Sunday, February 13, 2011 -
By Allison Bisbey Colter
Special to Relocation.com
Once you've broken the news that your family is relocating, there are a couple of key things you can to help ease the transition.
The first is two empower your children to be involved in as many decisions about the move as possible. In most cases, children have no say about whether to move, and this can leave them feeling powerless.
"It can be overwhelming," says Lori Collins Burgan, the author of "Moving With Kids: 25 Ways to Ease Your Family's Transition to a New Home."
When moving with toddlers, and to some extent preschoolers, their sense of self revolves around their parents. So as long as the parents are with them and their daily schedule stays the same, the time leading up to a move doesn't require a big adjustment.
But it is important to help them understand that all of their belongings are going with them. Set aside some special toys that will stay with a younger child when the rest of the house is packed up.
For preteens, something as simple as choosing whether they want to tell their teachers about the move themselves, or have a parent do it, can be empowering.
You can also involve preteens and older children in bigger decisions such as what kind of neighborhood and what kind of house they want to live in. Talk to them about the kinds of things they liked and didn't like about houses the family has lived in the past.
Collins Burgan says the last time her family moved, when her oldest was in seventh grade, she and her husband narrowed their housing choices down to four and let the children pick. (Fortunately, all three children liked the same house.)
"My husband and I preferred a different house … but the neighborhood had more stuff for kids to do," she says.
Collins Burgan says you may also want to involve older children in the decision about the timing of a move. For example, they may want to finish the school year at their old school. Some families even make arrangements for older teens to stay behind with a friend or relative until they finish high school.
For children of all ages, it's important to recognize that they need time to grieve. Sure, they can still call and text their old friends after them move, but it won't be the same as living next door.
"You have to … put yourself in their shoes, not to minimize their feelings," adds Leslie Levine, author of "Will This Place Ever Feel Like Home." "You might think they don't have big sweeping feelings," since they don't have any responsibility for planning the move. "But in their world, it's huge."
Collins Burgan says it's also important to have some kind of goodbye party, even if you're moving quickly and there isn't time to planning anything too formal. "I equate the goodbye party to a funeral service … it brings closure to all those relationships so they're ready to move on," she says.
Even the smallest children need to say goodbye. If they have a favorite park, take them there and say "it's the last time here." Likewise, when you start off on the trip to your new home, drive by your old house one more time to wave goodbye.
Allison Bisbey Colter is a freelance writer in New Jersey whose work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal and American Banker. She is a former editor at TheStreet.com and a former reporter for Dow Jones Newswires.