The prospect of moving a residence can be hugely unsettling for children. The idea of losing the only home they know, their school and their friends all at one time, may seem almost inconceivable. Below are some tips that can help all children make a smooth transition to a new home.
1. Generally it is best to let children know about a move once a decision has been made. Telling a child that they might move, may cause uncertainty, confusion and anxiety.
2. Prepare the child for the move. Give them information about their new community and new school. If possible, bring your child to the new neighborhood. Show him the house he will be living in. Drop by his new school. If this is not doable, try to find your neighborhood on Google Earth and walk the neighborhood virtually.
3. Create a book of resources about the new area. This can include a map, brochures of local kids clubs, activities and teams. Also include brochures of places that might be of special interest to your child, such as an amusement park, planetarium or a professional sports team in the area.
4. After your child has reviewed all the materials about his new home, ask him what kinds of clubs or teams he might like to join once he moves. Make a list. This will encourage the child to think positively about the move, and focus on opportunities and new experiences.
5. Ideally, it would be best for children to be with a relative or friend on moving day. Seeing their things being unpacked can be unsettling for some children. If you can set up the child’s room before he arrives at the new house, this will give him a sense of stability, and the house will be introduced as more of a home.
6. With the advent of texting and the internet, it is easy for kids to stay in touch with friends and relatives from the old neighborhood. These contacts can offer emotional support while your child is adjusting socially to his new environment. Over time, there will be a natural attrition in this correspondence as the child becomes involved with kids and activities in his new neighborhood.
7. Schedule family activities soon after the move. This will give kids a sense of a belonging in an unfamiliar place.
8. Meet your neighbors. Whether you go door to door and introduce yourselves or strike up conversations on the street or in park, model friendliness for your children. Show them how to meet new people and make new friends.
9. Join a local church or club to meet new people as a family.
10. Sign your child up for classes, clubs and teams. This is a great way for your child to meet other kids, particularly if you move during summer vacation. If the child is in new school, encourage him or her to invite new friends over to your house.
Cindy Jett, LICSW is a psychotherapist living in Reston, VA. She is the author of Harry the Happy Caterpillar Grows, a picture book that helps the anxious child manage fear and adapt to change. For more information, visit http://www.harrythehappycaterpillar.com.