So, you’ve decided for a number of great or at least necessary reasons that it’s finally time to make the move. Hopefully, you’ve made the choice to contact an amazing local Realtor (hint available here) with the team available to handle the real estate logistics of your move.
Now if you’re like many of us, on top of all the decisions, tasks and hurdles you’ll face before and after settling into your new home and community – there are little humans running around your home that need to be considered. If they’re under the age of about 4 consider yourself blessed. If they’re over the age of 10 it’s about to get interesting. Anything in between could go either way.
Kids react to moving in a number of different ways. Fear, anxiety, rebellion, grief and hopefully a little excitement are to be expected. Dealing with those feelings takes planning but understand that you may have to surrender your “Parent of the Year” awards soon after breaking the news to most children. Every complaint you ever heard about the house, yard, neighborhood and school will now be completely forgotten. There is rarely a reason good enough to pluck them away from what will instantly be regarded as the Holy Grail of teen or pre-teen life. De-cluttering their rooms, neutralizing their beloved pink or purple room, staging and organizing are all important facets of preparing if you have to sell your home, but they will fight you on it every step of the way. “I hate you” and “This wasn’t my choice” will become staples of their vocabulary. And if they’re not saying it, they’re thinking it.
But it will get better.
If you’ve been battling on-line time, on-phone time and sullen teenager syndrome expect a break out of epidemic proportions. They will retreat from you and believe me when I say that there are rough waters ahead.
The good news is that as I said it will get better. And although there are no number of easy steps to transition painlessly into their new lives, there are experts out there that have guidelines to make it a little less traumatic.
“As soon as you know you’re going to move, sit down with your children and make sure they hear the news from you first,” suggests Lori Collins Burgan, author of “Moving With Kids” and mother of three who – get ready for it – has moved five times in the seven years. “Have a family meeting and make a list of all their questions about the new area, and then get the answers.” I get that “family meeting” may sound a little Brady Bunch in our modern world but you DO NOT want the big reveal to be them overhearing a phone call or a new home search left on the computer. The latter is how we lost our Parent of the Year trophy.
Once the secret is out, word will spread through the community like wildfire. If they use social media the sheer volume of data pouring out over Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram and/or KiK will be profound. Within the confines of your home’s rules, allow them to reach out to their peers. Let them share the information and grieve with their friends while at the same time letting them know that you are available to them. Be there. Listen. Do not try to convince them that this move is “what’s best for them.” Not yet anyway. That road leads to a very bad place.
Another crucial way to help them cope is getting them involved in the move as soon as you think they’re ready. Show them homes you’ve searched for and if it makes sense, take them to showings. Find out if something that’s important to them is possible for you. My daughter first started to come around when she found out a game room loft might be possible in our new home. WARNING! Under-promise and over-deliver on this one. Having already lost our aforementioned trophy above, not being able to fully deliver on this one cost me the #1 Dad mug mentioned in the title.
If it’s possible visit the new area together. Go to the school, check out the neighborhoods and find out what special amenities will make your new community unique. There is some level of excitement buried beneath the grief. Carefully dodging landmines of resentment, tread cautiously and try to find it. It’s there somewhere. I promise.
The healing will not begin until after the move. Understand this, embrace this and push forward.
After the move:
At their new school reach out to teachers and counselors. Here in the greater Charlotte area for instance, schools are keenly aware of ways to help the “new kid” feel not so new. Transplants and families relocating are so common that depending on when you move, someone will quickly come along and become the new, “new kid.” Maintain contact and stay involved. These school professionals are a huge resource and for us, were a great way of getting a true picture of how our daughter was adjusting. “How was your day,” never was the conversation starter we hoped for and weekly emails from her counselor at first were a great way of better understanding how she was truly adjusting.
It kind of goes without saying that getting kids involved in activities, clubs and sports will help them cope. We tried. You may find they push back in order to allow themselves to stay in grieving mode. Keep trying. Eventually, helping our daughter connect with like-minded kids sharing a common interest really helped move her towards acceptance. Again, the counselors at her school were a huge asset in helping us make this happen when she was ready.
Finally, for all the bad that social media can bring, it’s an amazing way of keeping connected to their current peer group. Skyping with old friends, sharing their new surroundings on Instagram and posting videos of their new room on YouTube can help them share their experience and tap into the excitement of the move. Of course all of this has to conform with how your family has decided to best use these platforms. It may not be the answer for everyone – but loosening the rules around computer time helped me earn back my mug.
Moving is difficult. It is especially difficult for our middle and high school aged kids. Avoid doubt and guilt and know that life is full of change and learning that will make our kids more resilient and stronger for it.
The hate will subside eventually.