“She took a step and didn’t want to take any more, but she did.”
― Markus Zusak,
Our family is about to go through some pretty big transitions. We’re moving from our home of two years in Myanmar (Burma) to a new home in Ecuador. We’re moving from a big city to a small town. We’re moving from a private home to a guest house. And we’re moving from an international private school to a home school. And in the middle of all that we’ll be visiting friends and relatives for two months, staying in seven different houses in four different states.
While just reading about all those transitions may raise the stress levels of some adults (including me!), imagine the stress on small children.
I realize that this nomadic life we’ve chosen does not provide the stability and security that many children have growing up and so I try to make a conscious effort to provide stability and security in other ways – practicing positive parenting, maintaining connections with relatives and long-time friends, fostering and nurturing connections with new friends in our new homes, creating family traditions, sharing family pictures and stories; and making, and sticking to, daily and weekly routines. But while all this helps to create a sense of continuity and security in the times when we are settled, during those in-between times of transition, it can be more difficult to meet our kids specific needs for that sense of security and familiarity…
…so I thought I would do a little research to help ease the transition for our children (and other families in similar situations).
In her article on Expat Focus – Smooth Moves for Expat Kids (Tips to Ease the Transition – Aisha Isabel Ashraf provides three key areas of focus to help children with international moves: Communication, Control and Company, so I’ll follow her example using Communication, Control and Conscious Parenting
- In her post Ease the Transition of Moving to a New Home Hand in Hand Parenting’s Julianne Idleman suggests that parents work to understand their own feelings about the move before the big day (or days) so they are prepared to help their children with their feelings.
- Aisha Ashraf stresses the importance of being open to communication about the move with children, both before and after you are settled. She suggests playing a game that allows family members to share the things you like about your new home (and maybe also the things that you may miss about your old one).
- In addition to communicating with yourself and your children, it is also important to maintain regular communication (if possible) with friends and family through letters, email, video calls, photographs, memory books and visits, to show children that just because they have moved to a new place, it doesn’t mean that they have to lose those special connections.
- Moving and leaving behind friends and environments they feel comfortable in can leave children feeling like they have little control over their lives. Ashraf and authors of other articles on moving with children (Bright Horzon’s Article on Moving and Relocating, Helping Kids Cope with Moving), stress the importance of helping children feel a semblance of control over the move by allowing them to make age-appropriate decisions, such as what to pack, how to say goodbye to friends and how to decorate their new room. Other ideas include
- reading children’s books about moving,
- allowing children to document the move by taking pictures and making a picture book of the move;
- making a list of people to say good-bye to and letting them plan a “going away” party;
- letting them pack their own suitcase or toys;
- letting them set up their rooms as soon as possible upon arrival;
- drawing a map and/or taking pictures of their new home and neighborhood; and
- resuming familiar routines in your new home.
- In her post on Hand in Hand Parenting, Julianne Idleman recommends, when possible, to take your children to visit their new home before the move so that they will have something to look forward to and a place that feels a little more familiar when they arrive.
- She also advises parents to give children extra special time during the move, especially time playing games in which they take a more powerful role to help them process their feelings of powerlessness, as well as being open to their questions;
- Additionally, Idleman suggests helping children get to know their new home through play by going on adventure walks, playing hide-and-seek in their new house and making friends with neighbors and local pets.
Moving to a new location can be stressful for all members of the family, but if we work to do it a bit more consciously – including remembering that the initial chaos and un-familiarity of a new place often subside with time – it can help to ease the transition for everyone.
Thanks for reading! (And best of luck with your move! 🙂
Sharon, Author The Conscious Parenting Notebook