for a few days it can also hurt them academically. Familiarize yourself with the school and work to become a part of the school community. Talk to your children about school and stay in contact with their teachers.
* Begin searching for a church or synagogue for your family.
* Try and keep similar routines and enforce them. Children need stability during times of change. This includes establishing chores and other responsibilities.
* Many children, especially teenagers, have trouble adjusting to new neighborhoods and schools. Allow them to continue contact with their old friends and encourage them to make new ones.
* Monitor the behavior of your child. As children adjust to new environments, behavior problems may arise. Be fair and consistent with rules. Try to be patient and understanding, but remain firm in your expectations.
* Most importantly, begin making your house a home by creating special family memories!