It's fun! It's exciting! It's a great opportunity! At least that's what we try to tell our children when we deliver the news about moving to a new home. The trouble is, even though it may be all those things to us, it may not be fun, exciting, or a great opportunity for our kids.
Children who are moving have more questions than they know how to ask. Take the guessing out of moving by communicating clearly and often - and don't forget the listening part. I had a communications professor who often reminded us, "You have two ears and one mouth. You should use them in that proportion."
Once the decision to move is final, share as much information with your children as you can. Patient, empathetic communication is a must. Younger children tend to get excited about something "new" without fully understanding the impact on their lives until later. Older tweens and teens most likely won't like the idea of leaving familiar people and places. Be prepared for resistance but set ground rules early. Insist on respectful, honest communications where expressing emotions is acceptable but yelling and blaming are not.
Be an active participant in the conversation. Moving is a busy time but multitasking while your child is talking to you is a sure conversation stopper. Sit down with your child, make eye contact and use non-verbal cues to let them know you're listening (nodding your head, reassurances like "uh-huh," "OK," or "Go on"). If you have more than one child, make sure each child has an opportunity to talk one-on-one with parents to ensure they have get to speak up for themselves.
An effective communication tool for sharing feelings when emotions run high is the "I message." For parents and children alike, "I messages" provide a concise, straightforward way to share feelings without blaming and an opportunity to ask respectfully for what you need.
The formula is simple: "I feel (state your feeling) when (identify behavior/situation) because (why does the behavior/situation elicit those feelings). What I would like is (identify what you want to change or what you want to happen). From a kid's perspective it may sound something like this: "I feel angry when you tell me we have to move because it is unfair that I have to lose my friends. I want to stay here."
Resist the urge to respond to questions, "I messages", or even garden variety whining with a litany of logic and reasoning. Learn to be a world-class problem solver. Rather than making statements or arguments, ask questions. Ask for clarification (Help me understand that better.) and encourage them to do more thinking (What is the worst possible thing that can happen as a result of this move? followed by What is the likelihood that will happen? What is likely to happen instead?).
ostly kids just want to be heard so simply listen, empathize and ask. You may not like the answers, but your kids will appreciate being heard.
For more information about the Moving Families Initiative, please visit www.movingfamiliesinitiative.com.