No one likes the effort of packing up their life and transplanting it in a new place, but your kids will like it even less than you do. To them, the place they live is their entire life. It’s the place where they feel safe after nightmares, where they know every nook and cranny to build the perfect fort for sleepovers with their friends, where every moment of their life has been spent. Moving them from that place is terribly difficult, on them and on you, but there are a few things you can do to make it a little easier on everyone involved.
The easiest part of making a move easier on your children is letting them help choose their rooms. A child’s bedroom is his or her sanctuary. It will be the place where they hide from monsters, cry over boys , or moon over their first girlfriend. It will be the only place in the whole universe that is completely theirs, even if they are sharing it with a sibling, it is still their space, and they should have a chance to choose that place. Let them choose the room, the color the walls will be, where to put their bed, all of it. For you, this room will just be another set of four walls, even if you hate the lime green paint with purple and blue Disney quotes (my room for years!); to them, it will mean the world.
Pay attention to where you’re moving, and the time of year. If you’re moving from a community where everything is at your fingertips to a quiet little country town, try to avoid moving in the middle of the summer. If you do that, you’re condemning your child to a summer of loneliness. Without school to introduce them to new friends, your children might find it difficult to meet new playmates. Moving at the beginning of the school year, just before classes start, is the easiest if possible. They get one last summer with their old friends, spending every possible moment together, and only have a week or two before they are immersed in a community of new friend possibilities.
If the timing of your move isn’t up to you because of a new job or unforeseen circumstances, do your research about the place you are moving to. Is there somewhere kids the ages of your children like to hang out? A church with an active youth group? A sports league willing to take in new kids in the middle of a season? Anything you can find to help your children assimilate to their new community as quickly as possible will make the moving process that much easier.
When you’re moving, there are three important people to talk to about your children. First is their current teacher, or favorite of their current teachers, depending on their age. A child’s teacher can make moving much less scary, and help them realize that it isn’t the end of the world. Some may even make it easier, if the move is in the middle of the year, by hosting a moving party. My first grade teacher let my mom bring cake and cameras so I could celebrate with my friends one last time and make a scrapbook with the pictures that I still have today.
The second person, well, people, are the parents of your child’s best friend. With them you’ll be able to arrange time for the friends to see each other, even after the move. Parents can set up letters, Skype dates, inter-coastal visits, and whatever can be arranged for the friends to stay in touch. Your child is going to be scared, and keeping in touch with his or her best friend will help your child through the worst of it. Let the person he or she chose to get close to stay close, in whatever way is possible.
The third person is the future teacher. Arrange with the teachers ahead of time to place your children with someone who will get them out of their shell early on in the classroom. Get them to be shown around by someone friendly, who won’t be scared of “the new kid.” Let the teacher know about any problems your children may have ahead of time (do they read more slowly?, get sick when public speaking?, start fights to seem tough?), so the teacher can watch for them. Also let them know of any strengths (does reading aloud make them feel special?, are they really good at helping others with fractions?, do they run really fast?), anything that will help them remember that this new place doesn’t have to be different if they don’t want it to be.