I was recently thinking about this and saying to myself, what should a parent do to ease the stress on a child when a move is imminent. Over the next few days I will bring you some sage wisdom from four dads that I have recruited that have experiences moving with their kids in different ways.
I asked Jeremy from Discovering Dad, Tyler from Building Camelot, Joey from Daddybrain, and Josh from Raging Dad to share their experiences with you. I hope you will enjoy this series and look forward to your comments!
Attitude is everything. If mom or dad are excited, upset or somewhere in the middle, then it has been my experience that the kids mirror that attitude with regard to a move both before and after it happens. My oldest daughter has experienced multiple moves throughout her life, although we have been settled for more than 4 years in our home now.
Each move was different, and it depended largely on where she was at in her developmental stage in life as to what information was shared or not. During her younger years, we moved twice – once near my parents and the other near her other grandparents, so we focused in on those things that she found exciting.
As a young child, she could have cared less. In fact, after we told her, she would pack her little princess bag and be ready to go that night, even though we were weeks away. As she got older, and more attached to her friends at school, things got harder to “sell” as being positive. We always tried to reassure her that she would make new friends, and new beginnings meant new opportunity to make life even better. The good thing about kids, including my daughter, is that they are incredibly resilient, as long as they receive proper support from mom and dad.
When we moved into our new house a little over a year ago, our daughter was almost two. The world was exciting to her at the time and when we took her house hunting she had a blast running around the rooms and up and down all the steps. We didn’t have to look long because we found some new construction in the city in a safe and established neighborhood. We took our daughter into the model home a couple of times and let her just wander around the house. While we were there we would ask “Do you like it here?”, “Would you like to have a room here?” and she would always say “Yes”.
A few days later we put a contract on a muddy mess of a lot. It was early January and they were about to start pouring the foundation for the floor plan we loved and it was the best lot available. Over the next few months, we were able to take Olivia to the lot and show her the house being built. I think it really helped her understand what was going on and allowed us to talk about the new house while we were at home. It didn’t take long for her to start asking us about “my new house” and “my new room”. After I would pick her up from daycare, she would ask, “We go see my new room?” quickly followed by “We go see my new house?”. I think she was looking forward to the new house.
I think what really helped was how much my wife and I talked about the new house. It didn’t hurt that we visited the new house at least once a week. If you’re moving into an existing home you obviously don’t have that luxury. As long as you and your wife talk about the move, the “new” house and the “new” rooms, I think the transition will be a little less stressful.
Our first son, Max, was only 2 1/2 when I accepted my job out here in Wisconsin. My second son, Joss, was still inutero.
We were very honest with Max right away as to what was going on. We let him know that we’d be moving to Wisconsin, and we’d have a house of our own with a beautiful backyard (this was one of our house requirements). We told him he’s have a room of his own. We were living in an apartment at the time, with a drug addict, alcoholic, chain smoker living in the basement – it wasn’t pretty.
We all watched videos of different homes that I filmed while commuting out here. Since my second son was now just a newborn, we wanted to wait a little bit before moving the whole family out here.
So I was out here by myself each week, living in t temporary housing. Each night after work I’d see some homes with my realtor, Phil Carouso (great guy). I’d film them and show them to the family when I got back to NY.
Max, who was very advanced for a 2-year old, was an active participant in the house-choosing process. He gave his most excellent opinion on each house we viewed.
We read books to Max about moving, going on an airplane and what it would be like to move to a far away city. We didn’t want Max to be surprised by anything that was going to happen.
In early 2006, I began looking for a new job, and my wife and I agreedthat looking out of state would be an option for us. My wife and Iwere high school sweethearts who had moved from rural, small town Minnesota to the bustling Twin Cities for college. Neither of us hadlived outside of the land of 10,000 lakes. On the plus side, we had anincredible support network of family and friends. However, we enviedour friends who had experienced living in other places. With our kidsstill young—a daughter, 4; and twin sons, 2—this was the ideal timefor us to give it a try, if there is such a thing as an ideal time.
After six months of job hunting, things finally fell in place and I landed a job in Portland, Ore. I accepted an offer in June 2006, andwas to start work at the beginning of August. This meant that we hadonly two months to get the house ready, put it on the market, and bidfarewell to our family and friends. The biggest challenge for our kidswas going to be leaving their cousins and grandparents, who they arebest of friends with, and were used to seeing each other regularly.
We explained to the kids that we were moving to another part of thecountry, and would not be able to see our family members as frequentlyas we were accustomed to. This didn’t have much meaning for any ofthem. We tried showing them maps and talking about the distance, but it was far too abstract. The best tool we found was a globe, which thekids seemed to find more interesting. Even so, we could tell that itwas going to be difficult to prepare them mentally for the move, andthe radical change in our social and familial networks.
The For Sale sign on our house went up just as the housing market fellinto the toilet. It was rapidly looking like I would have to go out toPortland on my own until the house sold. At the end of July, I set offalone across the country, into the west without my family. For me,this marked the beginning of the actual move. For my family—especiallymy children—this was only the beginning of understanding what washappening to our family. The maps and globes were abstract tools toexplain a theoretical process of pulling up our roots; my complete andtotal absence for three months was a profound signal of changes tocome. From this point on, every day would only bring greater stress,and greater challenge.
I look forward to seeing you back here again!