Purchasing a new home is an exciting venture, however moving and adapting to a new environment can be stressful – particularly for children, says father of two, Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.
“Moving can be stressful for adults who fully understand the process. So once you factor in the confusion and anxiety that children feel when leaving a familiar space and going to a completely new setting, a move can be a traumatic experience for children,” says Goslett. “To relieve some of the anxiety and help children to cope with the move, there are things that parents can do to make the transition far less taxing.”
Here are a few pointers for parents to consider when moving homes:
It normally takes children slightly longer to adapt to change, so it is important to talk to them about the move and prepare them well in advance. Knowing about the move long before it happens, will help the children to prepare mentally and emotionally. “It is vital that age-appropriate language is used to explain to the children why the family is moving,” says Goslett. “Based on the child’s age and level of understanding, each parent will know how best to tell their child the reason for the move. While an older child may understand the concept of better career opportunities, a younger child might find the idea of moving to a larger home with more room to play a more compelling explanation. Once a child understands the reasoning behind the move, they will be far more ready to absorb the reality of the move.”
Involve the children in the decisions
There are many decisions to be made during a move. Where possible, try to involve the children in the decision-making process so that they feel a part of what is going on. For example, if the family is looking for a new home together, ask the children for their opinion and what they liked and didn’t like about each house. Alternatively, ask the children where they would like to place their bed or toys in their new room or have them choose a new colour to paint the walls.
Research and books
Older children can use the internet to research the area and surrounding attractions to get them excited about the move. For younger children, visit the local library and what books they have about packing, moving and getting used to a new house.
Don’t make too many changes too soon
A new home might mean that you want to buy new furniture or change the décor. However, children will find it easier to adjust to the new home if it has familiar items in it for now. It might be tempting to redecorate as soon as you move into the new home but it is important to pace the changes and allow time for the children to settle into the new environment first.
Set up the children’s rooms as soon as possible
Setting up the children’s bedrooms should be a priority, even before doing anything else in the home. This will provide them with a refuge in the chaos of the move and will help them feel settled sooner.
Reconnect to move forward
Depending on the circumstances, visit the former town or neighbourhood or invite the child’s friends from the old area to the new home. Even if it’s brief, the reconnection with the past can help the child to move forward.
Visit the new school
If the move means that the children will be changing schools, then that presents its own unique challenges. Try to visit the new school with your child before he or she starts attending. Ask to meet the teachers, tour the classrooms, and maybe spend some time at the school with your child. Older children can be encouraged to do some online research into their new school to learn about the various extra murals that the school offers.
“While stressful at first, after a period of adjustment, the whole family will settle in and will be able to enjoy their new home and neighbourhood,” Goslett concludes.