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Let Your Children Help You Prepare for the Big Move
INTRODUCTION AND INTUITION
Are you and your children moving house soon ? If you're moving to a new town or a new region, it can be rough on your children as they may feel uprooted and disoriented. Your children lose the comfort and security of the world they know - from their private spaces to their more public places: their bedroom, their house, their yard, their neighborhood, their school, their local park, their town and so forth. Worst of all, they lose regular contact with their friends and, possibly, aunts, uncles and cousins in the bargain. In addition, they suddenly find themselves the "new kids in town," trying to find their niche in a new community.
This article offers some ideas that you might try in order to ease the transition for your children. They're all just common sense, but a little advance planning can go a long way.
PREPARATIONS AND POSSIBILITIES
First of all, let your children know the reasons for the move: why you must move or why you want to move. Is it for a new job or a company transfer, or is it for further schooling or job training ? Is it for financial reasons, to be nearer to your own parents or other family members, due to a divorce or remarriage, for health reasons, for a new climate, for a change of scene, or simply for the adventure of it ? The less of a mystery it is, the more likely your children are to understand the situation and to cooperate.
Try to get your children excited about the move - the more interested they are, the more they'll look forward to it and the less they'll dwell on the wistful aspects of leaving their old home and familiar surroundings. Encourage them to research the new locale - its topography and climate, local history and landmarks. What interesting past events occurred in your new town or state or region ? What interesting places are there to see in the new area: state or national parks, historical buildings, unfamiliar birds and wildlife, local festivals, regional music styles, or fascinating local customs ? The bigger the move, the more there will be that's different and exciting. For example, when I once moved from the Northeastern United states to the Southeast, I found a fascinating and exotically unfamiliar world of azaleas, swamps, alligators and clog dancing.
Make the research into a game: utilizing Internet, library books, tourist office brochures and other information sources and encouraging your children to draw up lists of the types of things that will be new, or comparisons between their old and new locales. Have them list sites they'd like to visit and new foods and activities they'd like to try. They could list all of the positive points about the move, the advantages of the new climate, and so on.
If it's feasible, it might be nice to take your kids to see the new place in advance of the move. On the other hand, that might make the move itself anticlimatic, so it may depend on how inherently interesting the new location is. The more interesting and different from your old locale, the more a sneak preview visit might tantalize your children and peak their eagerness for the move itself. Either way, use books, Internet and travel videos to view glimpses of the new region.
When the time comes to house hunt or apartment hunt, involve your children in drawing up a list of criteria or desired features. What do you and they want in a new neighborhood: other kids to play with, proximity to stores and a school, a park, some woods to play in ? And what about your new home - will it have a big yard, lots of trees, or space for a flower or vegetable garden ? How many rooms will it have ? Will there be a bedroom for each child ?
If possible, let the children house hunt with you and then compare notes with them on each place that you visit. Keep them in on the decision-making process whenever you can. The more input they have into choosing a new home, the more quickly it will feel like home to them.
Once you've committed yourself to renting or buying a place and so know what school each of your children will be attending, let them learn all they can about it. Perhaps the school has a website that they can look at.
As you work your way through the myriad of details that you must take care of to ensure a smooth move from one locale to another (packing, moving vans, electricity, telephone lines, change of address cards...), try not to get mired down in the minutia. Be sensitive to how your kids are feeling and try to answer any questions that they might have. Weeks in advance you could help your children set up a countdown calendar to build their sense of anticipation as the big day approaches.
CONTINUITY AND CAMARADERIE
No matter how exciting the move will be, moving inevitably entails the sadness of leaving friends and, perhaps, family behind. Make time for special activities your children can do with their friends. Have special family days with grandparents or cousins, for farewell parties, and so forth, in the weeks leading up to the big move. Take lots of photos during these events.
Don't forget to collect addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and photographs of everyone that you and your children want to stay in touch with. Take home videos, too. (Later on, your children's photos, scrapbooks and home videos of life in and around their old home can be shown to new friends and complete the bridge between their old world and their new one.)
Try to think of novel ways that your kids will be able to continue established relationships. For example, your children could create a simple personal website for posting family news and recent photos and updates on their new life in the new place and for exchanging emails with old friends. They could start a group blog. Buy them pretty stationary for traditional penpal-style contact with old friends. Draw up an extensive Christmas card list that leaves out no one. Consider making advance promises (and then keeping them) for having your children's closest old friends come stay with you in your new home next summer, or whenever.
SETTLING IN AND SETTLING DOWN
As you're moving into your new home and unpacking, try to make the setting up of your children's special places a priority. Let them help make decisions about how to decorate their own rooms and make them as homey as possible as quickly as possible. Some of their old furniture and keepsakes will provide them with some security and continuity and help them settle in more quickly and easily. Don't forget other spots that contribute to making your kids feel at home - such as a playroom or a sandbox, swingset, or picnic table in the yard, depending on your children's ages and what they're accustomed to.
In addition to this, make it as easy as you can for your children to make new friends; you might have a housewarming party and invite neighborhood kids, encourage your kids to invite new schoolmates over after school, and participate in local events at school, the public library, or a nearby community center. Let them join afterschool clubs, scout troops, the local band or choir, an amateur theater group - whatever interests them. You can also get yourself involved in things that affect your children's lives: join the local carpool or the PTA, for instance. the sooner you all ease into daily routines, the more quickly you'll all feel like you're truly "home."
CONCLUSIONS AND COOPERATION
If the entire family pitches in to handle preparations for the big move, your children will feel more like they are important members of the family. Let each of them have a part to play in learning about your new locale, preparing for the move, keeping ties to loved ones in the old locale, and settling into your new home. Your children's attitudes should be improved, their excitement about the move heightened, and their fears diminished, if you make that extra effort and take that extra time to get them involved in every step of the process.
Good luck with your move, there's no place like home - be it old or new !
About the Author: Barbara Freedman-De Vito has spent years as a children's librarian, teacher, professional storyteller, puppeteer, author and artist. Visit her site for Children's Clothing and Family Gifts from Baby Bird Productions