Help kids cope with moving house

Imagine if your entire world suddenly changed. The familiar surroundings you’ve grown to trust are suddenly gone, and the favourite play corner has vanished. The neighbourhood kids have been left behind, and you have to try and start over. That’s the challenge facing kids when mom and dad move house.

A study has found kids who changed homes frequently were more likely to drink heavily and smoke as teens and adults.

The study also found that children in single-parent homes or those with a step-parent were more likely to move than others. Families with two or three children were also much more likely to move than families with four or more kids.

The general health of those kids who moved frequently was poorer, and the stress of moving schools was confirmed to contribute to psychological distress. Moving house is a time to focus your parenting.

What can you do to help kids adjust to moving house? Here are a few tips for settling down:

•  Discuss the move within your family. Don’t just oversell the benefits, but let your child chat about anxieties he may be feeling. Although it is an adult decision to move
   home, a child’s life is impacted, so do include him in the process.

•  If possible, visit the place where you’ll be moving, and point out exciting kid-friendly points of interest which you’ll all be exploring. This could include restaurants, parks,
   museums or sports venues.

•  Help him say goodbye. He may have friends he is attached to. Encourage him to write or email his friends and to keep in touch, and make sure he has a chance to say 
   goodbye properly. If you’ll be making return visits, comfort him with that.

•  When he gets to the new place, involve him in setting up his room, perhaps even allowing him to choose some of the ways in which it is decorated. Make sure that his 
   familiar belongings are there for him. If your furniture is being shipped or in storage, be sure to keep a large bag of his favourite toys out for the journey and initial settling-in

•  Find out in advance if there are playgroups, library reading groups, youth groups and so on so that he has a chance to make some new friends. If you can, introduce
   yourself to the new neighbours, and find out if they have kids. You will also have to stretch yourself socially in order to help him.

•  If there appear to be adjustment issues, make sure you tell the new school, and consider involving the teacher or social worker.

•  Watch out for behavioural changes such as irritability, aggression, regression and nightmares, and discuss these with the teacher or social worker.

•  Create a family album of happy memories of the old house, and then begin a new one for the new place. Ask your child to help in making both of these- let him become an
   amateur photographer.

Even adults take time adjusting to a new house, and a child needs your attention in order to make sure he feels secure. If you are sensitive to his needs at this time, and you make sure to talk him through it, you could help to prevent any lasting insecurities.

Have you ever moved house with a young child? How did you help him adjust?
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