The Best Ways to Transition your Child into a New Home
Moving houses and settling into a new home signifies a new start, but the process can be stressful for the whole family, especially for the children. In the midst of packing and unpacking, how do you best help your kids cope with this change in their lives? Here are a few key things to keep in mind before and after the move.
Before the Move
Break the news early
It’s never a good idea to leave your children in the dark until you absolutely have to pack. By then the news will come as a shock– and shock is likely to result in tears, tantrums and more tears.
Put yourself in your child's shoes: let them know as early as you can that you’ll be moving, and explain to them the reasons why. Be very firm in delivering the news so they understand it’s not negotiable (they will try to negotiate anyway) but also be patient and gentle.
Children (arguably most adults too) don’t cope well with change. Take them for a stroll in the new neighborhood to visit some places they might like - a park, an eatery for their favorite food, a movie theatre – places that will likely remind them of their current routines. It reassures them that, although a part of their lives is going to change very soon, some things will always stay the same.
Make a Home Together
When you’re busy deciding which shade of blue to paint your new living room walls, don’t forget to involve the kids. For them, decorating a new place is always an exciting project. Involve them in selecting the color for their room, picking new bed sheets, or even helping with furniture shopping. This exercise is a good opportunity to build positive association with the move – It assures them that they have been consulted and involved in the process and it helps them paint a clearer picture of what their new home will look like.
As you edge closer to the actual move, ask your children to give you a hand in packing. Again, this makes them feel that they’re part of the action and prepares them emotionally before the movers come.
Let them Say Goodbye
This is especially important if your children are also changing schools as a result of the move. Think about how you can help them cope with the loss of familiarity and a sense of belonging – a farewell party where they can invite their friends and classmates is highly effective. Keeping in touch is relatively easy these days, so promise them that they can still see their old friends, and remember to keep that promise.
Even if your children are going to stay in the same school, they’ll still miss the familiar faces they see around home – the kids they play with in the community park, the friendly doormen downstairs – so where possible, let the children say a proper goodbye to the people they know.
After the Move
Settle in and Be Positive
Children often feed off of their parents' energy. We know unpacking is a tough job so it’s important to stay calm and positive. Take as long as you need to settle in, but don’t delay things unnecessarily – if you’re excited about the new home, they will be as well. Inject a bit of fun into the process of unpacking and make the kids feel that they’re on a great adventure, one where they can explore a new neighborhood and help make this new space a home.
Re-establish the fun routines you used to do at your old house, or design new, spontaneous games for your children, even If you haven't fully unpacked. If you used to spend an hour every evening doing crossword puzzles with the kids, keep doing it. Leftover boxes from the move can be extremely fun for young children – get the sharpies out and help them build cardboard castles!
Ease into the New Environment
As soon as they’re ready, introduce them to the new people they’ll see in the community: the neighbors and the doormen, for a start. Bring them to the nearby kids’ hangouts and encourage them to make new friends. For the first month or so, take them out often to everyday places like supermarkets, restaurants and libraries; the sooner they become familiar with the surroundings, the better.
Give them Time to Adjust
Everybody reacts differently to change. Some children adjust better than others so while your eldest might already be thriving in his new school, his younger siblings might still be begging you to take them “home”.
If a child seems more reluctant to let go of your old home, it’s important to not suppress their emotions. Let them have a good cry, listen to what they have to say, and to a reasonable extent, indulge them if they want to pay a visit to the place they used to know. Do everything you can to help them adjust but remember the best medicine is time. Give them time, and slowly but surely, they will get used to the new environment and the new experiences that come with it.