Parents have been moved to send me questions concerning how to help their children prepare for a family move to a new neighborhood or area. Well let me see if I can pack up some information for you to take with you regarding this topic.
While a move can certainly be disruptive for parents, it can also be a major stressor for children who may not be part of the decision or understand why their world needs to change so dramatically. To prevent this from happening, I would suggest the following:
First, no matter what the reason for the move - good or bad - try to keep a positive attitude about the move to help reassure your child.
Second, don't hide the fact that a move will occur, but talk to your child early and often about the move and include your child in the planning process as much as possible, to minimize any feeling that is being forced upon him or her.
If the new home is easy to get to, take your child to see it ahead of time, along with the playground or schools so they can get even more excited about what lies ahead. If this is not possible, have pictures of the home that you can show to your child.
If you child is an infant, don't worry - they are more interested in you than the move. If your child is a toddler, make sure they understand that by packing up the toys, you are not throwing them out and open up those toy boxes first when you arrive at the new home. Another good idea is to try to keep your toddler's old furniture when you move so that your toddler sees something familiar in the new house.
School age children and teens may have the hardest time with a move. Often they may feel that they do not want to move until the school year is over, and if this can be done it is optimal. If not, listen to your children's concerns and respect them, and acknowledge that this is difficult for you too. Arranging return visits to the old neighborhood or exchanging letters, emails and pictures with friends can help make this transition go more smoothly.
If despite these suggestions, your children is having trouble adjusting after a month or so, please talk to your child's doctor who can help you decide if further counseling is necessary, although this is usually not indicated.
Hopefully you'll find tips like these to be ones that move you in the right direction when it comes to moving your family to a new place.
Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9 FM and WCAX-TV Channel 3. Visit the First with Kids archives at www.vermontchildrens.org.