I have heard moms who have recently gone through it, tell me, “I am never, ever moving again!” I even had one friend after a cross-country move tell me, “the only thing worse than moving is dealing with a death in the family.”
If going through all of the hassles of moving can elicit these kinds of responses, from supposedly rational adults, imagine the trauma a move can cause your kids!
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a move can be “very stressful for children and accentuate negative aspects of their personalities.” The AAP says this can be especially true if the move is not a choice for the family, but comes on suddenly due to job loss, a promotion, a transfer, or other major unforeseen life changes that can force families to move.
It doesn’t even have to be a big move to be very hard on children. Even a simple move across town can bring on fear and anxiety.
Here are some tips the AAP suggests for helping your child deal with moving:
- Emphasize the positive aspects of what awaits at the new location.
- Let your child express his or her feelings and acknowledge sadness.
- Take your child to the community where you will be moving.
- Give the child the chance to participate in decisions, such as the new room color.
- Become involved in the new community yourself.
- Maintain contact with the old community.
The key is try as best as possible to reduce your child’s anxiety by letting them know what to expect. Most fear, especially in kids, is fear of the unknown. Well-known radio talk show host “Dr. Laura,” suggests making a “Moving Book.”
She says, “start the book with a photo of your family where you live now. “Once upon a time, the Greene family lived in an apartment in New Jersey….” Include photos of your family doing things the kids love to do in your current neighborhood.
Then talk about the move. The captions might be something like “Then Mommy got a job in Texas and we had to move across the country a long way away.” (Add a photo of a map with a line here.)
Then go on putting pictures in the book together with your kids, that express the things they are worried about, “Shannon and Michael were worried about saying goodbye to their friends, but we had a potluck and took pictures and got everyone’s addresses.”
“It will be fun to stay in touch with everyone on our phones and computers…”
“…Even though we are sad to say goodbye, Shannon is excited about having her own room and Michael is excited because dad said we can get a puppy when we get to the new house…”
Laura says end the book with photos of the things you’re looking forward to — cinnamon rolls at the new bakery, the climbing structure at the new school, and of course any photos you have of the new place, inside and out, and your plans to paint Shannon’s room yellow and hang a swing in the yard.
Make sure to finish with a happy ending — a photo of “Our Happy Family in our new place.”
Start reading the book to your children now, well before the move, and add new pages as you think of them, either to address something your child is sad about or to give them something additional they can be excited about.