If there is one thing this move has taught me, it is that kids rely on consistency and structure.
Earlier this year my husband and I decided to buy an investment property. We lived in our first home for 7 years and it was just time. The buyer/seller market was phenomenal, I was employed with excellent credit, husband was close to finishing school, and most importantly my husband and I always discuss taking risk within the limitations of our family. It's very easy to get comfortable, but comfortable keeps you stagnant at times. So change for us was calling our name because giving our girls more for the future means planning for it.
Of course we had conversations about what that would look like for our children because you can't be a parent of two and not consider subjects like school districts, cost of child care, environmental safety, how will they adjust, and most importantly is it close to my mom, lol Either way I knew there would be challenges but I planned to face them head strong. Thank God for my title as an "early childhood mental health therapist" because it provides me with a stronger source of information on how to address childhood anxiety, childhood stress and concerns with adjustment.
Moving is often stressful for most adults, this warrants the same response for children. Moving to a new town or even a new neighborhood is stressful at any age, but a new study shows that frequent relocation's in childhood are related to poorer well-being in adulthood, especially among people who are more introverted or neurotic. Now I am not saying all parents should avoid change. Some change is good because it teaches kids concepts of adaptability as well as resiliency. It's when it becomes routine that kids little bodies can't adjust or feel safe (don't know what to expect). There can be both pros and cons to this argument. The ideal is that we do our best as parents to provide mental wellness to our children by doing what we ultimately feel is right.
For my oldest daughter I knew it would be hard. It was the only house she knew. She felt safe and secure. She's had the same group of friends, had her routine down, and just felt comfortable about the way she was going through life. Once I poured the news to her in a positive manner, explaining that her room would be bigger, she will be closer to the activities she enjoys, and meeting new friends, all I saw was weeping. It was hard for her to understand that life could possibly start over, at least that's how she felt in that moment. I also shared this news to my very strong willed 2 year old. With the understanding that kids as young as her are able to understand concepts that are explained to them. And just as much as I wanted to prep my oldest, I equally prepped my youngest daughter as well.
We sell our home. Our new home is scheduled to have 60 days of renovations and we decide to move with family. A family with children of their own, schedules of their own, routines, and limits. Now I am 3 weeks in and have developed 5 ways I was able to provide my children with consistency. That has decreased the stress of change, and create happier human beings (both parents and children).
1. Prepping- Have conversations with your children. Be open and also allow feedback. Validate for your child that it can be scary and sad. Allow them to air it out, and be honest. This also goes for super little ones. I explained to Karter we were moving, she helped pack her toys, she knows we have a new house, etc. Young children feel the stress of change too. Don't ignore a fussy toddler, pr snotty tween. Allow them to need you a little more. Little people's feelings are big for them, and can seem small to us.
2. Keep connections- When I knew for sure we were moving I made my older daughter collect all names and numbers of her friends. Thankfully we weren't moving out of state, so I explained to her she could plan a big sleepover, visit, etc. Moving doesn't warrant forgetting the children your child has connected with. Even if going out of town, I would use the benefits of technology, or even becoming Pen-Pals!
3. Familiarity- During moving process. Allow your child to have things that are familiar. We are staying with family, so I made sure to pack bedding from their actual beds, favorite toys, and little reminders of home. This was really great for Karter (2). It was easier to put her down for bed, or adjust to playing in a foreign place when things felt familiar around her.
4. Routines/Schedules- Routines and schedules should be the same as much as possible. Predictability allows for a child to know what to expect next, which prevents meltdowns during a transition they are not use to. This was one of the most challenging concepts for me. My uncle who we are living with has a very passive parenting style, he also has children that are the same age as mine. I had to be very diligent about telling the girls to eat dinner, do homework, bedtime, etc when their cousins weren't doing the same thing. In the beginning it was a fuss "Why do they", but now it's to be expected. More importantly when moving again to our home we won't have to start over. Kids yearn for structure. Knowing how to operate makes them operate more efficiently.
5. More Love- if anything can fix it, a calm and nurturing spirit can. Be patient. Allow and expect your child to have a reaction via negative or positive. Expect them to cry, act out, be a little more defiant. It's part of the adjustment process. It can be hard for kids to communicate exactly how they feel. Be understanding, and offer them more hugs and kisses that will release some of the anxiety of transitioning. Kids react the way parents do. When a child sees you flooded with emotion, they too will take on those feelings.
Change is unavoidable. Change is a part of life. And change makes us discover more. We as parents have to learn ways to provide a balance within the realms of our families that makes us feel comfortable. Children are one of the most resilient groups of people. The more we can plan for their success the more successful we can feel as parents.