In this economy, more families are confronted with relocating for a job or a downsized house payment. If you are facing a change of address, you are not alone. Two years ago we moved our four children from everything they knew, states away. As carefully as we planned, no amount of planning can completely take away the anxiety a child might feel walking into a new school not knowing a soul. Luckily, there are many things parents can do to ease the harsh feelings of transition in the first few weeks. Here are 5 key things every parent should consider when moving their children.
Research Activity in Advance
Many things consume adults when a move is at hand, particularly a move across states;the house, your driver’s license, car tags, school enrollment, new doctors etc. One thing I did not consider was checking on things my kids could be enrolled in prior to moving. That was a mistake. In hindsight, I would have gotten on community websites or searched the local news with the goal of getting my children involved in something within the first two weeks.
Like many adults, I was focused on the house! I wanted the kids to feel like they had a place and that we were all settled. There is merit to that, and that should be a priority, but not at the altar of loneliness. Kids need to have a social scene to look forward to. Weekly or daily activities can provide a social network that throws them into forced friendships which can offset the harsh feelings of loneliness.
We moved one week after baseball tryouts and missed the whole season of my sons favorite sport. It wasn’t just the sport, it was the loss of critical friendships and a sense of belonging, which came but it came too late to avoid months of sadness. As you prepare for that move, check on the activities your children like most before the move. Calling one week in advance can make a difference in a whole semester and their sense of belonging!
Time it Right
The timing of your move can be critical. If you can move during a summer vacation, that would be ideal. Though it may be lonely at first because school is not in session to make friends, it can give you all a chance to make friends through summer programs, like football or the swim team. Then, when kids go back to school, they have a few summer buddies or neighborhood friends they can count on.
If your move is not that timely, don’t despair. Coming into a school during the year will rush the process of meeting people and could be the fast beginning of a sense of belonging. Still, seek those critical extra -curricular activities in advance. Being able to say, “Gymnastics starts next week” gives children something to look forward to, where everyone is starting together. In addition, odds are there will be children from their school in these other activities which translates to schoolmates that your child is “in the game” now and a force to be reckoned with. It also provides kids with a way to grow friendships outside of school or fast-track school friendships.
Speaking of school, if possible, volunteer for something immediately at your child’s new school. Having you around is a comfort, even if it is something as small as helping the teacher. This applies to middle school, too. Volunteer to be the team mom, or bring snacks to the ball team. These are nonintrusive ways for you to monitor how things are going while providing you with a sense of community yourself. Children learn from example, and as you dive in you may find that they will too.
Make Friendships a Priority
Make it a point to meet your neighbors or find a church and initiate the frequent commitment to both in every way you know how. Often times, friends you make will have kids the same age as your own children and as your friendships grow, the child’s community grows. Walk over and meet the neighbors. Exchange phone numbers and plan a lunch. It may be outside your comfort zone to be so forward, but it will give you a sense of community and your children will queue on your comfort. The more comfortable you are making new friends, the more they will follow suit. Your example says more than your words.
Most important, plan quiet moments where your children are separated from their siblings, and can talk confidentially about how they feel. Communicating and simply feeling like they have someone to talk to can make all the difference in the world to a child. It reminds them they are not alone.
Moving is a time of change and change is tough. Change is also required for growth. Your children will grow in many ways through this experience and that is good news. The other news, that you probably know but your child may not fully understand coming from a more secure environment, is that family is really important. Sticking together, talking and playing as a family will remind kids that some things (like your love for them) will never change. So, be prepared to be available…and time will do the rest.