For a young child, a change like moving can bring up many emotions. As a parent, we want to help our children during a time like this but sometimes do not know where to begin. Below are a few suggestions that you can use as you embark on this new adventure.
Prepare your child: When you share the news about the family move, be as simple, yet detailed as you can about the 5: w’s: Who is moving, where are you going, why are you moving, when will you move, what will you bring and how will you go? These facts provide a starting place for your child- something they can begin to wrap their head around during a time of potential overwhelm. Having this information will also provide their brain a place to process and think up any questions they might have about the move. If you know the city where you will be moving, showing children pictures of the town or researching the town and its amenities can be very helpful and also bring excitement for your child.
Acknowledge and validate all feelings: You might find that one of your children is ecstatic about moving whereas another child digs in their heels and feels extremely overwhelmed. It is important as a parent to allow space for all of the feelings a child may have, and to comfort your child by the simple words, “It is ok to feel ____________. I am here for you and will do my best to help make this move easier for you.” Also communicate to your child that you are available to answer any or all questions he may have along the way.
Allow them choice: During a move, children might feel out of control. It is very helpful to allow them choice (when possible) during a time like this. For example, if you know that you will be moving to a new house, you can allow them to pick out the color of their room. If you begin packing, you can ask them to help set aside a box of comfort items that they might need to unpack first and even some that they do not pack and keeps with him during the drive/trip to the new city. Allowing them choice, even small choices, helps your child feel a sense of control.
Honor their People: For children, one of the hardest parts of moving is leaving the many friendships they have made. It is important to honor these friendships and support your child’s need to keep their friends while also making new friends. Brainstorm ways to remain connected with friends and do your best to make that possible, especially during the transition time of being in a new city and not yet being established with new friends. Before moving, arrange special playdates with your child’s favorite friends. Take pictures that your child can look at and remember her favorite friends.
Be positive: Children look to their parents for emotional support. Your attitude about the move can greatly impact how your child perceives the move. If you set the stage by pointing out the many positive things that the move can bring to your family, your child will feel hopeful about this new adventure. Talk about the new friends you will meet, the new opportunities you will have, and the new experiences you will have. All of these will help bring a feeling of hope and excitement amidst a big change.
Pray! Make a list of all your children’s worries about the move that you can turn into prayer. Pray for these things as a family. This can be a wonderful time to see how the Lord provides for your family and can be a time of growth in your faith.
~Shannon Brown, LMSW
Shannon is a Licensed Master Social Worker who specializes in working with children, teens and their families. She also has expanded her practice to working with adult women and couples. She enjoys reading, writing, garage sales, long walks and all things coffee-related. She and her husband are involved in their local church and are in the midst of the child-raising years as parents of two growing boys.