Helping Children cope with Moving House
, by Maeve Reidy, 9 min reading time
, by Maeve Reidy, 9 min reading time
Moving House is stressful. And moving with children can be doubly-stressful! Children and teenagers typically aren't thrilled by moving. In fact they rarely relish change of any magnitude! Fortunately there's some steps you can take to ease the transition ...
Moving house is stressful.
Whether you are moving by choice, or forced by change of circumstances, or forced to make the move, moving house is stressful!
But you've made the decision now and narrowed down the list of potential new homes.
Now comes the hard bit ... telling the kids!
Children and teenagers typically aren't thrilled by moving. In fact they rarely relish change of any magnitude! Fortunately there's some steps you can take to ease the transition.
Here's a few tips that will help you and your children move house as anxiety-free as possible
Call a Family Meeting
Communication is really important. If your children are very young, they will have no sense of time and so, talking about a move that will take place a long time from now will not help and may give them more time to get nervous. But it is not a good idea for such an important event to take place without appropriate notice or else they may generalise that "things" can happen at any time and feel less secure. You know your children and what is best for them based on their age and adaptability.
Order a takeaway and gather round the dining room table for a casual dinner and lots of conversation. If you're moving because of a promotion or new job, be sure to tell your children that you're excited about it. Explain why you took the new job and how it will impact the entire family. Encourage them to express their feelings and concerns. If this is their first time moving, it could be traumatic for them because they're leaving the only home they have ever known. Share with them your experiences of moving house. Let them know you'll be depending on them to help out during the move, from packing to settling in to the new place.
Get their Feedback on the New Home
If possible involve your children, especially if they're older, in the selection process of the new home. Once you're narrowed your choice to two or three houses, get some feedback from the kids. If the new houses are a reasonable distance, take them to see them and the surrounding areas. If you're moving further afield, show them photos of each home and describe to them the house and the neighbourhood. Ask them to share three favourite things about each house. Let them know you'll take their comments and feedback into consideration when making the final decision. Have a little family celebration once you know you've got the house!
Decluttering is a Family Affair!
Let the kids know that now is a good time to get rid of the clutter. Throughout the house, there's bound to be loads of things that don't need to go with you to the new place. Get the kids to help you go through the house room by room and identify what you should keep and what you can get rid of. Make sure they're aware that it is okay to keep certain things that hold important memories. You may consider old or broken toys fit for nothing but dumping, but your child may consider them as treasured possessions. Ensure there are enough kept to smooth the transition. Keep a few key toys to be packed at the last moment to help your child feel secure.
Selling Unwanted Items.
Once you've figured out what you want to bring with you and what needs to be thrown out, you'll probably be left with some items that you can sell. Get the children to help sort through everything, organise it and price it. You could let them know that the proceeds from the sold items could be used for something for the family ... a new television for the new house, or perhaps a new puppy. Whatever it is, the more invested the kids are, the more helpful they will be!
Research the New Place
Try to learn as much as possible about the new neighbourhood. Share what you find out with your kids. You don't have to make everything sound wonderful - honest, matter-of-fact information will be most helpful in the long term. If you oversell things, there'll be raised expectations which can lead to disappointment. Encourage your kids to do their own research. With your help they can go online and look up community and school websites. You may also be able to get copies of local newspapers. It will all help you (and your children!) get a sense of what will be your new home.
Make Room Plans
To get the kids excited about the new home, make room plans. It doesn't just have to be of their bedrooms. If they're interested in helping arrange and decorate other rooms in the house, let them! Take a recce trip to a few DIY stores to look at paint or wallpaper. If you're planning on getting new furniture and the children are interested, take them them with you. For teenagers, set them a budget and let them tackle their own bedrooms - picking out wall colours, curtains etc. Younger children may be equally interested in designing their room but may need a little help from you to do this!
Do a Site Visit
If you can, take the kids to the new place for a visit. Plan to spend a day doing a walk-through of the house and take a tour of your new neighbourhood. You could visit your local library for additional information or check out where the childrens' new school is. You could also drive your children by where you'll be working to give them an idea of the distance involved from the new house. Don't forget to check out the local shops, shopping centre, cinema or sports centre!
Have a "See You Soon" Party
One of the most difficult things about moving for any child is saying goodbye to friends. You could lessen the anxiety of this by having a get-together with family, friends and neighbours. During the party, make sure everybody exchanges contact details and take photos of your kids with their friends. Between texts, emails and phone calls, your kids should be able to maintain old friendships while transitioning to their new surroundings. Depending on how far away you're moving you could speak with the parents of your children's friends about planning a weekend visit or meeting somewhere for an afternoon.
Map your Move
If you're moving a few towns away or to another country altogether, get out the maps and atlas! Map out the moving route and mark some interesting places to visit and sights to see along the way. This will make the trip go by more quickly and will be more engaging for you and your kids. Keep the maps handy for when you arrive at your destination too. Get the children to help you plot out routine routes such as from the house to their school, or local park, or shops. For really young children, it might be easier to have them stay with grandparents or relations while the actual move is taking place - people tramping around carrying boxes in and out might unsettle them!
A Special Note on Tiny Tots
You may find yourself moving house with a baby or toddler. They may not have the vocabulary or comprehension to express their feelings about the new move. But they do pick up on your emotions! So try to be calm, reassuring and positive with them. If you can, try to defer any developmental changes until you're in the new house - there's nothing as bad as trying to organise a house move while simultaneously potty-training! Very young children may find the move and all it entails a little disconcerting and may decide they need that bottle at bedtime that they recently gave up; or may need a few nappies again. Don't take this as failure! All this means is that your child has noticed their new home and just needs a little more time and reassurance to get used to it!
Act like a Tourist!
You've moved house! And you're slowly but surely settling into your first week at your new place! Slowly but steadily the boxes are being unpacked and you're all settling in nicely. Now it's time to settle in to your community! If there is one, get a guidebook for your new area. Grab it, with a calendar and sit down with the kids to plan some fun outings. It doesn't matter what it is, but it is important to engage your children and show them all the new area has to offer!
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