Making the Move Easy on the Kids
Moving from one house to another is seldom easy and fun for adults, and it
can be especially troubling for children. But 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
Nowadays, mobile and hard-striving people typically live in a house for
about five 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 five years is half the lifetime of an 10-year-old,
and it includes almost all the years he or she can remember. To a parent,
this house may only be the place they have lived recently. They think of it
as a way 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.
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 will soon be strange, and they will live in someone else's
The impact of a move on a typical child starts about the time he or she
first hears that a parent 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. Sugarcoating will help, but
since children can quickly see the negative sides of most situations, every
parent must plan to deal with their child'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 their 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 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 babysitting 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.
This free report is provided to you by Lynnette Wallace, Your Hat Lady in
Real Estate and Help U Buy Realty. For more information, please call
817-454-3641 or e-mail HatLady@HatLadyRealEstate.com.