Moving with Kids
We stress careful planning in every section of this Website, but at no time is planning more important than when children are involved in a move. From the top, we want to add two other "musts" to careful planning: consistent communication and continual inclusion of all family members in the moving process. Let's look at some age-related considerations first, and some suggestions on how to deal with them.
Pre-school children live in very short time frames, dominated usually by either "now" or "in a minute." By contrast, school children from grades 2 and up are very aware of weeks and months, vacation days and spring or fall breaks. Elementary children begin to enlarge their world beyond the family by sleepovers, team sports and club activities. By 3rd or 4th grade, close same-gender friendships have formed and many children are beginning to establish their own identity within academic, social, sports or club activities, achievements and relationships.
In spite of the evidence that elementary aged children who have moved before are generally better adjusted and more adaptable to change than children who have never moved, you can expect some initial resistance to a move from your well socialized children. By expecting resistance you can plan on dealing with it.
Teens, especially those of high school age, are likely to be significantly more disturbed by the thought of interrupting their social, sports or academic interests, for the sake of the family's move. Public and private high schools with good academic standings and a high annual percentage of college acceptances, automatically breed pride and promise into their students. Without adequate information on the school to which they are moving, some students fear the move may hurt their chance for admission to the college of their choice.
Children of all ages are apt to use "black or white" thinking relative to the move, particularly if they have a large circle of good friends now. Moving will be bad, bleak, black with no possible shades of gray, for them. The opposite may well be true when children have few or no close friends nearby.
What to communicate when! Experts recommend an immediate disclosure of the upcoming move to all family members to provide each person with adequate time to adjust to the idea. One caution. Parents need to know enough about the new community or neighborhood to sensibly answer important initial questions from their children. Parents, do your initial research immediately. Anticipate sports, academic, religious, and community-related questions based on the activities in which your children are currently engaged. What are the schools like and where are they located relative to your potential new home or neighborhood? How do their new schools compare with current schools?
Kids need to feel a sense of stability and purpose in the move. Why are you moving? How will the move benefit the children? Sure, the company transferred Dad or Mom, but why do the kids have to "suffer" as a result of a parental transfer?
Children also need to buy into the moving process and be recognized as an important part of the family's move. A good place to start is with feelings. Tell them yours first, honestly, positive and negative, and encourage them to share their feelings no matter whether good or bad. Most of all, be absolutely honest. Don't beat around the bush.
High school juniors and seniors need to know different things about the new town than their younger, elementary siblings. Find a way and an appropriate time to provide all the information each child needs along with time for the child to respond with their own feelings about the move. Many communities provide printed materials on school systems, town facilities, recreational opportunities and maps of the surrounding countryside. Ask for every brochure offered and make them available to all family members.
Once your children know about the move, your move-related communications job is not over, but has only just begun. Expect varied reactions from your children over time, as they tell their friends and begin to think or fantasize about their new community. Try rap sessions in which pre-teen and/or teenage children talk about the move among themselves and clarify among other things the reasons why you are making the move, where the family is moving, what its advantages and opportunities are, when will each of the move-related events take place (selecting, organizing, packing, moving out/in, etc.) and how the children can stay connected with their current friends through visits, etc.
One way to gain active participation from your children is to involve them in every possible move-related decision: house-hunting in the new neighborhood; room selection, color scheme, etc.; what to dispose of pre-move, and how; packing special toys and keepsakes; marking special boxes for their own room; and change of address forms or labels for children to give to their close friends. Take lots of pictures inside and outside the new home for decorating, furnishing, remodeling and other pre-move planning activities. Your children will be happy to share pictures of their new home with their friends, helping them to become enthusiastic about their move.
Experts tell varied stories about the best time of year to move. Many frequent movers have completed real estate transactions during the spring months to capitalize on summer vacation months for the move. But summer is not the only time to move. Moves made during the school year have advantages also. Preteens and teenagers will be integrated immediately into their new school and make friends more quickly. When summer vacation comes, teens already have new friends with whom to enjoy their summer vacation.
Consider all family members as you answer the "when to move" question. Learn about the school schedule in your new community. By all means make sure current school records are requested in time for completion and transfer before your children enter their new schools.
All family members will want their medical records to follow them to the new community but with children, availability of medical records is vital, particularly for school entry. Ask your current pediatrician to refer you to a pediatrician in your new community. And by all means take copies of all of your medical records with you in a well marked package or carton. Finally, check the moving charts in this issue for reminders of key actions and decisions you will want to make before actually making the move.