Moving with small children can be fun and stressful all at the same time. Beyond the logistics of the move, the transition of moving can be equally stressful and possibly not so much fun. Moving to a new home is a change that has a finite date – Moving Day. However, moving is a transition that takes far longer than one day. Here are 5 ways you can help your preschooler with not just the change, but the transition as well.
1. Start with you. Taking good care of yourself is the first, most important step. Beyond the physical and emotional energy needed for Moving Day is the continued energy needed to settle in to your new home. At first, the novelty of the change can keep the wheels in your preschooler's head occupied. However, once the dust settles, you might see tears, hear pleas to go back to the “old house” or have to deal with downright disruptive behavior. Take a deep breath and understand your preschooler is searching for what he or she needs to make the transition better. Take the hint for yourself. Make sure you get what you need so you are better equipped to help them figure out what they need.
2. Repetition is your friend. Talk early and often about the move. Not just Moving Day, but talk about how things might be different for awhile. Most kids need time to process the idea of a change as big as leaving one home for another. Talk early and often but understand that preschoolers might not be able to understand more complex reasons for moving or even what it all means. Let them express their emotions in whatever way they need (within house rules and limits, of course). Be responsive to cues of when they want to talk and when they may just need to process it all.
3. Predictability rules. Find the calm within the storm. Keep routines as predictable as possible before, during and after the move. The environment may be different but knowing that bedtime means bath, then story, then snuggle, then lights out regardless of the surroundings provides comfort and stability.
4. Encourage helping hands. Get your preschooler involved in the move from beginning to end. Having some sense of control over the situation can help alleviate fears of the unknown. Designate a couple of boxes just for them to pack (or more!!). Preschoolers can not only pack up their own toys and books, but they can help with packing that never-quite-organized plastic container drawer. After the move is complete, recognize ways they may need to establish a sense of control, which can be as small a picking out their clothes or redecorating their room in “just the right way.”
5. Reach out. Find your resources. Start with resources for parents. Parents need support as much as kids do so make sure you get connected to people who can help, even if it’s just a listening ear when times get tough. Find the local team or group of whatever organization your kids may have been involved in – sports, performance, gymnastics, karate, etc. Get them involved in something familiar that will give them an outlet for pent up energy as well as provide some normalcy to their transition time. Books and videos one of the most beneficial ways to help preschoolers make meaning out of their situation. Click here for a previous post that includes some book and movie recommendations.
For more information about the Moving Families Initative, please visit www.movingfamiliesinitiative.com.