Helping Kids Cope with Moving
Q. "My husband has been promoted within his company and we will have to move about an hour and a half away. We have two school-age kids, 14 and 10. They are both very happy here, have many friends, and get good grades. While we've talked in the past about moving being a possibility someday, I know this is going to break both their hearts. How do I tell them? Any suggestions?"
A. What are your fears regarding this move? Are you afraid your children will be mad, sad, and lonely? Are you fearful that they won't adjust to their new home, school, neighborhood, or community? Do you worry that they'll suffer academically, be friendless, and scarred emotionally? Do you simply loathe the thought of putting them through this difficult transition?
Realize that your children have a lot going for them as they face this move. First, you have warned them. Second, they're happy children. And third, they're good students. Realize that your children have a lot going for them as they face this move. First, you have warned them. Second, they're happy children. And third, they're good students.
By warning them of the potential move, you've planted the moving seed in the back of their minds and given them time to consider the pros and cons of a move to a new town. Now that the move is official, they'll need more time to adjust to the reality.
Your children will respond emotionally, and that's good. They'll display a mix of emotions from sad, mad, and lonely, to excited and eager. Address their emotions, validate them, and allow your children to emote about the unfairness of it all. Be with them when they cry, scream, worry, or turn excited. Don't try to talk them out of what they're feeling.
Once those emotions settle down, ask them what would make the move easier. Brainstorm ideas. Some might include e-mailing friends any time, joining a familiar activity (soccer team or scout troop), or getting together with old friends on a regular basis.
It's important to watch your own attitude and feelings regarding this move. You may resent pulling up roots. You will also go through a period of grief as you say good-bye to your familiar community. While it's okay to let your children know some of your thoughts and feelings, be clear that it's not up to your children to take care of you.
At some point, explain to your children about your husband's work and why he's choosing to make this move. They're old enough to understand some of the realities of income, promotions, keeping a job, pursuing a career, and the politics of corporate life.
Though growing up in the same house and community from birth through high school has its benefits, children do not always develop best this way. In fact, your children may benefit from this move by becoming more resilient and more able to face other challenges that come their way. For example, this is a great opportunity for them to learn the difficult art of nourishing special friendships over a long distance. Keep in mind that if you and your spouse demonstrate an upbeat, adventurous attitude, your children will follow your lead.
Jan Faull, MEd, is a veteran parent educator and the author of four parenting books, including Darn Good Advice -- Baby and Darn Good Advice -- Parenting. She writes a biweekly parenting advice column for this site and a weekly parenting advice column in the Seattle Times. Jan Faull is the mother of three grown children and lives in the Seattle area.