Easing the Impact of Moving on your Children

Writer: Susan Miller
Source: The Summit

I remember when we told our son, Bill, who was going into the seventh grade, that we were going to move from Atlanta to Phoenix. His immediate response was to turn around and walk out of the room, not saying a word. Our daughter, Ginger, who was going into the fifth grade, seemed bewildered by the word “move” and kept repeating, “Why, Mama?”

Each move would always bring a roller coaster of emotional response from each of us. In our ten moves with children, (fourteen times in all), I watched them go through everything from tears to excitement and from sadness to joy. Many times I felt so helpless, so unequipped to help them through the adjustment and transition of a move. I would often be struggling with my own feelings and emotions and unable to reach out to my own children!

I have learned over the years that moving can be as hard for children as it is for adults. They are also leaving behind friends and familiar places. They too have to start over making new friends and adjusting to a new home, community, and even school. Infants will miss the comfort of familiarity in their old room. Preschoolers might worry that toys or pets will be left behind. Elementary age children could be apprehensive about a different school. Teenagers can be moody, withdrawn, and angry over leaving friends.

When our family faced a major life change, like moving, we learned that what we did and said, and how we planned ahead, made a big difference in how our children felt about moving and how they adjusted to the transition. Preparing them before the move, encouraging them during the move, and equipping them after the move is vital to their emotional well-being!

Here are some tips that will help prepare your children before your family relocates:

Share the news as soon as possible.
Children need time to process change, say their goodbyes and have closure with people, places and things.

Keep everyone informed.
Questions like why, where and when need to be explained. Kids don’t like surprises when it comes to life-changing events.

Make the move a team effort.
Get your children involved in the process. Returning library books, cleaning out old toys, clothes and games are a great way to get kids involved and will encourage them to take ownership in the move.

Share stories of your own childhood moves.
Kids love to hear about their parents’ adventures in moving. Share how you felt and what you did when you moved.

Give some extra one-on-one time with each child.
They might need the opportunity for individual reassurance and encouragement.

Focus on the positive.
Talk it up, not down. There’s always something positive about wherever you are going.

Check out where you are moving.
Find out all you can at the library, or on the Internet about the new city, state and community you will be living in. Write the Chamber of Commerce for a packet of information. Have the information sent to your children. (They get mail!)

Now that you’ve prepared your children for the move, what happens next? Even a smooth move can have a bumpy start. I always say to the moving moms in my life, don’t lose heart, there is a map for the journey ahead. You see, God’s word is like a road map for any journey, regardless of your destination! Many times, reading scripture or repeating a favorite verse can encourage our hearts as well as the hearts of our children. To face the unknown of what lies ahead and to ease anxiety in any transition, I will always turn to these favorite scriptures:

Psalm 121:8
The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid…for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.

You can also encourage your children during the move by helping them rethink what is really important. These are some of the things they need to know can never be taken away from them in a move: (add your own list)

Your love for each other
God’s love for you
God’s word
God’s promises
God’s faithfulness

After the move, life can sometimes be like a giant jigsaw puzzle that has been turned upside down. You and your family have to begin to put all the pieces back together again. As a mom, your primary concern is getting your children plugged in so that the transition can be as easy as possible. Equipping them with the tools to start over can seem overwhelming at times; especially when you are trying to adjust to all the changes too. Children are faced with having to make new friends, going to a new school, and adjusting to unfamiliar surroundings. Add to that a kaleidoscope of feelings and emotions that come with a major change in their lives. These are just a few tips that will help equip your kids in putting the pieces of their life back together after a move.

* Talk to other kids! Introduce yourself and ask their names.
* Smile and be friendly! A smile breaks down barriers.
* Be nice, pleasant, and courteous! A grumpy attitude and bad manners won’t get you far.
* Be yourself! You can’t be everything to everybody and you can’t be someone else. Just relax and be who you are.
* Give it time! God has a special friend chosen just for you.
* Join in and join up! Get involved and participate.

The best gift you can give your children is to pray for them, pray with them, and let them see and hear you give God the glory. Sometimes I would have a list of to-do’s to help our children with moving and forget the most important thing I could do for them. The simple act of committed prayer!

God cares about every detail of this move in your life and in the life of your children. He is faithful and will not fail you or forget you. In your desire to prepare, encourage and equip your family for the road ahead, begin with seeking God’s guidance through prayer and from His word!

Based on Susan’s Miller’s latest book, But Mom, I Don’t Want To Move! a Focus on the Family book, published by Tyndale. Susan is President/Founder of Just Moved Ministry, an international ministry that connects women who move to Christ, church and the community. She has also written, After The Boxes Are Unpacked: Moving On After Moving In.

Copyright material is used here as a resource for movers and should not be reprinted without first obtaining a Permission To Reprint from the publisher/author.