Kids on the move
This week I’ve had the joy and stress of moving house and I feel like the whole process has been a military operation and has involved some of the more challenging feelings. I’ve spent time with Frustration, Sadness and occasionally with Panic this week. (If you’d like to know more about the characteristics of these feelings, check out the feelings basket characters). Part way through the move I wondered if this process would have felt easier for me if I’d been more familiar with moving as a child, or if it’s the same challenging experience for everyone.
You see, I lived in the house I was born in until I left for university. It was the only home I knew until I was in my 20s. Even now, when I visit my parents, I stay in ‘my’ bedroom. I enjoy the comfort of familiar feelings, lie awake listening to the well-known moans of the central heating system and look out on a very special garden where I spent many hours playing (and fighting) with my brother. I still call it my room even though there are other family members who have now claimed this territory and all its familiar trappings as their own. Many of my school friends have the same story, with their parents still living in the house where they grew up. However, as I’ve moved around in my adulthood, I’ve met lots of people who moved frequently as a child, especially those whose parents were in the forces. At an early age they became accustomed to packing up their belongings and moving to a new house, town or country.
Those of you who read my articles and subscribe to the club membership know that I’m a big believer in immersing children in different experiences as much and as often as possible. Getting used to big changes at an early age can help us to adapt more readily to change in later years.
Bizarrely moving home is not on the list of the top 10 most stressful life events, according to the study carried out by psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe back in 1969 (yes, that really was the last time someone did a study like this). We know, however, that it does cause stress and anxiety for us and our children. Dirk Flower, a leading UK psychiatrist, states, ‘Adults focus on the practical aspects of moving while children tend to focus on the loss of friends and familiar environment in particular. They often feel powerless, especially if they’ve had no say in the move.’
It is this lack of power and the emotional aspects tied up with moving house which can have a significant impact on a child’s confidence and their ability to deal with other life issues at that time. So, how can you avoid stress and anxiety in your children when you move home?
Here are my top 5 tips to help your children remain stress free and confident throughout the move:
The earlier you include them in the process, the longer they will have to process the change, make the decisions they need to make and carry out the activities they need to do beforehand. Children need time to process and, when given time, they do this well, usually much better than adults as they have less influence from negative beliefs.
Help them find out as much as possible about the area you’re moving to. Look into all the local activities and agree a list of things you will do when you move. Make sure this list includes replacements for activities they currently do. For more information about the benefits of regular family and parent/child activities, sign up for your free guide.
Regularly talk to your kids about the move, the more you openly chat about it and the tasks you are working on to help with the move, the more comfortable they will feel. Remember too that communication includes listening. Listen to their thoughts, worries and plans, even if you’ve heard them already. Expressing our feelings and thoughts verbally helps us to make sense of them and having someone to empathise with our views helps us to understand, process and move on from them.
Give them choice.
As much as possible, give them choices within the process. Although it may not be practical for them to have a say in the house you’re purchasing, they may be able to select their room (when the options have been narrowed down) or where their bed/toys/bookshelves go. They may also be able to help make decisions about the garden, for example where their vegetable pots will go, or their play area. Each of these choices will help your child to feel more empowered and more confident about the move.
Give your children the opportunity to say goodbye properly, to whatever and whoever they need to. You may not have made friends with the neighbours, the tree down the bottom of the garden or a special flower pot that’s home to a very dilapidated weed, however the chances are, they have. Be mindful of the process they will need to embark on before they feel ready to move on. Some children may need to go through the grieving process, give them the space, time and opportunity to do this. For more tips on helping your child grieve see the previous article on bereavement. Memory books and boxes are particularly helpful in these situations.
These five tips will help your child to take the move in their stride and enter into the next chapter of their life with ease and confidence.
For advice about one to one support and more tips to build and maintain confidence in your children contact me at Debbie@confidencebuilderclub.com