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Helping Kids Prepare Emotionally for the Big Move
06-08-2021 | Armbruster

Helping Kids Prepare Emotionally for the Big Move

Moving is a big deal—a major upheaval in a person’s life. When you’re a kid, it’s an even bigger deal.  As adults, we have life experience to fall back on. We’ve lived and worked in different places. We’ve packed boxes and hauled our stuff to various places. We know what to expect. Kids don’t have a frame of reference for moving. To them, moving is a giant leap into the unknown. They look to us to navigate that leap. How can you help your child prepare for your big move? Start with their feelings. Allow Kids to Feel Their Feelings—Even the Difficult Ones One of the biggest things you can do to help your child during this transition is to allow space for their feelings. Yes, you can frame the move in a positive light. You can point out that they’ll have a bigger bedroom or that you’ll be closer to a place they’ll enjoy.  No matter how many benefits there are to your move, your kids are going to feel a range of emotions. It’s normal for kids to feel worry, sadness, or even fear in the face of moving. Check in with your child about their feelings. Let them know it’s okay for them to feel however it is they are feeling. Remember the wisdom that feelings aren’t right or wrong. They just are.  Children have a lot less experience than we do in handling their emotions. Your kids may not “handle” their emotions in ways that are particularly helpful. That’s where you come in. Share Your Feelings About the Move You don’t have to pretend that all of your feelings about the move are positive. In fact, it’s helpful for kids to know that they aren’t alone in how they feel.  You can say things like: I feel worried about moving, too. I wonder if I’ll make friends in our new home. I feel sad about moving away from Grandma. I’ll miss going to our favorite restaurant here. Processing difficult emotions is an important life skill. It’s helpful for your kids to see how you manage them.  You might share with them the steps you take to cope with sad feelings. A healthy process involves:
  • acknowledging feelings
  • taking time to feel your feelings
  • expressing your feelings in some way (talking, crying, journaling)
  • creating a plan to feel happier—not denying the feelings, but moving past them
Emotions aren’t neat and tidy, so expect some bumps in the road.  What if My Child Is Really Sad? Kids can really be thrown for a loop by moving, especially if they are changing schools. Moving can even trigger depression in some children.  If you have any concerns about how your child is coping, call your pediatrician. They can tell you what to keep an eye out for and offer treatment options if needed.  If you want your child to speak to a counselor, online therapy will allow you to work with the same therapist regardless of location.  Help Kids Feel in Control Even pre-school children like to feel like they have some control over their situation. You can help your child feel a sense of control by involving them in the moving process.  Have your child help pack their room. Let them have a say in what to keep and what to let go. Don’t sweat it if your child wants to keep everything. They may want to cling to their things since so much else is changing. If they can’t let go of even broken toys, so be it.  Ask your child to help make age-appropriate decisions. Should we keep this old armchair? What color should we paint the family room? What’s the first movie we should watch in our new place? Having a say in some of the decisions will help your child feel more invested in the move. Helping Kids Say Goodbye to Friends There’s no getting around it. If your kid has friends, they are going to miss them.  Help your child decide how they want to say good-bye. Some questions to think about: 
  • Who do you want to see before you leave?
  • Do you want to have a gathering with several people? 
  • Do you want to have time with individual people?
  • Is there a local park or place you’d like to go with friends before leaving?
Helping Kids Say Goodbye to Classmates Your child’s teachers may already have some ideas for how to help kids say goodbye to their schools and classmates. Talk with them about a way that would work for your child and their particular class. Some successful ideas include:
  • Have classmates sign an autograph book or “going away” poster. You could make a template for kids to write what they’ll miss or what they hope for your child.
  • Give out cards with your new address, phone number, and social media (if age appropriate)
  • Have your child donate a book to the school library (lots of schools have a library donation program) 
Most teachers, especially of young children, will want to help all the students say their goodbyes.  Plan Ways to Keep in Touch Let your kids know if and when they will see different people again. Knowing goodbye isn’t forever will help ease their transition. Add dates on the calendar if visits are in your near future. Even if you can’t commit to a specific date, pick a date for planning your next visit. Show your kids the calendar so they know you’re committed to staying in touch with old friends.  It’s easier than ever to stay in touch through social media and virtual calls. Older kids can manage that on their own and even help their younger siblings.   Need help making your move easier for everyone? Look at our residential services or schedule a virtual survey with us today!
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