for IWAP’s Bridge Magazine
Moving can be as challenging as it is exciting. It is as hard for kids as it is for adults.
Moving to a new location affects each child differently. Before, during and after a move a roller coaster of emotions may be present. Studies show that children who move frequently are more likely to have problems at school. Some youngsters may not be able to express their distress so parents should be aware of the warning signs of depression, including changes in appetite, social withdrawal, a drop in grades, irritability, sleep disturbances or other dramatic changes in behaviour or mood.
Infants & Toddlers: are sensitive to their parents’ anxiety and stress levels. This is the age when children learn what is okay to do and what is not. When their surroundings change they may have to relearn these rules all over again so that they can associate the rules with the new atmosphere. It is suggested that you take special time-breaks to hold or play with your child. They need special attention and reassurance that they are important too. Be sure that their security objects are close by such as their teddy bear or their blanky. Routines are also very important. It proves to balance the children out if they have regular schedules for eating, sleeping, and other daily activities.
Preschoolers: will be excited over the move but may not understand what is going on. When their parents are frustrated and there is chaos around, they may end up feeling that this is somehow their fault. It is hard for them to understand who and what is moving and who and what is staying behind. Try to explain the move to your child and explain why the move is necessary. It is important to keep routines as normal as possible.
School-age children: seem to be project oriented. They love to organize things and develop lists. It may be useful to assign tasks such as selecting which toys will move with the family. Their real emotions may only surface after a month or so, which is when they may become angry or depressed about the move. Parents should find out what kinds of activities are available in the new neighbourhood or community before moving there.
Teenagers: are extremely involved in social relationships and organizations and moving is difficult for them. They face special dilemmas about fitting in and making friends. Their way of dealing with this kind of stress is more complex. Parents should give teenagers time and space to get ready for the move. They should look into what kind of schools, activities and social circles there are in the new environment since these are crucial factors for teenagers.
It is important that the family show internal stability. If the parents provide proper attention then this stressful experience may be turned into a positive one. This teaches children self-confidence and interpersonal skills. Moving may end up being a positive growth experience for everyone.
Key Tips When Moving With Children:
- Inform the children early.
- Keep a positive attitude, especially in their presence.
- Allow them to provide input and pay attention to their feelings.
- If the children don’t accompany you when you are looking or buying your new home, be sure to take pictures or videotape of it.
- Involve the children in packing special items such as their belongings.
- Separate a few items (their favourite teddy bear, books) with which the children will travel.
- Try to get books, magazines, newspapers, pictures, and videotapes of the new area prior to the move.
- Try to get information on points of special interest for the children.
- Help children keep in touch with old friends by helping them gather their addresses and by allowing them occasional phone calls to old friends.
- As soon as possible, as a family, take time to explore the new area.
- Encourage the children to bring home new friends and to take part in special school projects or after school activities
Originally printed in IWAP magazine “The Bridge”
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