By Julie DeLong, A-1 Freeman Moving Group
The idea of moving to a new house is not always easy for children to deal with. Young children and even older kids can experience fear at the idea of moving, and not always for the reasons you might expect. Some children are afraid of leaving their friends, some fixate on the idea of moving to a new school. Some children are afraid of the idea of moving away from the only home they've ever known.
As many parents have discovered, uprooting your kids and dealing with the aftermath is not the best way to handle fears of moving or the sad feelings of leaving behind the old familiar neighborhood. Rather, the best way to deal with moving anxiety in your kids is to handle it in the lead-up while you're packing and preparing to go.
Here are our top tips on how to help your child let go of their fears and even get excited about the idea of moving to a new house.
Explore the New House Online
Give your child a chance to start thinking about what it will be like to live in the new house. many children are excited by new experiences and spaces to explore. So, while talking about what it will be like to move, give your child a virtual tour of the place they'll be going. In fact, you can start early by inviting them to help you pick new houses to investigate before the move is even scheduled.
Flip through the pictures together, point at rooms and features you like, and let your child's imagination lead them forward. Use your attitude as a guide-point so your child knows that the new house is something to look forward to.
Explore the New House in Person
Take your child on a tour of the new house, but not just as an empty place. Immediately, start talking about where your familiar furniture will go. Encourage your child to use their imagination in visualizing what you can put in the new house and what can be done with the completely new and different space. Walk the child through 'their room' and imagine where their bed, toy box, and favorite toys will go.
Talk About What's Great About the New Place
Even more important, talk about how great the new place will be by emphasizing how it can be better than the home you are leaving. If there's a backyard you didn't have before, talk about how you might get a pet who can enjoy that backyard with your child. If there's a new sibling or a baby on the way, talk about how the new house will give them plenty of room to be a responsible older sibling. Keep your imaginings and promises realistic so that if your child fixates on one good future thing about the house, you can make it happen.
Make Packing Together into a Game
Seeing everything packed up can upset children who feel like you're packing away their entire lives into boxes. But not if you make it a game. Start by explaining how all your child's favorite things aren't going away, but rather the professional movers will be taking them to the new house to go in the places you imagined together. Then invite your child to help you pack and get their little hands involved in the work.
This way, you're not 'taking' and 'hiding' their things, you are cleaning up and packing together. Talk to your child about where each thing that is packed will go in the new house so that they don't feel their favorite things are going away without them. Make sure to hold back a few comfort toys to travel with.
Introduce them to the Movers
If a moving company is going to be a big part of your experience, then make sure your child is comfortable with the crew that will be hauling their boxes of things. Children may be afraid of the strange group of grownups who arrive to carry boxes (and especially if you have a packing service) until those movers officially become their friends.
Fortunately for many small children, friendship is a matter of "how-do-you-do's" and the formal sharing of a cookie. Be friendly and allow your child to introduce themselves to the professional movers so they won't be afraid while the truck is loaded and unloaded.
Invite Them to Help You Navigate
Some children's fear isn't focused on packing, but on the idea of traveling far away from their old home. The road trip itself may fill your child with anxiety, partly because they are afraid of being lost, adrift from home, and out of control. One effective way to ease this fear is to make your child feel like a responsible and involved part of the trip.
Hand your child your phone with Google Maps open and charge them with helping you navigate. Ask them to mention when a turn is coming up and check in on how many miles to the next turn. This will make your child feel grown-up and responsible and many children will conquer their own anxiety to be helpful. By the time you reach the new house, your child is likely to be calm and ready to face a new challenge as your partner instead of feeling helpless in a move that was not their decision.
Be Patient and Maintain Family Routines
Finally, be prepared for a few emotional outbursts. Older children may be angry to leave their friends and younger children may have trouble adjusting, but they will eventually adapt and begin enjoying themselves in the new house. The best thing you can do after the move is to be patient with negative emotions and help your children settle back into familiar routines.
Family dinners, familiar schedules, and weekly game nights can assure your children that the most important things about family life are still the same. Their lives haven't changed completely, your house is just somewhere new.
The best way to help your children ease their fears of moving and adapt to the new house is to start early. Get your kids involved in every step of the moving process and help them feel both responsible for some aspects. This will reduce the sense of being 'out of control' and help your children resolve to be strong and optimistic about the new house. For more insights on moving, from packing the boxes to dealing with the stress, contact A-1 Freeman Moving Group today!
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