Making the Move Easy on the Kids

By
Real Estate Broker/Owner with Your Choice Real Estate, Inc. 3020206

 

Moving from one house to another is seldom easy or fun for adults and
it can be especially troubling for children. If parents deal with
their children's concerns and needs thoughtfully, much of that
distress and discomfort can be avoided.

Children see moves differently than their parents do, and they
benefit much less from the change in their comfortable routines, or so
it seems at the time. Most often, a change in houses or communities
heralds an important step forward for the adult members of the family.
The family moves because Daddy or Mommy has a great new job or a
promotion in reward for years of hard work. They move because
financial success has allowed the purchase of a bigger and nicer house
in a more costly neighborhood. They move because they can finally
afford private bedrooms for each child and perhaps a pool in the back
yard.  Since the 1990s, mobile and hard striving people typically live
in a house for about four years and then move on as their careers or
fortunes allow. That short time span is only a small percentage of the
life-to-date for a 30 or 40 year old, but the same four years is half
the life-time of an 8 year old, and it includes almost all the years
he or she can remember. To a parent, this house may be only the place
they have lived recently. They think of it as a weigh station on the
road of life. To kids, however, it may be the only home they have ever
really known. This is their house, the place they feel safe and
comfortable and thoroughly at home with. A house is much more than a
roof and walls to a child. It is the center of his or her world. A
move threatens to take that sphere away and leave something totally
strange in its place. The familiar friends, schools, shops and
theaters, the streets, trees and parks - all will no longer exist for
them. Everything soon will be strange, and they will live in someone
else's world.

The impact of a move on a typical child starts about the time he or
she first hears that Daddy has accepted a promotion, and often
continues for about a year, until the new house becomes home and
memories of the previous place fade. It's not usually necessary to
announce this big change to children immediately, although they must
hear about it from you before someone else breaks the news. Most
teenagers see themselves as adult members of the family, and will
probably feel they have been left out if they don't hear everything
from the first day. But it is probably not a good idea to tell
toddlers and preschoolers until they have to know. There is no point
in making them worry far in advance. Be sure to announce the move in
a totally positive way. You might say how proud you are that Daddy's
company has chosen him out of many other employees to manage a new
office in Cleveland. Talk about what a beautiful city Cleveland is how
good the schools are and how nice the people are. Tell truthful but
very positive stories about how nice the new house will be. Ask them
what the favorite things are in their lives now, and then try to make
them happen in the new home. If the new home is too far away to allow
a visit by the entire family after it has been selected, show the
children pictures of it from every angle. Videotape it, if you can.
Emphasize the positive views and be sure to include pictures of each
child's new room. Try to name the house with some romantic description
like "Oak Hill" for the big trees and the sloping lawn.

Sugar coating will help, but since children can quickly see the
negative sides of most situations, every parent must plan to deal with
their children's worries, fears and sorrows. The children will lose
friends they may have known all their lives. They will leave behind
their sports teams, their clubs and they're dancing teachers. They
will have to start over in a new place, making friends, becoming
accepted and fitting into different groups. Younger children need
protection from fear of the unknown. Listen carefully to their
concerns, and respond quickly to allay their apprehensions. It would
be normal, for instance, for a young child to worry that his or her
toy box and shelf of stuffed animals might be left behind. Find those
anxieties and correct them. Probably the best tactic is to get the
children actively involved in the whole process. Don't just promise to
let them decorate their own rooms, for example. Take them to the paint
store and let them bring home color swatches. Shop for bed spreads and
towels and carpets. They must leave old friends behind, so find ways
to make that parting almost pleasant. Plan a going-away party and let
them invite their own guests. Take pictures of everyone and make a
photo album. If a child is old enough, send him or her out with a roll
of film in the camera and the assignment to photograph the views they
will want to remember. Some relationships will be extremely difficult
to break and these will demand careful, thoughtful, personalized
planning by both parents. How, for instance, do you move a 17-year-old
1,000 miles from her steady boyfriend?

Expect that your children may be even more distressed after the move
than they were before it. The new house will not be beautiful the
night after the moving van leaves, or for months after. The furniture
won't fit the rooms. The curtains won't be up, and every spot on the
floor will be covered with half-unpacked cartons. The children won't
know anyone at school and, if you move during the summer, they may
have little opportunity to meet anyone their age. You may be faced
with many more problems in your new community than they will, but
remember that you can handle them more easily than they can. They will
need your help, and you should plan to give them the support they
need. After the move, give each of them a long distance telephone
call allowance so they can keep in touch with the people back home who
matter the most to them. Buy a stack of picture postcards that show
positive views of your new community, and encourage them to write good
news messages to the friends and relatives they left behind. To make
new friends, make sure the children don't vegetate in front of the
television. Get them outside, where neighbors pass by. Have them pass
out fliers to do baby-sitting or car washing. Encourage them to
participate in as many school activities as they can handle. Get them
on sports teams and into clubs.

If they - and you - aren't making new friends fast enough, throw a
housewarming party for yourselves and invite all the adults and
children on the block. If serious emotional or attitudinal problems
arise, however, help is usually available and probably should be
sought. Ask a teacher for help. Consider professional counseling.
Don't let a serious problem slide. Remember that the newness will
wear off. New friends will become old friends and best friends. This
new house may become the family homestead your grandchildren will
visit every holiday season. There will be discomforts, but in the long
run, everything will work out fine.

 

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