Helping your children to adapt to the move

Buying a new property is an exciting venture, however moving and adapting to a new environment can be stressful, especially for children, says father of two, Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

“Once one adds the stress of moving with the confusion and anxiety that a child may feel when leaving a familiar space and entering a completely new place, a move can be a very traumatic experience. However, there are ways for parents to help ease their children into the transition and make moving to the new home far less taxing,” says Goslett.

He gives a few pointers for parents to consider when moving homes:

Communication is key:

It is important to talk to the children and prepare them for the move well in advance. It generally takes children slightly longer to adapt to change, so it is important that they are made aware of what is going to happen so that they can start to mentally and emotionally prepare. “Using age-appropriate language is it important to explain why the family is moving. It is best to convey a clear and simple message that the child can understand,” says Goslett. “Each parent will know the best way to tell their children and each child’s level of understanding. An older child will understand the concept of a job transfer, while a younger child might find the idea of moving to a larger home with more room to play a more compelling explanation.  Once a child understands the reasoning behind the move, they will be far more ready to absorb the reality of the move.”

Involve the children in the decisions:

During any decision-making around the move, involve the children as much as possible so that they feel that they are a part of the process. For example, if the family is looking for a new home together, ask the children for their opinion and what they liked and didn’t like about each house. “Another way in which this could be done is to ask the child where they would like to place their bed or toys in the new room, or have them choose a new colour to paint the walls,” says Goslett.

Get books or do research:

For younger children, see what books are available at the local library for them to look at regarding packing, moving and getting used to a new house. For older children, researching the area or surrounding attractions online could get them excited about the move and the area itself.
Delay making too many changes too soon:

Moving into a new home may mean that the owners are ready for new furniture or décor, however, children will find it easier to adjust to the new home if it has familiar items in it for now. “While most new homeowners are eager to redecorate or renovate as soon as they move into their new home, it is important to pace the changes and allow time for the children to settle into the new environment first,” says Goslett.
Set up the child’s room as soon as possible:

Make setting up the children’s rooms a priority, even before the rest of the home. A place of refuge, order, calm and your child’s favourite toys easily within reach will go a long way in making him or her feel settled.
Reconnect to move forward:

Depending on the circumstances, visit the former town or neighbourhood or invite the child’s friends from the old area to the new home. Even if it’s brief, the reconnection with the past can help the child to move forward.
Check out the schools:

If the move means that the children will be changing schools, then that presents its own special challenges. Try to visit the new school with your child before he or she starts attending. Ask to meet the teachers, tour the classrooms, and maybe spend some time at the school with your child. Older children can be encouraged to do some online research into their new school to learn about the various extra murals that the school offers.
“Although there are stressful elements to moving, once the family is settled and have adjusted to their new home and neighbourhood, everyone will be able to enjoy the exciting aspects that accompany living in a new property,” Goslett concludes.

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