The Rivera family lived in a cozy three-bedroom home. But cozy became cramped when they adopted four children within two years. “We had gone from three to seven people under one roof,” recalls their mother Nancy. So the Riveras moved to a larger home about an hour away.
Published: March 31, 2018
By: Denise Morrison Yearian
Moving can be a daunting experience for everyone, especially children. So how do parents navigate the journey and help children adjust? “Once a decision to move has been made, parents should sit down and talk with their children,” says Dr. Jennifer Shroff Pendley, pediatric psychologist. “Since older children need more time to adjust to the idea, you should tell them as soon as the move is definite. With preschoolers, you may want to wait until the move draws closer. Whatever time you choose, present it as an exciting experience – an adventure.”
Dr. Diana Terrell, clinical psychologist, agrees. “Be optimistic and focus on the good things about the move. In the days to follow, your children will have a lot of questions, so allow plenty of time to answer those questions.”
This is what Cindy Morris, mother of 6-year- old Robbie and 31⁄2-year-old twins Alex and Ally, did when they moved several months ago. “When we first told our children about the move, they were flooded with questions,” says Morris. “We were careful to explain what would and would not change in their lives. Robbie would itemize things – ‘Mommy, is this toy going?’ ‘Will we have the same couch?’ Sometimes they would ask the same thing over and over again.”
According to Pendley, repeated questioning is common among the younger set. “Answer their questions, give reassurance and let them know they can talk with you.”
Older children, adds Pendley, may be more adamantly opposed to moving than younger ones. “If this is the case, listen, acknowledge their concerns and be empathetic. Try to figure out the driving force behind the opposition. Is it fear of the unknown? Feeling out of control?”
Rivera found empathy an important quality in dealing with her 12-year-old son Tony. “Although he was glad to be moving to a bigger house, he didn’t want to go because he had a lot of neighborhood friends,” recalls Rivera. “Whenever I saw him sad, I would say, ‘What’s going on? How can I help you?’ I didn’t hammer him but just let him know I was there for him and understood how he felt.”
“One of the best ways to alleviate concerns about the move is to give your children concrete information,” states Terrell. “The more homework you do, the better off your children will be. For younger ones, the concern may be something insignificant, like if there will be a swing set. For older children, it may revolve around friends and activities – ‘
Will I be accepted in the new school?’ ‘Will there be a karate studio to replace the one I’m leaving?’”
If possible, take your children to the new community. “This helps build a clearer image in their heads of what life is going to be like,” Terrell continues. “You can say, ‘Look! Here’s the library.’ ‘Here’s the YMCA.’ It makes things more tangible.”
Prior to the physical move, the Rivera family made weekend trips to the new community. “We had settled on the house but hadn’t moved in yet. On Friday nights, we would pack the car and head out. The next day we’d walk to the shopping center then come back, get in the car and explore the area. It was like an adventure for us.”
The Morris family tried to make it adventurous too. “Before the move, we told the kids they could each pick out a theme for their bedrooms. We would go shopping and buy new things, but everything was put away until we moved into the new house.”
Perhaps the hardest part of a move is saying goodbye. Fortunately, there are things families can do to ease the pain. “Take pictures, make videos, call or write. Plan one special event with friends before leaving,” Terrell advises.
“Right before the move a friend gave us a party,” Morris recalls. “I had kept telling her it wasn’t ‘goodbye,’ because I knew we’d be coming back to visit. So she threw a ‘we’ll-see- you-soon’ party.”
Breaking away from the old community may be indeed painful. But getting rooted in the new one is a sure cure. “We still do play dates with friends from home, write letters and make phone calls,” continues Morris. “But we’re getting established here too. We’ve made some new friends and have had a few play dates.”
Shortly after the Riveras settled in the children were homesick, so their parents started them in activities at the YMCA. “It took care of the homesickness and boredom and helped them make new friends,” says Rivera.
It has been nearly three years since the Riveras moved, and they now have a whole new set of friends and are at home in their community. And if you ask Tony, he may just tell you life is comfy cozy again.