The average family in America moves every 7 years. Some of course, move more often and others less. A move is a huge change for anyone involved and it is common to see behaviors arise in children before and after a move. Why?
Moving can be considered a loss for children. After all they are changing homes, schools, and moving away from friends. There are different stages of grief they might experience that might be perceived as behavior problems. Stages of loss include shock, denial, sadness,bargaining, anger, and acceptance.
Be patient with your children, as they have a lot of uncertainty surrounding a move. Uncertainties include will they get to keep all of their prized belongings, where will their stuff go, who will be their new friends, where will they go to school… just to name a few.
Often times, kids do not get a say in the move. A move takes children out of their comfort zone. It is interesting to see how children of different ages worry about different things. A three-year-old might worry about where their stuffed animals will go and if they get to take their belongings? Older kids might worry about the surrounding social implications including their friends, school, and teachers. We also have to remember that during a move, routines are changed, which can spike our kid’s anxiety.
Children feel like that they have no control and are left out, because quite frankly they are. From a practical standpoint, parents get baby sitters to watch their kids while they go out looking at houses. Parents do this to be more productive and take the house hunting process more serious. After all, there is a bit that goes into buying a home. Home inspections, mortgage paperwork, getting title insurance, perils of escrow, loans, taxes the list goes on and on.
I had the privilege of talking to Julie Etter, author of Lily and Andrew Are Moving to get tips on how to help children with a move. Julie Etter is a Boston-area realtor and former middle school teacher. She knows first hand the excitement and anxiety children go though during the moving process. In her words, “I wrote the book [Lily and Andrew Are Moving] because there is nothing out there that breaks down the process for kids and tells them what to expect.”
3 Tips to Help Your Kids Process a Move
- Give your kids an input: We as parents, forget to give our kids the option to give their opinions. This can be as simple as asking your kids, what is important to you in the new house? Often times kids can articulate very simple things that parents can create to make the move more comfortable for them. Their responses can vary from getting to keep their bed, having a place for their favorite toys, or even where the swing set will go in the backyard. If your kids are old enough, let your kids get rid of clutter in their own room and decide what to give away and keep. Of course, we can steer our kids in the right direction. Involve your kids in packing up their room. Lily and Andrew Are Moving has a great suggestion to use color stickers. Kids can pick out their own color sticker to help organize their boxes of personal belongings. You can arrange to have their color sticker put on their bedroom door in the new house to make sure their belongings get to the right room.
- Communicate and listen to your children: Open up a dialogue to discuss your child’s main concerns. Be simple and honest with your children. Let the children guide the discussions. For example when you tell your kids that in the new house, you will have your own rooms. Pause and listen to what your kids have to say and take it as far as they take the conversation. For example they might want to know what type of beds they will have. Address that concern and pause again. Hit the key words and information that the kids are looking for. Try not to overwhelm your children with information they are not ready to process yet. Sometimes we as adults complicate things for them. Let them guide the dialogue, because what they are saying out loud is what they are worried and concerned about. Bring everything out on the table and have open communication about it.
- Lily and Andrew Are Moving is a wonderful tool parents can use to open dialogue with children. At the bottom of pages, there are questions you can use to prompt the dialogue to help your children process their feelings with the move. The book also includes emotion stickers to help your children identify which emotion they feel when the questions are posed. Help kids articulate their feelings and express them in healthy ways. Create the conversation to make moving a positive experience.
- Give kids time to dwell and process the move: Talk to your kids about what your plans and why. Maybe you are moving for a new job, or to have more room for your growing family. Be open with your children and try your best to prepare your kids with the upcoming change. If your kids are going to have their own rooms, let them know so that they can process it. Once you find your new home, take your children to visit it and become acquainted with it.
I hope these tips help your family make your next move a positive experience.
More information on Lily and Andrew Are Moving:
- The target audience of the book range from ages 3 to 8. You can use the stickers in the book as a security blanket. The colored stickers can help children feel a sense of control with the move.
- Julie Etter has stated, ” Much of the emotional journey for children in the moving process is akin to the stages identified by Kubler-Ross in the grieving process.”
- It is suggested that this book be read several times and adapted to your family’s situation.
Who Can Benefit from this book?
- Families who are planning a move, in the middle of a move, or have just moved.
- Foster Parent As a former foster mom, I believe this book could be used to open dialogue with children in foster care who are transitioning back to their biological parents, from a group home to a foster home, or even from a foster placement to a new adoptive family. This children’s book is an excellent resource to help kids talk about feelings when it comes to a move and confirm those feelings. Children in foster care, have the short end of the stick and really do not get a lot of say or control in where they move. Reading this book together, can help children give a name to how they feel and give them a bit of control back!