A smooth move: tips for making it easier on the kids
Moving can be a huge adjustment, particularly for kids. Depending on the age of the children involved, their angst will run the gamut from mild inconvenience on the part of under-4s; to door-slamming promises to 'hate you forever' from older children. As a parent, you want to ease their pain and smooth this transition. Every family, and every child, is different, of course; but in general, these tried-and-true strategies are a good start.
Let them know early
As soon as it's decided, call a family meeting. Plan enough time for a sit-down meal and lots of conversation. If you're moving because of a new job, explain why you took it and how it will impact the entire family. Encourage the kids to express their feelings and concerns. If this is their first time moving, it could be particularly difficult because they're leaving their family home.
Make the move a family event
If you plan the move as a family, and support one another throughout the process, it can bring your family closer together. Let your children know that you will be available to help them deal with any problems and concerns that arise. The stress of moving is greatest about two weeks before and after the move. It's a hectic time, but sure to schedule some breaks during that time to 'check in' with each other.
Emphasise the excitement of moving
Remind your kids that while the move may be a bit scary, it will also be adventurous and interesting. Talk about people from other countries who have moved to New Zealand. Encourage your children to make plans for the move. Have them make lists of tasks and projects to do. Some ideas include having a family garage sale for unnecessary housewares and outgrown clothes.
Have a See You Soon party
One of the hardest things about moving is saying goodbye to friends. You could host a get-together and call it a "See You Soon" party. During the party, make sure everyone exchanges contact information, and take photos of your kids with their friends. Depending on the distance of your move, you could speak with the parents of your children's friends about planning a weekend visit or meeting somewhere halfway for a day visit.
Let them pick a paint colour
Get the kids involved in decorating their new home. If possible, let them choose a paint colour for their new bedroom, or a new duvet cover for their bed. With a move, children often feel that everything is happening beyond their control. Having a say in the decor of their room lets them feel that they have some influence, and that leads to a sense of autonomy and confidence. If you're moving to a rental, or it's simply not feasible to paint their room just yet, let them unleash their creativity and create artworks to decorate your new home.
Map out some new adventures
Kids may not love moving, but they do love going on adventures. Print a map of the new town highlighting age-appropriate attractions like parks and beaches, museums, toy stores, and movie theatres. Then when you're there, set out and explore as soon as possible... or make an exploratory trip before you move. Whether you decide on strawberry picking at a local farm, hitting the natural science museum, or going to the nearby reserve or beach, it's important to engage your kids and show them all that your new hometown has to offer.
There's a scientific reason this works as well. Doing something new and fun boost our levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that improves our moods. In other words, the more new sights you see, the happier you'll be.
Enroll them in a team sport or activity
Team sports force kids to interact and bond over the highs and lows of the game. If your children aren't into sports, try another activity they can enjoy with a group, whether that's a local chess club, Scouts or dancing. This is especially important if you're moving over the school holidays, as it can solve the problem of not knowing anyone at their new school. If your child has been involved with an activity or sport for a long time, getting straight into it in the new town can bring a sense of continuity.
Help them forge new friendships
Making new friends is the goal with kids, and the only way to do that is to put it out there that you're new in town. Once school or kindy is underway, vow to introduce yourself to at least one new person per day, preferably someone with children of a similar age. When it comes to school activities and play dates, try to say 'yes' to more things than normal. Once you and your kids have met a friend or two, take the lead and host a play date.
If your kids are too old for 'play dates', after a few weeks of school you might want to plan a return visit to one of the places you've already sussed out on a family activity. If the kids have met some new friends in your neighbourhood or at school, encourage each child to bring a friend along. Returning to a familiar activity or destination gives your children the opportunity to NOT be the newbie, which builds confidence.
Help them keep their old friends, too
One of a child's big fears when it comes to moving is that they will lose the close friends they had. While you're helping the kids make new friends in the area, you can also encourage them to stay connected with their previous pals.
Email and FaceTime are great, but you could even go retro and suggest they actually mail letters. Writing and illustrating letters and taking them to the post office can be a special experience — and just think how your children's eyes will light up when they receive a letter in return.