Relocation doesn't need to be hard on your kidsRelocation of your home base of operations to another location in your home town is hard enough, let alone moving it across the country. Packing, utilities, taxes and finding moving companies and the house make the process a nightmare for any adult, let alone for a child that is squarely situated in their own little part of the world. Generally, children do not have a whole lot of control in their young lives as it is. So picking them out of their perceived comfort zone and moving them is a task that needs to be addressed early on in the process. This is not only for their well being but for yours as well.
If everything is to go smoothly in your move the children need to be added to the "to do" list early if long term headaches for everybody involved are to be avoided. The one thing that you do have going for you in your relocation plans is that children are very resilient. They will always find a way to cope. You do, however, need to give some help along the way so that they find a way to cope that is positive for their long term development and your short term sanity.
In finding what particular methods work best consider the three major developmental and education related ages of children. Preschool, elementary and teenaged children are the groups that you need to be concerning yourself with as you go about preparing them, and yourself, for the "big move."
Although each age has its own particular set of issues, preschoolers are perhaps the group that find themselves the most prone to trauma, and rightly so. This group has very little to draw upon in regards to the bigger part of the world within which they live. The world is very small and they are about to be taken into a very large and strange set of new surroundings by the movers. At this age the child is most worried that they will be left behind or forgotten. You are running here and there, with no small amount of stress showing, while they stand watching. There is no wonder that they are worried.
Presents are a good thing
The thing to remember with this group is that you are one of their only constants. If you disappear for a relocation scouting mission you may not come back, in their eyes. When you do go on this relocation trip make sure they know that you will only be gone for a short time. Do not start bringing days into the mix as there is little concept of time in their minds. All they know is that you are not there. If there is something that you can associate with the new location you are moving to make sure they know about it and tell them you will bring a toy or trinket back for them. So, if you are moving to San Diego, California USA let them know about Sea World and that you will bring them back a stuffed animal like Shamou the killer whale.
Get them into the process of moving, get them involved. If they have toys or other personal items get them to round them up and maybe decorate the box those toys are going into with crayons. This is so they will always know where they are during the move. These little ones are perhaps the most resilient of the age groups, if the proper education is provided, and will bounce back in no time once you get settled, so fear not.
The elementary school aged kids are starting to fall into yours and there own routines. Every day starts the same way and ends the same way. This is something that you want to pay particular attention too. These routines are also found in their every day life as well. Their school education pretty much follows the same routine each day with little variation during the week, but they know recess is coming and lunch is at the same time each day. Baseball of Saturdays and the Girl Scouts after school on a Thursday. When you are on your relocation scouting mission try to find out about these activities in advance. Hopefully, the child can fall right back into the same routine as they had before the move. This will not only make the transition as seamless as possible but it will aide in the child making new friends more quickly.
Help them blend in
This age group of kids is beginning to develop a better memory retention level than when they were younger. As you go about your errands in the new town take your video camera along and video all the important spots that kids their age frequent. Hit the local mall so that they have an idea of what the other kids are wearing and which stores have the most kids their age in them. If possible, try talking to a kid or two so you can take back some regional slang that will help them blend. Remember, the last thing a kid wants to do at this age, or for that matter any age up to a point, is to stand out from the crowd.
"We're going to do what!"
As any adult with a teenager in the home can attest this age group is not the least bit interested in moving from of their personally defined space. They have their friends, space, likes and dislikes. If standing out from the crowd was a bad thing for the younger set try multiplying it by 1,000. In your relocation scouting, try taking the teenager along with you and letting them loose for a while. A mall is always a good place to start if you are totally unfamiliar with the new location, although most places are known for something so try and find out what it is and go there.
If you cannot take your teenager with you, again, take the video camera. Teens move in packs so video them for style tips. Not just fashion tips, although these are key, but tips on how they walk and talk, do their jeans ride down to their ankles? Skate boards or motorcycles?,"7s" or holes in the knees? Believe it or not, if you can get them to look at the "move" video in the first place you are halfway there. You have likely already been through the silent treatment, the yelling and the flat out refusal parts of their move.
Of course your child's life revolves around you, right? Wrong. School is just like your place of work. You likely spend more time with your coworkers that you do with your spouse. Kids are the same way. They spend more time in social settings and school than they do with you. So naturally making sure that they are properly situated in their new social setting is a very large goal. Especially if you can add a little education and manage to do it without embarrassing them half to death.
In this situation, there are individual items to take into account depending largely on your child and how they react to new surroundings and people. If a child is from a small rural town and is going to now be attending a larger urban or suburban school for their education they will need some time to look around the school before they matriculate. This just takes away one of the thousands of things that they have to think about when the crowded halls heat up. Help them to find the cafeteria, the bathrooms, their classroom or rooms. These education basics are important but do not forget the pack mentality you are dealing with. Where do the "bandies" hang out, what about the cheerleaders or "jocks". Is the school newspaper located in the bowels of the school next to the boiler or maybe the "motor heads" hang out over at "Sams'" garage? The kids will find their spot eventually but the easier it is for them the easier it will be for you.
Grades come second
The interesting part in this socialization process is that it is even more important than the grades that the child brings home. If you put to much emphasis on the grades during this relocation time they will likely suffer in their personal social attempts and make poor grades. So, it sort of works backwards in this area. Let the child settle in socially first and then worry about the school education later.
Anyway you choose to approach your impending move you will likely experience a certain amount of anxiety from your child or yourself. Trying to minimize that stress and anxiety will go quite a long way toward making the whole moving process easier. The idea of anxiety, in this situation, is to be expected. The thing is, it can also be self-fulfilling. If you do the leg work, or homework in the case of the kids, all will settle more quickly as you move into your new home.