When children go through change and transition, especially when moving to a new home, they take their cues from the adults around them. Don’t get me wrong. Kids, especially teens, have plenty of opinions and a healthy dose of attitude all on their own. However, studies of moving families reveal that two key determinants of positive outcomes for children who are moving centers on the attitude their parents have about the move and the support the family receives during and after the move.
If a parent is overly stressed, anxious, worried and views the move as generally negative regardless of the circumstances, kids connect the behaviors they observe with the move and thereby determine that moving is “bad”. They adjust their attitude accordingly. On the other side, regardless of circumstances, if a parent has support, manages stress, exhibits fewer negative emotions, kids will adopt an attitude of acceptance. Even though moving is difficult and stressful, kids will generally feel positive.
Building parental resilience is the first and most critical step in creating resilient children. In her article, How Resilience Works, Diane Coutu identifies three characteristics common to resilient people.
· Real about reality – While optimism is important, optimism that drowns out a grasp of reality is detrimental. Having a firm grasp on reality doesn’t negate optimism, but it is critical to resilience. Think: “Moving is hard and it’s going to be really stressful for awhile, but we’ll get through it.” versus “Everything is going to be perfect once we get to our new home.”
· Making meaning – Resilient people often have a deep belief in a deeper meaning - being able to see some personal value in the midst of hard times. Instead of “why me,” resilient people often ask, “why not me?”
· Ready for Plan B (or C or D or Z) – Resilient people are improvisational people. The ability to think outside the box and find different ways of accomplishing tasks or solving problems is a key characteristic in resilience. When the moving truck doesn’t arrive on the scheduled date, resilient parent aren’t likely to fall apart. They are more likely to find a way.
For some tips on how to promote resilience in children, click here.
For more information about the Moving Families Initative, please visit www.movingfamiliesinitiative.com.