As many of you know, the content of this blog is reader-guided, and I love to have suggestions from parents/caregivers/childcare educators who follow the blog or who I interact with in daily life. I have a parent in one of the classrooms at my preschool who is moving at the end of this month, and she has asked if it were possible for me to address how to help your child with a move, and tips on how to help them adjust and how to make the transition smoother/less stressful/essentially easier for all those involved.
Include Your Child As Much As Possible
Depending on the distance and location of your move (as well as the age of your child), the amount that they can participate can vary; but that doesn’t mean they still can’t feel involved! Something I have learnt during my time working with young children is that you can never underestimate how much they know about a situation; even if they don’t understand the mechanics, they know something is going on, so don’t try sweeping it under the rug or playing a large event in your lives down too much. Instead, have your child involved in the aspects of the move that are appropriate it, and by doing this, it allows them to see that there isn’t anything to be afraid of and allows you to talk them through the process and challenge any fears or apprehensions they have head on. Here are some things you can do leading up to the move to help you all feel more prepared:
- Take your child with you to see the new house/new school/new neighbourhood. Ask their opinion about what they see: ‘I like how the new park has a slide and a tunnel. What do you like about the new park?’
- When you get information from the real estate agent, you can show these/share them with your child
- Plan a visual ‘scavenger hunt’ for things you want to find in your new neighbourhood (you want to make sure they are fun to look for, but that they are able to be found!) You can use Google Maps beforehand to see what’s in the area, and this can also include things like a rose bush, or a fire hydrant. Maybe include some things that are similar to your old neigbourhood.
- Have your child draw a ‘plan’ of how they want to set up their new bedroom.
- Read some books with your child about moving (I’ll make a list of some recommended ones at the end!)
Handling the Emotional Aspects
- Young children have more fluid attachments when it comes to people outside of their immediate family. I have seen many children come and go in my classrooms, either from moving house, moving schools, or just moving up into a new classroom! The students that remain behind seem to accept this as part of life; they are always very curious as to why the absent child has left, and from time to time they will bring them up and tell me that they miss them. But for these children, their strongest attachments are with their family, then extended family/nannies/constant babysitters, then teachers, and then their friends. I tell you this as a reassurance that whilst it will be saddening for you child to leave their friends, because their friendships are so fluid, they will also easily make new ones, especially if their new teacher is made aware of the situation and can help assist them in entering play at the new school!
- Monitor the visual/emotional/nonverbal cues and signals that you are sending. If you are coming off as tense, rigid, distractible, or irritable, even if you are saying to your child ‘Don’t worry honey, we’re going to have so much fun in our new house!’ your child is going to believe your emotions far sooner than your words.
- Hand in hand with the above tip– I don’t expect you to handle the move like a robot; even if everything goes swimmingly, it can be a heavy weight on a parent’s shoulders juggling all the things that need to get done! Please, reach out to me, your child’s teacher, and tell them what you have going on and anything that we can do to help, be it anything like keeping an extra eye on your child’s feelings during the day, or maybe talking to him about the upcoming move. You can do this with his new teacher as well!
- If you child expresses concerns about certain friends or family members (or even a favourite teacher of his) that he will miss, you can help him come up with a plan on how you can all stay in touch. You can get a notebook and tell him it is his ‘Keeping In Touch’ Book (or any other name, I am sure you can think of things far better than me). In the notebook, help collect phone numbers, pictures, addresses, and emails of the people he will miss. With modern technology today, you can also communicate with fellow parents/family members about doing things like talking over Skype so he can see them as well!
Ultimately, young children are far more resilient than I think many of us remember to give them credit for. Moving is a stressful time for adults, but it doesn’t have to be a stressful time for your child as well! I remember moving when I was young; I moved from my home country of England when I was about seven across the world to a country in SE Asia called Singapore. My dad introduced the whole concept of moving my telling me about how different the weather was there, and how we would have to ‘acclimatise’ to the tropics, and all the fun and different things we would do. I remember being so excited for the move; I don’t remember having much anxiety or stress at all, even though I am sure (looking back) it was very stressful for my parents!
Here are some books you can read with your child about moving:
- Alexander, Who’s Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move- Judith Viorst
- The Berenstain Bears Moving Day- Stan and Jan Berenstain.
- A House for Hermit Crab- Eric Carle
- A Kiss Goodbye- Audrey Penn
Let me know what you think, or different ways that you have helped your children cope with moving and difficult transitions.