Once again, as a parent, you have to prioritize the needs and yours come close to the bottom. Why is this? Because you are only as happy as your unhappiest child (someone clever said that..it wasn't me, but I know this is true).
You know you're not going to get any rest or peace until they are grown and gone, so why fool yourself? Reduce your stress and give your kids the chance they need to make the transition. You'll benefit.
Children are "experience" people. This is the reason for band-aids, emergency rooms, stitches and casts. They've got to experience it to know it's real.
Since there's no convincing them that they'll eventually be "OK", take action.
Here are my Tips to Ease Moving Day that I have handed out and emailed for many years. Now, I have a permanent place for them! Right here!
TIPS TO EASE MOVING DAY
These “tips” are offered in a general context. They need to be modified for the age, ability, presence of learning and language processing deficits, emotional maturity and other factors.
The internet makes it easier to give your kids a “view” of their new home and community. Plan activities for when you arrive. Some of the boxes can stay sealed up for a bit. Take the kids out and explore. Get some ice cream. Go look at their schools.
1. Mom and Dad make a “plan” to speak to the family about the move. Have a “script” ready of important feelings and facts that you want to present. If appropriate, go online and show them a map of the area to which you are moving and its relationship to your current community so that children can get a feel of the relationship between the old and the new. Encourage questions and answers and one parent jots down reactions and particular questions to be answered later, perhaps in private.
Safety is a real issue for children at this time. Use the word a great many times as in, “It's my job as your mom to keep you safe and we will have lots of talks about feeling safe when we leave and when we get to our new home.” It's not so much the issue of physical safety as it is the fear of the unknown that makes them not feel safe.
2. Plan a calendar of “fun things to do” that they would like to participate in just one more time before they go. You may need to create a “family wish list”. Events/items may be as simple as going to a restaurant that you had always intended to visit or to buy something from a store that would be inconvenient to carry home as a visitor once you have moved.
3. Give each child an opportunity to discuss it with one or both of you privately as many times as need be.
4. Get an idea of how each child would like to say, “Goodbye” to their school, friends, church, home and community or any “favorites” that seemed to “fit them just right” such as a tree in the backyard or a park swing.
5. Some children may just be too angry to discuss it. If appropriate, write them a note (a brief one) letting them know that they hurt and that they can write back or just come and talk...whenever.
6. Some creative ways of saying, “I'm leaving” would be to:
A. Bring in a large t-shirt to their class and fabric paints and have everyone make a small picture and sign their names. Take an instant photo of the results! Being a mother and a teacher, I know there is likely to be one kid to take up the entire back of the shirt with his/her own "goodbye" message. Have multiple shirts available. They usually come in a 4-pack.
B. Allow the child to bring a disposable camera to school (put their name on it, please, with your phone number) and let them take all the pictures they would like during the last week of school along with EVERYTHING ELSE THAT YOU ARE DOING...have them processed at a 1-hour lab with multiple prints to share with pals.
C. Personalize and decorate the moving boxes....gives those little hands somethin' to do...
D. Have a last slumber, pool or laser tag party. You may want to keep a herd of kids out of your house, so go bowling!
E. Get stationery made up (make your own...easy peasy) for your child so that they can “write along the way to the new home”. Put stamps on each envelope. Have a list of your child's friends names and addresses already printed up so your child can be independent in their correspondence. You may want to consider creating self-adhesive fun return address labels that can be put on envelopes.
F. Have rubber stamp made up ( for the “family” as a whole or the individual child) and stamp a whole bunch of pre-paid postcards to give to friends at school to encourage writing even before the child leaves so that ”mail can be waiting” at the new home to short-circuit that "so lost” feeling.
G. Have an autograph book signing.
H. Donate a book of each child's choosing to the school and/or public library with their name in it. Take a picture with the librarian or whomever is in charge of the library for the "record".
7. Create a floor plan of their rooms and have them draw in the new arrangement. Have them make a list of the “new goodies” they would like to have (...yikes...within reason!).
8. As moving day approaches, explain all that you know about how it “will look” (strangers in the house who are taking our things, etc.). Do this in an honest-to-goodness-sit-down-talk and allow for questions. Let them know what you expect of them in terms of cooperation. Tell them it feels (whatever) for you to have people moving the family's stuff, but that everything will get to where it is supposed to be.
9. Be honest about how tired you are, how there's too much mess for you and how it will “all straighten out” once “we get settled”. Coping skills begin with a serious dose of discomfort.
10. THIS MAY NOT BE THE BEST TIME FOR SPRING CLEANING OF YOUR CHILD'S BELONGINGS!!! THERE'S TOO MUCH CHANGE ANYWAY. SEE IT AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO SET ASIDE POSSIBLE DISCARDS/GIVEAWAYS ONCE YOU HAVE ARRIVED. AT LEAST WHEN YOU LAND, YOU'LL QUICKLY LEARN WHERE THE DONATION BINS ARE!
11. If you can go to the new community...check out...
A. The parks, the kids, the schools, the grocery, the library, the video store, the basketball court, the skating rink, the doll specialty store...you get the drift...
B. Get thee a pediatrician right away, a pharmacy who will set up an account and WHO WILL DELIVER TO YOU so that children's needs (comfort and safety) can be met immediately. The wear and tear on those little bodies can sometimes result in a very inconvenient ear infection or sore throat. Mom and Dad...you must look like you are always in charge...because you ARE....(Hint..might not be a bad idea to make sure YOU are covered, too). Have those medical records forwarded ASAP. Do your best to eat as well as possible.
Have the "open me" immediately boxes placed in an easily accessible area. First aid kids are a must, so are refreshments. Have an inexpensive big, colorful plastic bowl on the kitchen counter and "glue it down" with the gum kids chew and spit out. [They'll love this. It's disgusting and it'll make 'em laugh and show them you're loose and having fun.] Put cell phones, keys and anything that's likely to go missing that seriously increase stress (i.e., the misery index). [Personal experience here...it was hilarious and helpful...who could ask for anything more??!!]
C. Register for all the “hot ticket” activities early on so your child can start networking if they so desire.
D. Plan “fun stuff” to do the first week...all work and no play...your child could care less if the shelves are lined...
E. Carry on the good ol' family traditions of Friday night is “popcorn night” for the first Friday night to demonstrate that he centrality of the family is everything and that just because “we picked up and moved, doesn't mean we're different people”.
12. Have a school or neighborhood “see you later” party and videotape it, focusing on those who are important to the family.
13. Create a “moving album” to document the triumphs and “oooops!” of moving and the “I'm leaving” process.
14. Employ the older kids to help. If money is tight, negotiate for privileges. They can babysit, open boxes and quickly put away items or at least wipe shelves. Introduce them to the vacuum cleaner.
15. Set up a Skype account so your kids can connect with their friends.
Mom and Dad, talk to each other about how you each see the child's needs and map out a plan to mitigate the difficulties. This is an important experience for them...a teachable moment...to let them know that the really important things in the world...love and family...are portable and can be housed just about anywhere...Remember what Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home…”
Remember, it's not a crisis if everyone is healthy, so put it in perspective. Check yourself before you wreck yourself. If you're the only one stressing, re-boot your mind.
If you have other ideas for moving, let me hear from you!
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