How can I better help my child cope with moving?
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Whether it be to a new home, a new school, or to a different country, all of us will have moved at some point in our lives.
Many moves happen during childhood, when young families expand and build homes, experience a job transfer, or find a better suited school for their children. Well-meaning parents, anticipating that the move may be difficult, scary or painful for their child, try to ward off any negative feelings by making positive, hopeful statements.
“You’re going to make so many new friends!”
“You’re going to love your new school!”
“You’ll finally get your very own room!”
“We’ll come back and visit all the time!”
As truthful and as exciting as these statements may be, they don’t acknowledge all of the other feelings that may accompany a move: the sadness of leaving people and familiar things behind, the fear of the unknown that comes with any relocation, and possibly disappointment that future plans will change.
Even with the best intentions, parents may discount their child’s fears and concerns because they don’t know what to say, want their child to look on the bright side or feel uncomfortable dealing with the very same fears themselves.
Most of us never realise that moving can generate feelings of grief. Grief is the result of any change in familiar behaviour patterns. Even a move within the same city still means a change in home surroundings, a change in the route travelled to school each morning and changes in neighbours and relationships. The list of changes can be overwhelming whether you are an adult or a child.
Instead of solely giving your child reasons why they should be excited about the move you can effectively help them deal with any fears or sadness they might be experiencing by trying the following:-
Go first. Talk to your child about one of your previous experiences with moving and all of the feelings that accompanied it. Remember to be honest about what you were feeling.
Avoid the word “but”. Example: “I know you’re scared, but think of all the fun you’ll have at your new school.” This is discounting the fact that the child is fearful and trying to persuade them intellectually, rather than listening emotionally. Instead, acknowledge that it’s okay to be scared and leave it at that. Offer them a hug and a listening ear.
No false promises. Telling your child that you’ll be back to visit every month may help in the moment, but don’t promise to come back and visit if it’s a promise you won’t be able to keep.
Help your child say goodbye. A ritual before leaving a home can be very helpful. Children should be invited to talk about their favourite memories, perhaps say “thank you”, or talk about what they will miss.
By preparing your child for a move with honesty, empathy and open discussion, you will be setting the stage for them to fully embrace their new surroundings and settle in with ease.
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