7 simple strategies to help kids deal with your family’s move
“Ask the Expert” is an ongoing series that brings you expertise from individuals in a field related to moving and travel. If you have suggestions about an expert you’d like to hear from, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Gene Beresin is the executive director of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital, a full professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and senior educator in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Mass General.
In Part 2 of this Ask the Expert topic, Beresin offers parents these tips to help make a family’s move less stressful for kids:
1. Reframe the concept of moving.
Explain why your family lives the way that it does. Try offering an explanation like this, “We move because mom’s (or dad’s) job is changing. This is the way we’re living. Everyone has their own way.” Then talk about ways that your child can learn from the lifestyle and promote growth rather than focusing on the losses that come with moving.
2. Keep the lines of communication open.
If your child says they are sad or miss their friends, be careful not to dismiss their feelings. Instead, talk about the loss if they are feeling troubled by it. And validate it by sharing your own feelings about missing friends or family. This helps your child know that they are not alone in their pain. “Sitting alone with painful feelings is horrible at any age,” Beresin said.
3. Expect some regression with younger kids.
Moving can be traumatizing for a child so you may need to put in some extra snuggle time at bedtime or other stressful points in the day. Beresin said some kids may even benefit from a parent staying with them until they fall asleep in their new room for a few nights or sharing mom and dad’s bed for a short time.
4. Reach out to your neighbors.
Opt to host a backyard barbecue instead of waiting for your new neighbors to invite you to one. This is a quick way for you and your kids to meet new people who will be readily accessible in the coming months. It also ensures a familiar face around the community.
5. Tap into their interests.
If your child has a particular interest like a musical instrument, sport or art, find a local class or group in your new hometown and get your child involved as soon as possible. This ensures that your child is meeting kids with similar interests who he or she can relate to.
6. Plan ahead for schools.
If possible, consider the culture of the school in your new town. Go to the school before your child begins attending there and meet with teachers and counselors to let them know about your family’s lifestyle and how your child is adjusting.
7. Establish new communication habits.
If your family is moving away from relatives or close friends, start using video chat services like Skype or Google Hangout to chat with them prior to your move. That way when you leave, video chatting will already be familiar to your child.
For more information from Dr. Beresin on a variety of parenting topics, go to the The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds. And to learn more about Dr. Beresin and the center, check out Part 1 of this discussion here.
-By Emily Shedek