The needs and concerns of children faced with moving home vary depending on their age and the destination of the move. It's important to consider the mental and emotional needs of older children and teenagers when moving, as well as the physical comfort and safety of toddlers and babies
Young children will generally feel safe and comforted as long as they are in the presence of their parents. It is therefore important that no matter what age your child, you communicate with them effectively. Moving home must not come as a surprise - it's wise to introduce the subject as early as possible.
Most parents strive to provide comfort and emotional support. Your children may experience a whole range of emotions including anger, sadness, relief and excitement. You will need to help them navigate this emotional battlefield and allow them to express their fears and concerns openly
Some families have found it beneficial to hold regular family meetings where you all discuss your feelings, questions and concerns when moving home. Once a child feels respected and listened to, they can become more open to discussing the positive aspects of the move.
General Hints for Moving Home with Children
- Encourage children to learn about the new country in advance (this will improve your knowledge at the same time).
- Provide children of all ages with an address book and stationery for keeping up with old friends.
- Email is an easy method of maintaining daily contact with friends.
- Capture video and photos of the new home and its surroundings if your children are unable to see them before the move.
- Arrange visiting new schools and meeting teachers before the first day of school.
- Explore your new area with the whole family as soon as possible.
A major factor in ensuring a smooth transition for the whole family will be the each child's first impression. When you introduce the subject of moving home, strive to be as informative as possible and explain why you feel the move will be of benefit to the entire family - not just the working parent. When it comes to younger children it's best to keep things light hearted and fun, as their concerns will include how their toys and furniture will be transported from one place to the other. Acting out the process with these toys will help them to relate to the moving process. Books and games are another good way to help your children express their feelings and concerns. If your child has special needs, it is important that they understand any variations in how these needs will be addressed.
- Show them the destination on a map - this helps them become familiar with where they are going.
- Give them things they can do to feel involved, such as sorting through belongings for unnecessary toys and clothes and boxing items.
- Help them feel involved on move day by allowing them to pack their flight bag - let them select the books, toys and snacks they would like to take.
Teenagers will face more complex issues regarding moving home. During adolescence, teenagers are seeking validation and approval which is often achieved within friendship groups. Leaving these friends, changing schools and giving up coveted sports positions and opportunities will seem a daunting prospect. Although they will understand the idea of belonging somewhere other than where they are presently living, they may not have the emotional skills to accept the idea of moving easily. They may have concerns about their capability to adjust to a new culture - fear of the unknown may leave them feeling insecure, unconfident and anxious.
- Be respectful of their emotional needs.
- Be clear about the benefits to the whole family.
- Anticipate some of the concerns that may arise and have responses prepared.
- Encourage open communication and honesty.
- Encourage them to keep a diary - this is a non-confrontational way for them to work through their concerns.
- Subscribe to magazines or local newspapers that have youth contact.
- Suggest exchange visits with friends.