Let’s be honest here, there’s a myriad of reasons why moving home always appears in those “10 Most Stressful Life Events” lists. Whatever way you cut it, as an experience, it more than earns its place amongst those fellow stress-inducers. As adults though, we can attempt to manage our way through the stress.
What of our children though? For them, it can be even more traumatic. They can feel completely powerless. They might not have been involved in the decision-making process and might not understand the reasons behind it. So, what steps can you take to make the big move a smoother, easier and less emotionally draining experience for the whole family? Let’s take a look...
Five steps to making the moving process easier for the whole family
- Consider your child's age. A baby, for the most part, will remain blissfully unaware of where they live. As long as mummy, daddy, siblings, food and comfort are around….happy days. The older your child is though, the more they’re likely to be affected by the move. Factor this in when planning your move strategy.
- Break the news. Discuss the move with your children. There’s a school of thought that sharing news of the decided move with your children early in the process will unnecessarily distress them. Do you know what is more distressing than that? Being a child who realises that something big is happening, a major change is coming, and knowing that they’re being kept in the dark. It’s a recipe for nervousness and insecurity. Don’t take that troublesome route. Talk about the move with your children as much as possible, from as early a stage in the process as possible. Answer questions as honestly and truthfully as you can. Show sympathy for their emotional losses and understanding for everything they will miss. Involve them in house-hunting and school searching. Try to be upbeat. Basically, inclusion is the way forward here. You’re looking to permeate the feeling of “we’re all in this together, let’s support and help each other” throughout your family unit.
- Let your children make as many choices as possible. This naturally flows from where we left off with the previous point, and is again about cultivating that feeling of inclusion. Maybe your kids can choose their bedrooms in the new house? What colour they will be painted? Maybe sit down as a family and write a “must-have” list for the new abode? It doesn’t matter what the choices are - the aim is to avoid your child or children having that feeling of separation and helplessness.
- Arrange as much as you possibly can pre-move for a smoother post-move experience. Not unlike many adults, most children thrive on familiarity and routine. It is the disruption and loss of this comforting familiarity and those reliable routines that can contribute to your move becoming a potentially traumatic experience. By arranging as much as possible for your children’s new post-move life, you can go some way to negating the “loss of routine effect”. School attendance, post-school activities, continuation of hobbies and interests - all these things can help to ease the transition. It’s almost a process of “replication by design” to making those first few months as calm and cohesive as possible.
- Plan moving day together. Obviously, there’s the practical side of moving day. Making sure you have all the essentials on hand will help to avoid those nightmare “where are the nappies?!” scenarios. Practicalities aside, it’s important to get your children onside with the moving day plan. Let them know how the itinerary for the day is mapped out. Get their input. For younger children, paint the day as a family adventure. Maybe ask them what toys they want to join them for the big trip, what movies they want to watch, what stories they want to read. We come back again to the buzzword of this article: “inclusion”. The more the whole family is included and involved with the plans, the easier emotionally and mentally it will be for all involved.
There you have it then. Five tips that will go some way to ensuring your move is relatively stress and hassle-free for the whole family. Pull together as a unit, support each other, be open, honest, and you’ll come out the other side of your move as a happy family who are eager and ready for their next chapter.