to Ease The Stress On Children When Its Time to Move...
Moving from one house to another is seldom easy and never fun for
anyone, and if the parents fail to plan carefully, a move can be
needlessly traumatic for the children. If, on the other hand, parents
deal with their childrens concerns and needs thoughtfully,
much of that distress and discomfort can be avoided.
see moves differently than their parents do, and they benefit much
less from that change in their lifestyles, 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.
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, 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 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 and thoroughly at home.
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; they will live in someone elses
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
Its 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 dont 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.
and PLANNING EASE The TRAUMA OF MOVING
Be sure to announce the
move in a totally positive way. You might say how proud you are
that Daddys 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
Tell truthful but very
positive stories about how nice the new house will be, with particular
emphasis on those features that will be most important to your
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 childs
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 childrens
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 the 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 alleviate them.
Probably the best tactic
is to get the children actively involved in the whole process.
Dont 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 wont fit
the rooms. The curtains wont be up, and every spot on the
floor will be covered with half-unpacked cartons. The children
wont 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
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. Many phone companies now offer plans that include unlimited
long distance or consider providing them with pre-paid calling
cards. 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.
Make sure the children
dont vegetate in front of the television. Get them outside,
where neighbors pass by. Teach them to meet people and make friends.
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 -- arent making
new friends fast enough, throw a welcome-the-neighborhood 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. Dont let a serious problem slide.
It can get worse.
Remember that the newness
will wear off. New friends will become old friends and best friends.
This new house may become the family homestead the grandchildren
will visit every holiday season. There will be discomforts, but
in the end, everything will work out fine.