Context Matters

The reason for the move is all important in how your child will cope. It is more stressful for some children, depending on their age and temperament, but above all it is the context of the move that makes the impact of moving fleeting or something you should really attend to. If the move is forced by family breakup or bereavement you have a vulnerable little mind under extra pressure and the need to make them feel safe and secure is increased. In fact, reading is one of the best ways of making your child feel comforted. There is nothing better than curling up in bed with Mom or Dad and having your favorite story read to you. Make sure you make it part of a bedtime routine early on and don't let the pressure of the move mean you miss out this important part of the day.

Moving Made Easy

Here are a few common sense rules about moving with children:

Talk to them and listen. Talk about the move, the reasons for it, the process, and the new area. Just talk, and listen and try to help them feel part of the move. The more children are involved in a process the more they own it by feeling as if they have some control. The move is no longer something being 'done' to them, it is something they are helping plan. Why not put one in charge of packing all the DVDs, and another in charge of researching the new area on the internet and writing a report about it - 'Ten Best Things about Our New Town." Reward their efforts well - don't be above a bit of pampering at this difficult time. It will cheer you all up!

Allow them to make some decisions. Try to let your children make some decisions about the new house. Their bedrooms are a good place to start. Has he always wanted a space themed bedroom? Perfect opportunity. Is your little girl a fan of all things pink? Let her run with it. Even if you hate the ideas it will get your child excited about one aspect of the move and allow them to feel they are guiding some aspect of it. When it all gets too much their new bedroom will be one place to go that they can feel really good about.

It is stressful, even when it goes well. The two weeks before the move and the two weeks after a move will be the most adrenalin-fueled. The work involved in packing and organizing can create a bit of a high for the whole family. Added to the adrenalin excitement of the new house it can seem like the whole thing is going fine. But be watchful. It is sometimes in the weeks and months after the move that children's true feelings surface. Look out for any changes in mood, feelings of anger and resentment, and a failure to make new friends. This isn't just a Royal Caribbean cruise which the kids will come home from - this is part of their new life. These are all things that mean your child may be struggling with the transition. It is estimated by some experts that a move can take up to 16 months to recover from completely, especially if it has involved a long distance move or divorce. You may be stressed too. Get help for yourself if you ever feel overwhelmed and tearful. You've done well so far, so be kind to yourself.

Provide continuity to help with change. As much as moving can be exciting for your children, make sure you provide as strong sense of continuity as possible. Familiar things and routines are very important. Hold back on replacing all the bed linen and buying a new sofa for just a few weeks. These everyday things are part of the fabric of your child's sense of place, self and security. This is where bedtime reading comes into its own. However tired you are, make sure you keep the routine going. And it's ok to tell them you miss the old house too. We need to be emotionally honest too. Talking about the old house or neighbourhood might be a good way of letting go of it.

Help Them Make New Friends. This is the single biggest indicator about how quickly your children will settle in. Once they have friends, the world will seem a brighter place, so get on the case as quickly as you can if you are moving to a new area. Get involved with local groups like scouts, camping, sports clubs or ballet. Speak to the parents there to arrange play dates as early as possible to get your child in the swim. There's nowhere better than the playground for networking as all parents know, so try and invite some friends over to visit as soon as you can.

I hope that is of some use to book-loving parents who are on the move. I include a list of children's books about moving which might help the process too. My personal favorite is Moving Molly by Shirley Hughes, because she seems to understand children so well. It helped my five year old no end.

Children's books about moving

Moving Molly, S. Hughes
Dear Phoebe, S. Alexander
We Are Best Friends, Aliki
It's Your Move: Picking up, packing up and settling in, L. Bourke
I Don't Live Here! P. Conrad
I'm Moving, M. W. Hickman
My Friend William Moved Away, M. W. Hickman
I'm Not Moving! P. Jones
Maggie and the Goodbye Gift, S. Milord & J. Milord
A New Boy in Kindergarten, J.B. Moncure
Mitchell is Moving, M. W. Sharmat,
The Monster in the Third Dresser Drawer and Other Stories About Adam Joshua, J. I. Smith
Moving Day, T. Tobias
Moving, W. Watson


Moving Molly Book Cover
Images from inside Moving Molly
'Molly meets some new friends'