Moving is hard on all family members. Even if you are transplanting to a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood, adjusting is difficult. If the move is a result of divorce or some other familial misfortune, the accompanying loss of a parent or decline in standard of living will increase its impact.
No matter what the reason for a move, coping is especially tough for kids. Small children thrive on predictability and their sense of security is closely tied to familiar faces, places and activities. Older children are apt to feel the social impact of a move most. They miss old friends and worry about making new ones. For pre-teens and teens, fitting in is of the utmost importance and having to re-establish themselves in a new and possibly very different social environment is a scary prospect.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to make the move easier on your kids. Try some of these tried-and-true methods, geared to different age groups:
For all children, but especially pre-schoolers and kids in primary school, follow established home routines faithfully for the first few months after you move. This means having dinner at the same time, serving familiar foods, watching favorite TV shows, going to bed at the same time and observing the same bedtime rituals on a day-to-day basis. You should also try to observe special occasions like birthdays and holidays the same way as always.
For all children, consult with your child about the décor of his or her new room. Let your child pick the paint color, the fabric for curtains and bedspread and choose posters for the walls. Younger children typically resist change of any kind. If this is the case with your child, it may help to replicate the décor and furniture arrangement of his or her old room as closely as possible.
For school-age children, help your child keep up with old friends. Encourage him or her to write and exchange photos; arrange phone calls, visits and sleepovers on a regular basis. Kids who are struggling to make new friends find it very relaxing and comforting to be with old buddies they don’t have to impress.
For school-age children, make it easy for your child to make new friends by opening your home to other kids after school and encouraging your child to invite new acquaintances along on special outings.
For school-age children, reinforce your child’s confidence by enabling him or her to participate in extra-curricular activities. Whether it’s soccer or music lessons, continuing a favorite activity or starting a new one gives your child feelings of competence and self-esteem that don’t depend on how well he or she is fitting into the social order at the new school.
For school-age children, particularly pre-teens and teens, give your child a head start at the new school by doing some advance scouting. Contact the principal, the head of the PTA, the guidance counselor and the new home-room teacher to find out everything you can about the school:
- official and unofficial dress codes
- activities, sports and clubs
- academic strengths and weaknesses
- problems such as drugs, gangs or bullying
For school-age children, stay abreast of how your child is fitting into his or her new environment. Ask your child how he or she is doing and feeling in school and the new social milieu. Stay in touch with school officials and teachers to get objective information.