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Helping children adjust to a new home

People move for many reasons, a new job, a change in income, or a change in family dynamics due to divorce, re-marriage or a death in the family. Not to mention military families, for whom moving is a necessary and repeated part of life. I’ve worked with a lot of families buying and selling homes in the Arlington, Virginia area and know that moving has just as much an effect on children as adults. If you have children and are planning on a move soon, here are some tips that will help you make moving a positive experience.

Before the Move

Children tend to think about the negatives when a family moves. There is the loss of friends and, along with it, loss of a sense of belonging. Be sure to focus on the positive aspects of your new home. For example, if the family is moving to a larger house, maybe your child will get a room of her own for the first time. If you are moving to a different climate, talk about the new activities they can do such as skiing, sledding, ice skating; or surfing, going to the beach and visiting orange groves.

If possible, visit the new community you will be moving to ahead of time. Let your child see the familiar, such as beloved restaurants or recreational venues, as well as the new and exciting. Drive by the new school she will attend, show how it’s very similar to her old one. This will help dissipate some of the fear of the unknown that children often have.

Give you child their own special box and let them pack what they feel are the essentials that they need right away in their new home. This will help them feel like a valuable part of the move, give them a sense of independence as they decide what’s essential, and a feeling of excitement when they can unpack it at the new home. Some ideas include non-perishable snacks, games, pillows, stuffed animals, photos, books, toiletry items, favorite clothing and any other comfort items.

During the Move

When packing up the moving van, be sure to put children’s furniture on last, so that it is the first to unload. This will help orient them quickly to their new surroundings.

Give your child the chance to participate in decisions that directly affect him. For instance, what color would he like to have his room painted? Or how would he like the furniture placed? For an extra dose of stability and comfort, try to get the children’s rooms in order before the rest of the house. Children often do better with a move when they feel included in the process. Even better, let them take an active role in moving in by unpacking books or organizing the silverware drawer.

As you get caught up in an unpacking frenzy, remember to take a break once in awhile to give your children the attention they need. Take your cues from them; put aside your unpacking and take time to talk or snuggle, take a fun trip out for frozen yogurt or to stretch and run at the park, even if it means living with a little chaos just a little bit longer.

After the Move

Once their rooms are set up and the local neighborhood explored, take photos that you can share with relatives or friends, letting them feel pride and excitement in their new home.

Encourage children to become involved in a school or community club, group or sports team. Not only does this provide the benefit of a ready group of peers with a similar interests; it offers adult contacts for the child and for the parent as well.

Moving can be an emotional and physical challenge for everyone involved. Just remember that with patience and sensitivity, you can make moving a positive experience for your child, as well as the whole family.