Every year, millions of American families pack up their belongings and embark on new journeys. Some move for employment opportunities; others move to reduce their expenses, increase their space or, perhaps even, to make a fresh start. The move is stressful for all, but can be especially traumatic for children who are used to a routine and often don’t understand the reasons for moving.
Dr. Deborah Pardee, licensed psychologist and core faculty at University of the Rockies, a graduate school specializing in social and behavioral sciences, offers the following tips to help prepare youngsters for a move and to make the transition less disruptive:
Acknowledge the Loss - Some children are very upset by moving. Recognize that the child is going to experience loss and discuss it with him or her. It helps children to know that parents may also feel a sense of loss. Sharing feelings about forthcoming changes in routine and day-to-day interaction with neighbors and close friends is comforting.
Plan Ahead - Parents can ease the transition by providing children with advance information about the new school and the new community. Sometimes parents contact the school ahead of time and arrange a tour so the child will have a better idea of what to expect before the first day of class. If information about the new school and new community is available online, provide a visual introduction to the new area before making the move. To make the transition smoother, develop a plan for keeping children in contact with their old friends.
Talk About It - The most important thing is for parents to recognize that children deal with change differently. Do not expect children to approach a move in the same way as adults. Talk to children about their feelings. Discuss how to make new friends and how to deal with a new school.
Pay Attention - Be aware of the signs that your child might be struggling, such as changes in sleep patterns, loss of appetite, sadness, or irritability. Some children may need professional help to deal with a big change such as a move.
For many families, moving is a common part of life. Regardless of frequency, major changes should be addressed with understanding and support. Planning ahead, discussing concerns and trepidations, and keeping a close eye on behavior, can often soften the blow for a child and make for an emotionally healthy transition.