Advice on how to help your children cope when moving house
Moving can be disruptive for parents, but the experience can be even more traumatic for children, who may not be a part of the decision to move and might not understand it.
Children can need some time and special attention during the transition, especially if the move is due to a relationship breakdown. Depending on their age, they show their feelings in many different ways.
In our study we have highlighted some of the behaviour that may appear and the best practices for dealing with it. Try these tips to make the process less stressful for everyone.
No matter what age your child is or the reason for the move they need to know that they are loved by both parents and that the move is not due to them or their behaviour.
You will need to be proactive in creating opportunities to discuss this process with your children as it is much more beneficial for everyone involved. Try to give them as much information about the move as soon as possible. Answer questions completely and truthfully, and be receptive to both positive and negative reactions. If this is their first time moving, it could be particularly difficult because they’re leaving their family home.
Share with them your first-move experience. Let them know you’ll be depending on them to help out during the move, from packing to settling in to the new place.
Some children may not be bothered by the move at all and may be very excited by it. Other children may have a range of reactions depending largely on their age.
Young children are the easiest to move as their sense of security depends entirely on their parents and they usually feel safe provided their parents are around. Prepare young children for the move with simple explanations; you will need to repeat these often.
This is usually the first time children of this age experience the need to move house, it is something that they do not understand. Explain in simple terms that you are planning on moving house. Think of the positives, we are moving so we have a bigger garden, or, to a nicer area with better schools. At this age children are usually concerned about their possessions, reassure them that these will be moving to the new property with you and that nothing will be left behind.
Signs that your child is worrying about the move may include sucking their thumb, wetting the bed, starting talking in a baby voice or cling to you constantly.
There are many books available for young children which can help them to understand what happens when you move house. Spend some time reading these with your child in the lead up to the big day.
School age children
Explaining to children at this age that you are moving house is best tackled when you start to plan the move. Get them involved in viewing properties with you. Ask their opinions of the houses you visit and make them feel that their opinion is important too.
Children of school age may change their sleeping patterns, start to have trouble concentrating or experience stomach aches or headaches.
School-age child will be concerned with whether they will like their new school and make new friends. Children spend a lot of time in school so it is important to discuss this. Leaving their friends and the familiarity of school can be very upsetting. Make sure they have plenty of time to come to terms with this and if possible we recommend that you take them to their new school more than once so they can get a feel for it and then the first day will not be so daunting.
Most of these issues can be overcome by reassuring your child and including them in the aspects of the move, tell them how you need their help with sorting through their clothes and toys, packing and settling in once the move is complete.
Reassure you children that they can visit, phone or email their friends, this will help them to cope with the separation until they have settled into your new home.
We spoke to Jack Leech, Community Rugby Coach at Sale Sharks Rugby Club and he told us “Sport is very powerful in breaking down barriers and also in building new friendships. Due the nature of rugby and its core values of Teamwork, Respect, Enjoyment, Discipline and Sportsmanship children are able to build relationships quickly. It enables interaction with new groups and also an opportunity for children to express themselves in different ways.”
Teenagers and young adults
At this age you can expect to hear exactly what your children think of the move, they will not hold back. Friendship groups are very important at this age and they may struggle to contain their emotions.
Shouting, banging doors, staying in their room for long periods of time are all signs that they are experiencing a feeling of loss. They may reject you for not giving their opinions as much value as they feel they deserve.
High schools usually offer pastoral care and qualified counsellors for your children to talk to; they may find this easier than talking to their parents.
Listen to teenagers and young adults, understand their feelings and get them involved in the moving process as much as possible.
Overview of moving house with children
Parents have a tendency to project their own thoughts and feelings onto children in difficult circumstances. They do not need to know that for example ‘Someone is interfering’ or in the case of a divorce that ‘Someone has had an affair’. Keep all disputes away from your children. Even if you do not want to move, make sure you do not let your children know, this will only unsettle and confuse them more.
Be aware that your behaviour may change, you may experience that you lose your temper quicker or you are over tired from all the physical preparations required for the move. Take time to talk through your feelings with a trusted friend or family member.
Networks such as Mum Net and Families Need Fathers can offer advice and support or you may feel more comfortable with a neutral party, many counsellors specialise in working with children and adults going through difficult emotions.
Listen to your children, especially about practical matters. Will they be able to join a new football club? You need to plan and give time to hear their worries, sadness, anger and concerns.
Remember to be positive – look to all the benefits the move will have and encourage your children to talk about it.
We would like to thank Heather Mackin from Mackin Counselling and Support Service for her input into this article. www.mackincounselling.co.uk