Moving can be a traumatic thing when you’re a kid (it’s not always easy for adults, either). If you need to make a move and you’re wondering how to help your child cope with it, we have a few ideas for you to keep in mind.
Explain Things Ahead of Time
If your family is moving, let your child know about it beforehand. In fact, talk about it as much as you can. Let your child know what to expect, what there is to look forward to, and what’s going to happen. Be positive and frame it as an adventure that your family is undertaking together. However, don’t gloss over the tricky parts. Let your child know that they’ll have a different house, neighborhood, and school (if they’re school-age) and that they won’t be in proximity to their current friends anymore.
Allow for Big Emotions
As you talk about the move, your child will have lots of questions. Answer them all as honestly as you can, even if the answer is, “I don’t know.” Be prepared for lots of big emotions ranging from extreme excitement to despair and temper tantrums. Be understanding, and stay calm while they explore their feelings. Let your child know that it’s normal to feel sad, nervous, excited, or any other feeling associated with moving. Accept all feelings they display without judgment. Be a safe place for your child to vent, and do what you can to point out the positive aspects of the move.
Keep Old Routines as Much as Possible
Children need routine, and part of the disruption of moving is changes in those routines. As much as you can, keep your child’s current routines during and after the move. Be sure that favorite toys are available, not packed up in an unreachable box. Do the same story time, have the same bedtime routines, and try to eat and play at the same times. The younger the child, the more important this is, but older children are comforted by familiar routines as well.
Get Involved with Your New Neighborhood
Get out there and get social with the people in your new neighborhood. Show your child how fun it is in the new place by being active and checking out all the nooks and crannies of your new area. Visit the library, check out the museums, sample the restaurants, and especially, get to know the people. Bolster your child’s confidence about making new friends by giving positive feedback about social skills and doing role-playing exercises on how to make new friends.
Stay Involved with Your Old Neighborhood
Use social media, video chat, real letters, and phone calls to stay connected to the people in your old area. This type of anchor will help your child transition more easily by providing reassurance that they aren’t going to lose all the relationships they previously cherished. As time goes on, it might be harder to remember to nurture those long-distance friendships, but make it a priority to do so—it will be good for both you and your child.
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Associated services must likewise be offered, including language, physical or occupational therapy, depending on the needs of each child.