In this day and age, there are many things that cause families to move across town, across the country, or even across the globe. The death of a parent is one particularly difficult reason for relocation and is common after the loss of the primary breadwinner. The child’s already immense grief is compounded by the stresses of the move, the lack of stability and the change that surrounds them.
Moving isn’t necessarily easy on anyone but can be especially hard on children. For teens this can threaten the self-identity they have been building, break apart meaningful friendships and add stress to these formative years. Younger children may seem to be more at ease with change, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard for them too. Stability is important for children of all ages. That said, these moves are often unavoidable, but there are ways to help your child adjust to their new environment while they also process their grief over the death of their loved one.
Here’s a simple list of things you can do to help your child through the move:
- Let your child express their feelings surrounding the move
It’s important to let your child feel safe explaining their emotions to you about the move. If they’re mad, let them be mad. Validate that as an appropriate feeling about having to move away. Acknowledge that their emotions exist and are important to you. Address some of the specific issues that make your child nervous about the move, be sympathetic and empathetic.
If you’re feeling nervous too it’s okay to tell them so! Just make sure you don’t rub off too much of your anxious feelings onto your child. But make sure your child understand that you’re doing everything you can to make sure the move is easy on the whole family.
- Focus on the Positive Aspect of the Move
Children tend to focus on the negative side of moving. Bummed about the activities they were involved in and will be missing out on, like sports teams or theater productions. Upset about losing friends and having to start all over in a place where they will be the stranger and that may have different social standards and etiquette.
Try to put emphasis on the adventure of it all! Maybe tell stories of pioneers, or your own family’s immigration story, to show that they are not alone in feeling nervous about traveling to a new land while also showing all the positive outcomes that can come from such a journey. Age appropriate books about moving can also help to encourage this explorer attitude.
- Explore the New Community Before the Move
Take your child around the new town, they will probably notice that this new city isn’t that much different from the one you’re moving away from. Drive by the new school they’ll be attending and if you can visit with their new teacher or walk around the halls so they can familiarize themselves with the new surroundings.
Look into the extracurricular activities offered at the school or a nearby community center. Discuss with your child the new options for activities, or emphasis the team/group they were in before! If the new city is in a different climate there might be new options for sports and outdoor activities like skiing or snowshoeing. Or if your child was on the football team plan ahead to sign up for the team in the new city. Get them excited about continuing what they loved and trying something new!
Try and find things that will excite your child. Do they love playing outside and your new house has a huge yard or a park nearby? Show them! Is the new house larger and they will be able to have their own room? Help them make plans for how to decorate their new space!
If the new city is too far away to visit beforehand try doing a few internet searches to discover the town and what it has to offer. It may not be the same as stepping into their new school with them, but it will at least give them a glimpse of what to expect.
- Become Involved in the New Community Yourself
While checking out options for your child don’t forget to look for ways for you to explore too! Join a new club, or go out of your way to talk to other parents at the store or school events to learn about upcoming town events. Invite people over to dinner once your house is set up, visit the neighbors and introduce yourself. Try to make this new community feel like a safe community for your child to continue to grow in. As your child sees you getting involved they will be more likely to get involved themselves!
- Stay in Contact with Old Friends
In this day and age it is extremely easy to stay connected with those you move away from. Social Media like Facebook and Twitter help your child keep up with what is going on in the lives of those they left behind, and feel like they are still part of the group though miles away. And in this day and age what is more meaningful than getting a hand written letter? Encourage your child to write letters, make phone calls, interact with old friends in ways other than just online. This will help make the friendship more real, more substantial. Just make sure that not all of their time is spent reliving the past instead of exploring the now.
If its possible, visit the old neighborhood. Stop by at an old friend’s house, invite old friends over to your new home for a long weekend. Let your child know that just because you moved doesn’t mean they have to completely break their connections with their current friends.
Just remember that each child is different and what is hard for some will be easy for others. What is most important is that you are there to listen and validate what your child is saying. Give them the reasons behind the move and as much detail as you can about the process, time frame and resources for the move. Make sure they feel heard and a part of the move, not just being strung along for the ride.
Other Sites you may want to try out:
http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/feelings/move.html# This site gives some great, age specific ways to discuss the move with your children.
http://www.easternflorida.edu/community-resources/child-development-centers/parent-resource-library/documents/moving-adjusting-to-a-new-home.pdf This PDF gives some tips on interactive things to do with your child in order to ease the transition of moving.
http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/best-moving-books/ This site has 7 books recommended for children experiencing a move.
Resources for Article:
Greatschools Staff, Moving? Tips to Help Your Child with the Transition. retrieved from http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/help-your-child-with-the-transition/
Lyness, D’Arcy PHD. (2013) The Moving Blues. retrieved from http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_mind/emotions/moving.html