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A family move is a busy, stressful time for everyone. Parents can get so caught up in the details of packing up one household and setting up another that they can fail to notice the extra stress the experience puts on their children.
There are ways to make a move less painful and scary for your kids. With older children it's important to tell them about the move as soon as you know for sure that it's happening so they can begin dealing with it. For younger children tell them a few weeks from the actual date.
Children have a lot of fears and questions about a move. Will they have friends there? What about their friends here? Can they do the same things at the new place, such as play soccer? Can the dog come? Where will they go to school?
You can answer those questions together. Go to the library or go online with them and search for information on the new town. Get some addresses and send off for information. Real estate agents and the chamber of commerce often have welcome packets full of useful information. A map can get them familiar with new streets. Even a phone book can tell them a lot about what's available in the new place. If you already have found a home there you can find out what school they'll attend and write them for information. Start talking about the new place with enthusiasm and try to get the kids excited about a new start.
Next, acknowledge the sadness your children feel about leaving their current home. Tell them you'll miss your friends too and plan some special activities that will enable them to spend more time with their buddies. Give them a disposable camera and have them take pictures of their friends, their school and their favorite places in the neighborhood. Help them make a memory album and include the adresses of their friends so that they can keep in touch. If you already know your new address, order them their own address labels and have them hand out "keep in touch" cards to their friends- they may even find mail waiting for them at the new house. After you settle in, supply them with a stack of postcards from your new town to send back to the old gang.
If possible, travel to the new town before the actual move. Drive around and let the kids point out places they'd like to check out when they get settled. Be sure to drive by the schools, churches and activity areas.
Be honest about what's ahead. If you're downsizing and kids will have to share a room, help them decide how best to combine their things. If you're moving to a bigger place, let them start planning how to decorate their new space. The more they know and can help with decisions, the less fear and sadness they'll feel.
Whether it's a do-it-yourself project or you have professional movers let the kids pack up some of their stuff themselves. Encourage them to weed out some of their possessions- now is the perfect time for a garage sale or donation to charity. Let them decorate the boxes themselves with stickers and markers so the movers will "know" where the boxes go in the new house.
The actual day of the move is the most stressful of all. An ideal situation would be for your children to spend the night before and most of the day with some close friends. Gather them up when the house is empty and have them help you sweep it out and check for anything left behind. Then load everyone up- don't dwell too much on goodbyes but treat the experience as a new adventure. Your enthusiasm will be catching and soon your kids will be excited too!