Janis Peterson, GRI, ABR, CSP Realtor®
Kids are on the move. In fact, of the 43 million Americans relocating this year, roughly 13 million will be children under age 19, according to Mayflower Transit's Annual Report America on the Move.
What can parents do to help their children through this life-changing transition? Each of the three stages—before the move, during the move, and after the move—affects children differently, therefore, coping strategies will also differ.
Before the move--Tell children about the move as early as possible and expect a range of reactions, depending on the children's ages and temperaments. Younger children generally take the news much better than older children or teenagers who have more at stake. Encourage them to communicate openly and honestly. Take their concerns seriously and look for solutions. What may seem like an insurmountable obstacle to your child may be easily remedied. For instance, your 13-year-old daughter can't stand the thought of leaving her best friend behind. You might arrange for the girls to spend a week together next summer at your new home.
Above all, be as supportive and upbeat as possible. Younger children and babies often take their cues from mom.
Hold family meetings periodically to nurture relationships and family unity. And involve the children as much as realistically possible during this time of planning. For example, can they pick their rooms and choose the decor? Some companies offer relocation benefits that provide for a house-hunting trip. If possible, take the children with you so they feel involved in the decision making. If this isn't possible, bring along a camcorder (if you don't have one, borrow one) and film sites that would interest your children. Film the school, the route to the new home, parks, anything that might interest them. Remember to film the outside and inside of your new house. Take them on a virtual tour and point out items of interest such as a tree house or picture window.
During the move--Involve everyone in the packing chores. Even young children can have jobs. Remind the children to find and return any borrowed items. Have them help you sort their belongings as you decide what to keep and what to toss out. Don't throw away things behind your child's back. If they can't give up a toy just yet, give in. It's better to move with more than to upset a child who's trying to maintain some stability in his or her little life.
Children can pack their own toys. Provide each child with a box or knapsack that will hold especially prized items—a favorite stuffed toy, a scrapbook, games for the trip. Have them color their names in a decorative style on each of their boxes.
Mature teens can be your greatest asset during this time. They can keep lists, make calls, take responsibility for pets and run errands. No matter how much you have to do, take a break from the details of moving and go on family outings. Go to the park for an afternoon or treat the family to ice cream. Go to that one place you've been meaning to visit but never got around to. Whatever you do, have fun and don't feel guilty.
During this time of unpredictability, children benefit from regular routines. Try to eat serve meals and get the children to bed at the normal times.
Although challenges and distractions will find you when it's least convenient, try to model a positive attitude. Your children will be watching to see how you react. During this time, continue to hold family meetings to air concerns and to support each other. You want your children to feel that "we're all in this together."
Finally, help your children say goodbye. Purchase a disposable camera for each child and a scrapbook so they can create a book of memories. Have the children collect their friends' addresses, including e-mail, and numbers so they can keep in touch. Throw a going away party. And encourage the children to accompany you to say goodbye to special friends and neighbors.
After the move— Settling into a new home should be fun, so don't spend too much time unpacking. At least, not just yet. Take walks and meet neighbors. Pick up a map and explore your new community. Check out local restaurants and parks, and locate the movie theaters and ice cream shops. Travel the route that your children will take to school. And for smooth starts at new schools, call the principal and schedule a visit. Ask if it would be possible to meet the teachers of your younger children. See is your older children's guidance counselors would be available to meet before school opens.
Once you've unpacked, get involved in the community—at a church, library, the local recreation center to name some suggestions. Ask your real estate professional for the names of families in the neighborhood with young children, and invite them by for a backyard barbecue and lawn games. Encourage your teenagers to volunteer as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, or at the hospital or a local soup kitchen. Enroll your younger children in activities they'll enjoy.
Most children experience a time of grieving as they adjust to losing their home, their friends, their schools, sometimes even pets and relatives. If you think your children are having a difficult time adjusting, contact your doctor of a guidance counselor.
As much as they need to settle in and think of the new community as home, help your children maintain ties with those they left behind. Encourage them to write or e-mail, and allow them to call friends periodically. Make a point to keep your promises. If you promised to send a child back for a week during summer vacation, make every attempt to follow through.
This third stage—after the move—is the longest. So keep looking up and remember 'it's all a great adventure.'
"Real Service in Real Estate." For a personal consultation on buying or selling real estate, Janis Peterson, GRI, ABR, CSP Realtor® can be reached at (610) 642-3744, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors® is an independently owned and operated member of The Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc.
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