Moving is always a tumultuous time — one that can have an especially negative impact on children and teenagers. Moving changes life routines that your kid has grown accustomed to, stripping their lives of the familiarity they need to feel stable and secure. Moving during the school year also interrupts scholastic progress and disrupts budding friendships, leading to a sense of alienation in both academic and social spheres.
While going through such an upheaval, kids can have a hard time adjusting. They may show symptoms of childhood depression, have difficulty sleeping, and act out in frustration. Upon hearing the news that they will be moving, K-12 students often become disengaged — and falling behind in this area could have long-lasting repercussions.
What can you do as a parent to help your child acclimate during a move?
Explaining the Move
When first talking to your child about moving, there are some tips to keep in mind to ensure an anxiety-free moving experience. First, you should maintain positive tone about the subject. Kids can have difficulty recognizing the positive aspects of moving, often focusing on the doubt and anxiety associated with displacement. Staying positive can help ameliorate these fears. Above all, you should strive to be as transparent as possible about the reasons you need to move. This demonstrates to your child that you respect them and their needs, and being dishonest about a move can seriously harm your relationship with them in the long run.
From preschool to high school, children and teenagers of all ages require stability to remain emotionally content. As a result, they may be inflexible when it comes to dealing with drastic changes. You can encourage your child to be more flexible at a young age by engaging them in activities and conversations to get them to “think outside the box.” Get started on these mind exercises as soon as possible. When it comes to moving time, this mindset will be invaluable.
Try to involve your child in the planning process as much as you reasonably can. If your new home will only be across town, or a couple hours away, consider showing them the new house and neighborhood before the move takes place. Show them the places they will visit, including their new school, nearby parks, and other hangout spots. Find creative hobbies that they can engage in between school years, similar to these, and let your child know about them. For moves across the country, do some research online about what sort of amenities are available in the community, keeping your child’s interests in mind. Bring up this information with your child during the initial discussion. This can help eliminate uncertainty regarding the move.
Preventing Academic Disengagement
There are a few steps you can take to prevent your child from becoming disengaged with school. Let your kid’s teachers know about the upcoming move so that they can make accommodations for your child and support them emotionally. Consider involving the school guidance counselor so that they can help resolve any fears your child may have about their social life or academic progress. School faculty members are a valuable resource for parents during a mid-school year move, and they will likely help throughout the process.
If possible, delay the move until the start of a new semester (or quarter, depending on your school district). If your move date is out of your control, there are still some steps you can take to ease the transition. As soon as you know about the move, contact he administrations of both your child’s current school and the school they will be attending after the move. You should research the new school to ensure your child will meet expectations. For instance, consider:
- What paperwork do you need to fill out or send to the school? Get this prepared and submitted in advance to avoid any hiccups.
- Does the school have uniforms or rigid dress codes that your child will need to follow? Purchase appropriate clothes well ahead of time.
- Can you get in contact with your child’s future teacher(s)? If you can get an idea of how far along they are in instruction, you could help your child acclimate more quickly.
Helping Your Child Stay Socially Active
Being socially active is integral to the development of basic social skills. Encourage your child to maintain their current friendships. In the digital age, friendships are not restricted by physical location; technology can sustain relationships over long distances. Through video chat apps, instant messaging, and even online video games, your child can keep in contact with their friends on a consistent basis. This can ease the feelings of separation and loss that typically follows a move.
Of course, your child needs to cultivate new relationships after they move. You can play a big part in this. Get involved with your new community. Keep a pulse on local goings-on, go to cultural events, and encourage your child to join in. A big part of creating a sense of stability in a new environment (for both you and your kid) is finding a supportive network. Finding new local friends will help ensure that your child can be socially and emotionally content at their new home.