Talk about it – this means not just talking, but listening too. And certainly when parents are mostly optimistic about a move it sets the right tone for the rest of the family. But don’t be phony or flat about it. Kids need the reality check that even adults can have complex and sometimes conflicting feelings about a big change and that it’s OK to feel that way.
Get some closure – Don’t just pack your things and vanish! In the weeks leading up to the move, take a time out from afterschool routines and have some gatherings with friends your kids choose to invite, have a picnic at a favorite park pavilion to roast marshmallows, or go play laser tag, whatever your kids enjoy. Give the kids some unstructured time to really hang out and spend some quality time with their buddies. A company like Candy Wrapper Store can even make cool favors ( like chocolate or lollipops with your family’s new address and phone number on it) that everyone can enjoy.
Make a date – If time and finances allow, make a plan to return for a visit to your old town in 6 months. It gives kids working through the transition something really positive to look forward to. We did this recently for a Spring Break and our kids loved getting to revisit their old town and friends. We were able to appreciate some of the great things about our old and new homes and to reconnect with our old pals, definitely a mood booster for everyone.
Let those creative juices flow – Before the move, we bought inexpensive cameras for our kids and encouraged them to take pictures of the things they liked most about their lives in the town we were leaving. Pull together these pics in an album to brighten the skies on a rainy day in your new town. One friend encouraged their outgoing child to make a video of the town, edited it together, and now has a fun youtube video to share with family and friends. One of our friends made a collage of photos from a kayak trip our families took together, and their son and our son have these collages hanging in their rooms to commemorate a day of great memories.
Packing Up – Give kids incentives for helping to get ready for the move. If you hold a garage sale, let them have their own table to sell their unwanted items and let them reap the rewards of learning to let go of some of their stuff. Offer an outing to the movies or a friend over to hang out to reward helping to pack up some boxes. Get them involved in loading and unloading deliveries to an organization like Goodwill so they can be a part of doing something good for others too.
Clear Expectations – Post the moving schedule on a dedicated calendar where everyone can see and discuss it. By having a clear timeline kids will feel less uncertainty.
H.A.L.T – Do you remember this expression from parenting class when the tikes were small? Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired? –some of these experiences that can cause kid outbursts. Pay attention: You may see some moodiness crop up surrounding aspects of the impending move; it’s good to keep in mind that these mood swings could be connected to other things. (Keeps us returning to Item 1) on the list above)
Moving Day – If the kids need to be there, make sure you have some good snacks and drinks and give them each a list of things that they can help with. Noone likes sitting around feeling useless and in the way. (Depending on your kids’ interest and abilities: they might be able to help with disassembling tables, returning items to neighbors, collecting loose items from floors, closets and under beds, or handing out donuts and drinks to the moving crew.) Ideally though, arrange for trusted friends to take the kids for some fun with buddies for at least a portion of the day. Moving day(s) can be exhausting for everyone and kids don’t have to be a part of every minute of it.
En route – We’ve found that getting each kid a journal/scrapbook for them to document their travel to the new place is helpful and fun. Plus it is a great thing to have to look back on how far they’ve come!
Getting settled in – Don’t let unpacking get in the way of other aspects of settling in. Reward yourselves each week with at least one adventure in your new town. Discover a new park, find that bike path you heard about, check out the community barbecue on the weekend. Investing a little time each week to getting connected in your place can go a long way to feeling like you fit somewhere again.
Get Help – There will likely be tears of sadness and butterflies of anticipation with any move, but in the first weeks after a move look for some of the signs of real depression: sleeplessness, loss of appetite, withdrawn behavior, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, headaches, change in school motivation or performance, self-destructive language or behavior. Our 7th grader is thriving now, but a few months into our move he was having emotional and physical health problems so we located an excellent child psychologist (with the help of the middle school’s guidance counselor) to help him manage these changes. While we may be distracted by new home or job demands, our kids’ health and wellbeing should be our first priority.
Tune in – There’s bound to be rough water with middle school kids and moving, but with determination, planning, and a caring heart you can help your kids successfully navigate this change.
Easy to make photo collages can be found by clicking: here.
Cute customizable candy labels can be found by clicking: here.
We’d love to hear your thoughts about moving with middle schoolers. Leave us a comment!