The effects of moving to a new home has different effects on different people. Preschoolers are one group that might tip the scales toward the “difficult” end of the spectrum. Several things factor into the length and depth of the actions and reactions of preschool children moving to a new home.
First, they do not have the emotional vocabulary to be able to identify and express what they are feeling beyond “mad,” “sad,” or “happy.” Emotional regulation is a future dream so even if they can express their feelings, being able to regulate their emotions in the midst of a move might just be a little more than they can handle. Object permanence, which comes on board around eight to twelve months of age, is still difficult for younger kids to grasp. Out of sight, out of mind and it can be very frightening to imagine the only house or apartment you have ever known has suddenly “disappeared.”
Finally, change is hard for everyone, regardless of age. Young children are no different than the rest of us, we all crave some level of routine. Young brains crave repetition to build connections and pathways essential for later learning. Moving is a known destroyer of predictable daily routines and comfort zones.
To ease the change and transition of moving to a new home, talk early and often about what is going to happen. Remember repetition is ESSENTIAL so yes, you will have to repeat things over and over (“Yes, honey, Teddy is coming with us just like all of your toys.”) Expect regression, temper tantrums, and getting placed on “the list.” (hint: it’s not the list you want to be on!)
Some simple things you can do to help ease the stress of moving are:
· Create a going away bag – Use kid-print pillow case or visit your local craft store and purchase a pack of fabric squares in their favorite colors and sew them together with a drawstring. Encourage your child to pack the bag with items that will help them remember their old home, neighborhood or school. These items can provide security as well as create good memories that can open the door to the hope that new memories will be good too.
· Keep routines the same – In an effort to appease frazzled nerves (both theirs and yours), parents can sometimes slip into habits that might be hard to break later, like sleeping in Mom and Dad’s bed. This doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible but the more familiarity that comes with the new house, the easier the transition will be.
· Use books and videos to help them understand what is about to happen and to provide reference points to talk about how the move will affect them. Some suggestions:
o The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day by Stan and Jan Berenstain
o Moving House (Usborne First Experiences book) by Anne Civardi
o Big Ernie’s New Home: A Story for Young Children Who Are Moving, by Teresa Martin and Whitney Martin
o The Toy Story trilogy from Disney Pixar
For more suggestions to help young children who are moving, please click here.
No parent should move without a written game plan to help your children deal with the difficulties they face when moving. For more information, contact your local participating Real Estate Agent for more information about the Moving Families Initiative.
For more information about the Moving Families Initative, please visit www.movingfamiliesinitiative.com.