Moving house can be one of the most stressful things that you’ll ever have to do. There’s so much to remember, so much to organise (this website offers some great resources and checklists to help with that) and of course, there is the emotional side to it as well. For you, there’s the stress of moving, the end of a relationship and saying goodbye to a much-loved home. For children moving home can be downright scary.
Children have a limited ability to predict what the future looks like. As grown ups we know that the sadness of moving will end, that we’ll soon be settled in a new home, that things might even be better; children can’t see that far ahead and so the change can be very confusing and worrying.
Thankfully there are things you can do to help your little ones throughout the move which can make a big difference to how they handle it, especially if they are anxious.
- Tell the children what is going on in good time. While some moves can occur with very little notice it can be helpful to tell the children about the move early on so that they have time to digest the news before boxes start being packed and belongings start to disappear.
- Give them a timeline. Make sure the children know when they will be moving. Marking it off on a calendar for little ones especially can make the situation more real and show that moving day is approaching. Breaking the process up into steps may be helpful too, for example, “This is the day that we put the beds down and get the sleeping bags ready”.
- Use books and TV shows to explain what moving is about. The Topsy and Tim books and shows for example answer a lot of the common questions in a way that younger children can understand.
- Encourage questions. One of the worst things a child can do when worried or afraid is to keep it to themselves. Talk through the situation as openly and as honestly as possible, reassure, continue to explain the timeline of packing and moving and offer them the opportunity often to talk (or write!) about how they feel.
- Talk to their school / childcare provider. Make sure that the relevant people in their lives know that you are moving so that they may keep an eye open for changes in behaviour and offer additional support and reassurance when you aren’t there.
- Let them say goodbye. If you are moving away from the area rather than to a new house nearby make sure that the children have an opportunity to say goodbye to their home, their neighbours, their friends and favourite places. Make solid plans for visits (if appropriate), set up Skype, arrange to send letters; do whatever you can to make leaving special people and places behind that bit easier.
- Pack a special backpack. It can be quite frightening to see your belonging disappearing bit by bit. Give each child a backpack that they can fill with their very special, very favourite things. This will stay with them on the run up to the move, throughout (so they can’t be lost) and in the new place so that they always have something familiar and friendly with them.
- Concentrate on what will be staying the same as well as what will be changing (even if the changes are being explained in an exciting way). Make sure the children know that you will be with that, that their special things will be with them, that they’ll still get to have pizza and ice cream on a Wednesday just like now. Feeling insecure is common for little ones during a move and so constant reassurance is needed.
Have you moved house with your children? What top tips have you got for helping them through the change?