Moving is stressful for those of us that move by ourselves and it is stressful for kids too.
I was talking with someone this week who reminded me of some sage advice I think is relevant for people who are planning on moving with children. She said that the best advice she could give is when you are dealing with a stressful situation like moving, it is important to make sure that you are honest with your children and acknowledge how they are feeling about the move and let them talk about that with you. I think about all these situations where parents or other adults say to the child things such as,
“It will be fine.”
“It will be a new adventure.”
“It will be fun!”
“You get to be in a new school with new friends.”
“You get a fresh start.”
None of those things are very helpful to children. They will still be upset they are leaving their friends and all the things that are familiar to them. Or they will be sad or scared of the unknown that lies ahead. Remember, in the moving process most of the time the adults make the decision to move and when to move – the kids do not have much control.
The move might feel sudden to the children because the adults could not or chose not to share the intent to move until it was definite and in the near future. One of the ways you can empower your children is to talk to them about the situation rather than assuming they are fine or reacting after they act out. Have a conversation about the move; help them identify the emotions they are experiencing. That will make it easier for them to recognize what it is that is making them feel strange or funny or grumpy or excited. You need to reassure them whatever they are feeling is completely normal and explain in an age-appropriate way that they need to process those emotions.
“Processing emotions” isn’t a term that you will be able to use to talk to most children but you can empower your children to realize they need to deal with their emotions. For homes with multiple children, each child’s reaction might vary and all family members need to understand there is not a right way or a wrong way to feel about the move. Remember back to when you were a child and your perception of things was vastly different from your parents? Children need to understand that their feelings are legitimate and that it is not going to change the fact that the move is coming. Explaining to kids that you are moving and that their best interests were taken into consideration does not necessarily comfort them.
Letting your children tell you how they feel by asking them (and maybe asking 10 times until they are willing to respond) and being able to tell them you understand they are feeling strong emotions goes a long way to minimizing the stress of a move. Having the dialogue and opening the lines of communication with your children will help reinforce your relationship well-beyond the move.