A new place is hard enough but for parents it adds an extra challenge of helping their children cope with the stress of moving. For kids, moving entails not only a change of home but also moving away from their school, their friends and their comfort zone. While there is excitement of being in a new place, the actual adjustment for them may be far more complex. Parents have to deal with many questions and challenges. What should we tell the kids about the move? How would they react? How do we explain the reasons for the move and why it would be good for them? What should they expect in terms of the schooling and making new friends etc?
Moving could affect children socially, mentally and emotionally and often times academically. If a child is older and has been in the same school for several years, the idea of moving can be revolting at first. They would miss their friends, their routine and their way of life. In a new place they would have to go through the regime of making new friends and adjust to the academic structure of a new school. This could create anxiety, emotional stress and trauma in the mind of the children. In such a scenario the role of the parents and the community becomes crucial.
Some of the things parents could do to help children cope with the relocation is:
- Talk to the children as soon as the decision to move comes up. Be honest with them and give them enough time to think about the idea of moving and adjust to it. Answer their questions and encourage ideas and thoughts and their gauge their emotions regarding the subject.
- Take the help of teachers and school counselors speak to the children. Involve their friends to find ways of keeping in touch. This helps children stay connected with their existing world.
- Be positive about moving to a new country, as this not only generates excitement in their mind, it can also help them respect the new culture they are moving to. Identify places that would spark interest in the kids in the new place, like museums, parks or entertainment centers.
- After identifying the new school, parents should share web sites or forums with them so they familiarize with the place and set up a positive expectation from it. Children may worry about how they would cope with the new curriculum and how they would perform academically in the new school. Ease their stress by telling them not to worry about that, as everyone will need an adjustment period.
- If your kids are into sports or any other extra-curricular activities see if you could identify places where similar activities are available.
- Get them involved. Kids are more vested in the move if they are involved in the major aspects and tasks around moving. Let them pack their special things in boxes and identify things they want to keep or give away. Also encourage them to set those things up in their own rooms in the new place.
- Give kids ample space and time to say their good byes. Kids cope better if they are given the opportunity to say goodbye to their close friends and teachers. Help them exchange information via email or postal address or even give gifts to their close friends. Encourage a farewell party and invite your close network of friends and relatives so that there is an atmosphere of celebration as you embark on a new journey and not that of a loss.
All kids are different and they would react differently to a new place or a new environment. Being a good role model would help parents help their kids to cope. Patience, open communication and understanding are the key to a successful move. It could take as long as 1-2 years before children adjust or even earlier so parents need to show complete understanding and patience when relocating with kids.