Guest contributor: REA - Ricklin-Echikson Associates
Part 1 of 2
Employee relocations can be stressful under the best of circumstances, and they can cause more worry and concern for transferees relocating with children.
Change affects children of all ages, and learning how to address the children’s concerns will not only aid the children in the current relocation, but can help them adapt to change in the future.
Moving can be a challenging experience for a family-especially for children. When faced with a move, it is important to remember that children’s reactions vary depending on their personality, age, experience and family dynamics.
What are your kids concerned about?
Preschool children tend to worry about being left behind or separated from their parents. Infants, toddlers and preschoolers are not yet able to understand the meaning of the move.
They are affected more by the reactions and availability of their caretakers.
• Try to be as relaxed about the move as possible. Preschool children pick up on anxiety levels and may believe that the moving chaos is related to something they have done wrong.
• Your time and attention are very important, so try to take a break to hold and play with your child.
• Little kids do best when things are predictable; keeping to a routine with familiar things and people eases the transition for them. Regular eating and nap times are important. Avoid making other changes at the same time as the move such as toilet training or transferring to a new bed, so as not to overwhelm and confuse a young child.
• Try to unpack and organize the child’s bedroom and playroom first.
• Remember, too, that small children may not understand that their toys and special belongings are going with them. It may help to pack their things last and to involve them when unpacking in the new location.
School-age kids may be concerned with how their daily routines will be affected. They are likely to be concerned about fitting in with new peers and dealing with different academic demands. Their general personality and social style may influence their adjustment.
School-age children often are quite excited about a family move and love to become involved in the planning process.
• Use their enthusiasm and energy to help you get some of your moving tasks done.
• Relationships with peers are very important for school-agers. Although they can understand the separation from friends and neighbors, they may not have the maturity to deal with their emotions.
• Most school-agers are quite positive before and even immediately after the move. A month or so after the move, however, they may become angry, especially if they have not had much success forming a new group of friends. School-agers still have a very active imagination and may have thought that the move would somehow make their lives wonderful. When reality sets in, therefore, they may experience confusion, frustration and anger.
• If possible, investigate the neighborhood before you move. Are there other children your child can play with? If not, where can your child go to meet friends? Is there a community center or club nearby?
• If possible, arrange to visit the school before enrolling your child. Be sure to point out important places like the school cafeteria, library, and restrooms. Kids worry about being able to find their way around.
• Take pictures of your child, new home and community and encourage your child to share them with others.
• A goodbye party is also a good idea. It can help ease the pain of good-byes, make the move a concrete event and help the child accept reality.
Teenagers are concerned primarily with fitting in and having their social life disrupted. Teens will be able to understand the nuances of the decision to move, but may also be resistant to change. At a time when they are establishing important relationships outside of the family, they may feel the move threatens their evolving identity. It can be disruptive to the stability they have already established with a core group of friends or with an athletic or academic path they are pursuing.
Parents need to give teens time and space when preparing for a move. Many parents postpone telling kids about the move, hoping that it will make things easier. Generally it is best to tell them right away. The "grief work" of breaking relationships and saying good-byes takes time and is best done before the move.
• Even though teens seem much more advanced in their social skills, they may worry a lot about making friends in the new location. Be sure to visit their school and check out local activities and employment opportunities for young people.
• Communities have their own culture and way of doing things, and this is often reflected in the way teens dress. How they look is very important to teens. Before investing in a new school wardrobe, you and your teen may want to do some quiet observation or visiting with new neighbors to see what is "in." Purchasing a "special" outfit can often help a teen feel more comfortable.
• Parents also can help teens by paying sincere attention to their feelings. Accept your teen's feelings without getting defensive or lecturing. If a teen can express feelings openly and work through the "sense of loss" with parental support, they will be much less likely to express anger and depression in a harmful way.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series