Mid-Year Fear: How to Make a Winter Move Easier on Children
Summer is prime time to buy a home, but, due to job changes or other unforeseen circumstances, many families must pack up at the peak of the school year. Fall and winter relocations are difficult for children who have already adjusted to a schedule and gotten used to their teacher and classmates. Here are some tips on easing the transition for your school-age scholar when you have to say goodbye in the middle of the semester.
Acknowledge the traumatic impact of the move
Moving schools is, according to Time Health, “a wrenching social and emotional experience for students…” And there is nothing we, as parents, can do about that. In addition to the turmoil of entering a new academic environment, children experience stress from changes at home and to their personal social network. Help them feel safe by listening to and answering their concerns with compassion instead of confrontation, and don’t undermine your child’s feelings.
Allow your child to be part of the process
There are few things more disempowering to a child than having zero control over a situation, especially one that has such a profound impact as moving to a new school in an unfamiliar neighborhood. If possible, allow your child to have some input throughout the process. Ask your child to make a list of the top three features they would like to see in their new house – maybe they want a large backyard or private bathroom. Making an effort to accommodate small requests will go a long way in helping your child adjust to their new surroundings.
Make introductions early
Redfin.com has some great suggestions on the subject of moving in the middle of the school year. Some of their tips include scheduling a school visit or even planning for your child to attend a half day before launching them full force into the care of strangers. Meeting teachers and having the opportunity to tour the campus ahead of the first day may help ease their concerns and anxiety. Similarly, plan to get out and about and meet the neighbors as soon as you’re settled.
Be honest about your feelings
Kids look to their parents to determine how to react in new situations. If you’re sad about the move, say so. Your child may feel more comfortable expressing their own feelings if he or she knows it isn’t easy on you either. Wellness blogger, dietitian, and holistic health advocate Timi Gustafson, R.D. points out that suppressing negative emotions may have serious health consequences. That’s a lesson that Pixar touched on in the 2015 movie Inside Out – Joy learns by experience that Sadness is a necessary emotion and one that paves the way for acceptance of life’s roadblocks. Incidentally, the movie deals with the ramifications of a cross-country move for an 11-year-old girl and her changing emotions throughout the experience. It’s a great watch for families with pre-teen kids.
Help your child stay connected to friends and family
Leaving “home” entails saying goodbye to close friends and family, but it doesn’t have to mean cutting loved ones out of your child’s life completely. There are numerous free video calling services that will allow your child to remain close to their companions, even when there are cities and state between them. Writing letters or emailing favorite former teachers, coaches, and instructors may also make your child feel connected to their old life until they accept their new one.
There’s no way to make a mid-year move without uprooting your family. However, if you remain open with your child, acknowledge their struggles with compassion, and keep them in-the-loop of changes yet to come, the transition will be easier for everyone.