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Preparing A Child For A Move

Four and a half years ago, we moved our little family across our state.  It was a good move for us – good job, great place to live, close to our siblings – but it still took a toll on our little guy who had just turned 4.  After several months of adjustment, we finally clicked into a routine, but the first weeks in our new place were an upheaval for us.  Here are some tips to keep in mind when moving with little ones:

  • Be upfront and honest with your child.  Do not try to “hide” an upcoming move.  The more time a child has to adjust to the idea, the better off they will be.  Allow them time to get used to the idea.  Telling your child about a move should be a positive experience, no matter what the circumstances behind the move.  Be excited and tell of all the positive things that will happen with the move (new friends, new and fun places to visit, a new room, etc).
  • Allow your child to ask questions and voice concerns.  Make them a part of the discussion.  This allows them to have a say in the overall decision and to take ownership in the move.
  • Present a united front.  If both parents are making the move, make sure both parents are excited and “on board” with the decision.  If the child senses any regret and anxiety on your part about the move, they will take it on as their own.
  • Expose your child to as much information about the new community as possible.  Go for a visit if feasible, visiting grocery stores, schools, parks, churches and other areas of interest to your child.  Or, research it together online.  Call the Chamber of Commerce for the area and request information about the area (your child will love getting mail!).
  • The older the child, the more difficult the move, so keep that in mind as the date approaches.  Your child might act out more or do things they don’t normally do, simply because they are frustrated, anxious and/or scared.  Talk about your child’s feelings and that it is okay to feel this way.
  • If your child has a special friend or two with which they want to stay in touch, make sure to get that information.  Having a get-together before moving is a great way to say goodbye, too.
  • Pack a moving bag for the car.  Include favorites like stuffed animal friends, pictures, familiar books, and add a few new things as well – travel games, cards, maybe a disposable camera.
  • Once you get to your new home, get your children involved.  Check out the local library or parks department for free or low-cost events to hel pyour child meet others.  Offer to volunteer at your child’s school and try to be a presence for a few weeks to help them adjust.

Moving can be a scary time for kids, but adults can alleviate those fears by staying positive and looking on the “bright side” of the experience.

Long Distance Friendships

In our transitional society, children tend to slip in and out of friendships quite easily.  With relocating being the “norm”, children are constantly falling in and out of social situations, such as school, clubs, church and other organizations.

Every once in a while, though, children will make a connection with a peer that seems to be something deeper than just your classmate-friendship.  These close relationships are ones that tend to stand the test of distance and time and are most notable from about fifth grade and up.  Long distance friendships require work, though, to keep them up.  Here are some pointers to helping your older child keep those friendships that mean so much to him or her:

  • Give them a call.  With so many calling plans today offering free or flat-rate long distance, allow your child to make a call every now and then and touch base with an old friend.  It doesn’t have to be for long – just a few minutes to say hello and find out what exciting things are going on with their friend.
  • Remember birthdays.  Send a card or even a small gift for a birthday or holiday.  Make a homemade card with a handwritten note inside.  Remembering special days is a great way to keep up with friends.
  • Make a point to schedule a visit if you are ever back in the area (or your friend is visiting close by).  Pick a neutral area, such as a park or a fast food restaurant so both parties are on “equal territory”.  If possible, arrange a mini-vacation for the kids.  When I was in junior high, my best friend and I were five hours apart.  I would spend a week at her house in the summer, and then she would spend a week at mine.  Those summers are probably my most favorite memories growing up. 
  • As the parent, be aware of the status of the friendship.  If there is some friction, help your child address it.  Perhaps it is time to let the relationship end and revisit it later.  Be an open and unopinionated listener for your child when things just don’t seem “right”.

Saying Goodbye To Friends

Our next door neighbors are preparing to move in a couple of months.  It is a fabulous opportunity for them, but it is a very sad prospect for us.  We couldn’t have chosen better neighbors.  Their children are right around the same age as ours, and we spend the majority of our afternoons in our front yards, watching the kids ride bikes or scooters back and forth, playing make believe games and trading off houses fo sleepovers with the older ones.  When they leave, it will be a huge adjustment.

Our children are aware their dear friends are moving, but I do not think they fully understand the concept.  With our three year old, that is to be expected.  He will probably ask for a playdate with them for about a week before moving on to something else to hold his interest.  My eight year old will understand the ramifications to our built-in playmates no longer being around.  That will be quite a change for him.  So, we are starting now with a good way to bring closure to their relationship as it is now.  It is important that my children understand what is going on and that their feelings are okay, no matter what they may be.

Our older child has already expressed some anxiety over the situation.  What if someone new moves in and doesn’t have children?  Why won’t we be able to visit our friends all the time?  When will we see our dear friends again?

Our neighborhood is comprised of an amazing blend of ages and stages, from young couples to families to retired and widowed.  So, to alleviate the concern over the new people that will move in, we have already made a point to meet them.  Their children are grown, but their grandchildren will visit from time to time, and we will enjoy meeting them when they are here.  We will need to be careful not to pick “flowers” in their yard anymore or rearrange the stones or draw with sidewalk chalk on their driveway, but I am sure it will be a good relationship with them.  We have also made a huge effort to connect with a few more people in our neighborhood of varying ages, simply to show the children that age does not define a friendship.  This will help make the transition to the new neighbors a more comfortable experience for my children.

The distance our neighbors are moving isn’t cross-country, but it is significant enough to realize any visiting will be an effort.  Fortunately, our neighbors are moving to a location that is along the route to my in-laws’ house, so we can plan to stop in for lunch or a visit when we are making a trip to see the grandparents.  Understanding that we will be able to see them again is helping ease some of the stress of losing a friend.

Since our children are so close, we have started a couple of projects to make the transition and move smoother for everyone.  In the next couple of weeks, each child will be given a disposable camera.  We will take pictures of each other doing some of our favorite activities: playing in the yard, picnics on the porch, a trip to the Children’s Museum or local park, playing board games and even sitting on the back porch with a pile of books.  Each child will create a memory book to keep of the fun times they have together.

We have also arranged for a “goodbye party” for our friends.  We are inviting a few pals from school as well as a couple of neighbors from our block to a cookout.  Our cookout will be during the week that our neighbors will be moving.  The last thing they want to have to worry about is cooking and cleaning, and it gives the children an opportunity to spend some time with their friends.  In addition to this, my children will be writing letters to their friends prior to their move and mailing the letters to our friends’ new home.  Our friends will be excited to get mail at their new house, and hopefully this will help ease some of their issues with the move. 

While losing such a close set of friends will be a new experience for my children, I think that they will adjust well.  As a parent, it is my responsibility to recognize the feelings and emotions related with such a loss and help my children work through it.  With good communication and recognition of my children’s feelings, they will both find the experience to be healthy and positive.

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