By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.
The decision to move should not be made lightly when children are involved. Changing homes, schools, and friends can be very stressful for a child. Children are not involved in the decision-making process and often find it difficult to understand the reason for moving. They might think that their parents are being selfish and are not seeing it from their point of view.
Parents need to be extremely supportive and understanding in this case, even though they themselves are overwhelmed with the task of relocating. Some children embrace moving as an opportunity to make new friends and to learn new things; others get anxious or develop behavior problems. Moves are even more difficult if accompanied by other significant changes in the child's life, such as a death, divorce, loss of family income, or a need to change schools.
As a child grows older, he/she establishes a higher priority for his/her friends and thus finds it more difficult to move. Pre-teens and teenagers may constantly oppose the shift. Some adolescents may not discuss their misery, so parents should be attentive of the alarming signs of depression, which include changes in appetite, social withdrawal, poor performance at school, temper tantrums, difficulty in sleeping, or other dramatic changes in behavior or mood.
Children who seem depressed by moving to a new environment may be reacting more to the stress. Sometimes one parent may be against the move, and children will sense and react to this parental discord. However, most children do learn to love their new home and eventually see the benefits of the move.
Some tips to ease the transition:
- Give your child as much information as possible before the move, as far in advance as possible; more lead time means more time for the child to get used to the idea.
- Try and be positive. Children are overwhelmingly affected by parents' attitudes in times of transition; they are depending on you for reassurance that things will work out.
- If possible, show the children their new home, ask them to pick their rooms and even ask suggestions for decorating the home.
- Encourage children to talk to their friends the move and to swap addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses.
- Describe advantages of the new locality that the child might appreciate such as a lake, mountain or an amusement park.
- Visit new schools to see if orientation programs are available for newcomers so that your child can familiarize himself to the new environment.
It may take children and adults months to adjust after a move. In some cases, children may not like their new schools, neighborhoods, or living arrangements despite their parents' best efforts. If this happens, parents should not get frustrated or angry. Instead, they should talk openly with children about their anxieties and reassure them that their feelings are normal. It will take some time to adjust to new surroundings. If your family moves more frequently, the need for internal stability and love increases to a great extent. With proper attention from parents, and professional help if necessary, moving can be a positive growth experience for children, leading to increased self-confidence and interpersonal skills.
Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center, http://www.startingadaycarecenter.com.