Three phases of the move before, during, and after—the three environments—educational, social, and family—should be considered.
Before the Move
Timing the move is important. Parents should carefully consider their options when faced with the decision to move. Certain moves may be inevitable, as when a parent must transfer jobs, or impossible to predict, as when a parent dies. But when circumstances allow for flexibility, it is often better to postpone or avoid a move at certain transitional times, such as when a teen is a junior in high school, or immediately following a divorce. Some people find that moving mid year enables children to take the second part of the school year to adjust, while others find that starting fresh in the fall when change typically happens is easier. When timing is not ideal, options may be possible to ease the strain, such as having a high school student remain in town with a friend or relative to finish out the year. The pros and cons for all those involved must be carefully weighed, and when an older child is affected, the child’s wishes should be considered.
Talk about the decision. Explain the reason for the move in language appropriate to the child’s age. If the move is for the better, explain how it will affect the children for the better. If the move will mean difficult changes, parents must be honest about things that will and will not change. For older children, include them, if possible, in any decision making. Although children may not have veto power about the move, allow them control over certain areas of their life such as the color of their new bedroom or the choice of after-school activities.
Of course, whenever possible, children should visit the new home and town before the move. If this is not possible, obtaining a video or having friends or a real estate agent send pictures via the Internet will help children visualize their new home, make the decision real, and help them plan the living arrangements.
Older children may enjoy using the Internet to research their new home. Map Quest and visitor’s bureau information sites can get them involved, interested, and looking forward to self-designed adventures.
It can be helpful to plan the first visit back home before setting out. Children will be less likely to feel alone if they are able to look forward to getting back together with friends.
Be prepared for difficult reactions and be careful not to succumb to bribes or threats. Children are often naturally upset and angry about a move. Parents should not sugar coat or minimize their reactions, nor should they avoid a child’s negativity. Some leniency may creep in—extra time spent on the computer or watching TV—however, it is important to set limits on behavior and acting out, but it is also important to accept their sadness.
For children with special needs, parents should plan ahead for referrals and resources. Maintaining consistent services and proactively setting up systems for children with educational, medical, or mental health needs can ease the transition, help maintain progress, and deal with problems resulting from the move. Current tutors, teachers, mental health and medical professionals should be consulted and asked for recommendations and help in obtaining services in the new location.