Kids crave routine. By routine I’m not implying “sameness” but the safety and security of knowing what’s next. When a family with children is preparing to move, some level of chaos is unavoidable. Some of our most basic routines – eating and sleeping – are likely to be the first things affected by the natural process of preparing for a move. Making sure to keep meal times and bedtime routines as free of chaos as possible will go a long way to assisting your children with the difficulties they face when moving. Also, look at some informal family “traditions” or habit patterns. If Friday night is pizza and movie night, try to keep Pizza Night sacred. It takes a lot of energy for young brains to process all the complex emotions that surround moving so any attempts, even if they feel herculean, will pay off in the end.
As Moving Day draws closer, stress levels spike for parents and kids alike, and routines can become a casualty. Creating a moving plan in advance with your kids will help ensure that what can stay routine will stay routine. Once the move is complete, give kids a little time to process and settle in. It can take some children as long as a year and a half to fully adjust to a new move. At first we might be tempted to fill their days with new activities and new opportunities to meet and connect with peers. Again, remember that a lot of energy is expended just in wrapping their brains around all that is going on. For older kids, keep connected but give them space. For younger children, you might see an increase in the amount of support they need in what may seem like “normal” things. It is typical for younger children to “revert” back to less independent behaviors but with support, communication and time they make the adjustments.
The more familiarity parents can place into their children’s lives, the easier it is for them to adjust. Once the dust has settled, your children may crave the familiarity of former activities. Do some advanced footwork prior to relocation. If your child is involved in scouts, organized sports, church or after-school clubs, make sure to know where they are so you can dive right in when the timing is right. Don’t forget those friends and activities left behind. Schedule time for your child to stay connected with treasured friends. Creating a “Skype Night” when kids can connect face-to-face with friends will help them reduce the feelings of loss and give them something to look forward to until their “new normal” comes into full swing.
For more information about the Moving Families Initiative, please visit www.movingfamiliesinitiative.com.