Moving? How to Break the News to Your Kids
Dr. Ann Lagges talks about how & when to talk to your children about moving.
Moving can be very stressful – selling the house, purchasing a new one, purging, packing and more. And then there are the children. How do you tell them? When do you tell them? What do you tell them? How do you best handle the disappointment?
If you are moving to a new home in the same subdivision or school district, then the move should be relatively easy for your children. Getting children excited for their new home, especially if it is bigger or has different features, is important. While the school bus may change, the majority of their lives will not.
However, if the move is to a different town or state, then advanced planning is needed. Depending on their age, there are different strategies for speaking with your children. For younger children, they should only be told once decisions have been made, but for older children, informing them of the move early on will help them better process the information and adjust.
“For little kids, don’t tell them anything until you are all set,” advises Dr. Ann Lagges, the co-chief of Mood Disorders and TAC clinics at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. “Once you’ve got the new house and school lined up, then you can tell them, but you need to do a positive refrain. Explain that this is going to be an adventure. Put a positive spin on the new location, or let them know if you are going to be closer to family. Make sure that you point out the positives, and tell them only what they need to know, such as what is happening next.”
Once you’ve enthusiastically covered the basics, make sure the kids understand what you’ve said. Dr. Lagges advises to ask them to repeat what you just explained. Then, let them ask questions, which you should answer honestly in an age-appropriate manner. After the initial conversation, continue to check in with them regularly, even the next day. Ask them how they are feeling now that they have had time to process the information.
After the move, parents and teachers can help young children make new friends. Teachers can work in the classroom to provide opportunities for the new child to meet other children, and parents can set up play dates. Even if a child is struggling, adults can help ease the transition.
Pre-teen and teenagers are more difficult. They have established friendships, are involved in activities, may hold leadership positions and feel a connection to their school. They may be upset, and this news should be handled with care.
“If at all possible, let them finish their year at their current school,” Dr. Lagges recommends. “I’ve seen families work it out so the child stays with their good friends for the rest of the year. Do whatever you can. And, before moving, you should have a lot of contact at the new school to facilitate as smooth of an integration as possible.”
Friendships for older children are more challenging, especially when the move will not allow children to see their current friends often. Before the move, bring your children to your new town so that they can begin to meet other children and become comfortable with the area. Once the move has occurred, encourage your children to keep in touch with their old friends electronically, and use their breaks as an opportunity to travel back for visits or have friends come to the new home. Once children are old enough to transport themselves, they will be able to maintain these friendships on their own.
Before, during and after your move, it is important to check in with your children often to see how they are managing the transition. Work hard to facilitate maintaining relationships and listen to your children, offering support when needed.
-- By Gia Miller