10 Best Tips for Moving with Your Anxious Child
Moving season has crept up on us all and it can be a stressful time of year. Along with planning the end of the school year and managing the day-to-day demands of parenting, a move can quickly feel overwhelming! Kids feel just as overwhelmed with moves and anxious children feel even more uneasy. Here are a few simple tips for planning a move with your child! These ideas can help you anticipate worries and plan ahead.
Looking at things in a positive way often boils down to how we choose to talk about them. Recent brain research shows that optimistic thinking is more something we learn than something we inherit. That means it’s a skill we can practice! Positive thinking leads to higher levels of dopamine in the body (a feel-good hormone). Children who regularly see things from a positive point of view are better equipped to handle stressful situations. Their brain is actually then capable of making more connections. Try framing the upcoming move as an exciting adventure to take as a family, placing an emphasis on togetherness and community no matter what the circumstances. Then your attitude will likely become contagious and your kids will more easily get on board!
If ever you’re not super excited about the move or if you’re overwhelmed with stress, fake it ’til you make it! As is so often the case, your attitude has the power to make or break this challenging experience for your kids. Enrol your friends and extended family for support, plan ahead, and try to manage your own anxiety so that your kids can see this move with an optimistic outlook. It’s good for their brain (and yours too)!
An Image Worth a Thousand Words
Whether you’re buying or renting, chances are your new place is displayed in photos on some type of online housing site (mls, walkscore, etc). If not, set up another visit on your own and snap some shots.
Carve out some time in your busy day to sit with each of your children individually (alone time with you here is key). Power up your laptop and scroll through the house pics with your kid. Allow plenty of time for questions to be asked and answered. You might not have everything planned out yet, but providing some key pieces of information can help your children move more smoothly through this transition.
Think: which room will be your child’s? Where will the dining room table go? What does the yard look like?
Before D-Day, plan for a time to drive by your new place, if you’ll be staying in the same city/state. Write it up on your family calendar. Count down the days. Anticipation is half the pleasure!
But with anticipation can come increased anxiety. To reduce some of those moving worries, anticipate a visit to let your kids see the outside of your new house and the surrounding area. They will be comforted by the sight of what lies ahead – able to finally visualize something they’ve only just been hearing about. Things become real, and anxieties become smaller.
Stake It Out
New neighborhood go-to’s are going to become super important in your family’s life. You’ll want to check these out right away:
- local public library
- nearby parks
- closest grocery store
- bike trails
- a cafe within walkest distance (…ok, this one might be for the parents!…)
You’ll want to check how long it takes to either walk, bike or drive to each of these spots. Maybe even visit a few with your kids before moving (if you’re in the same area). If you don’t live in the same city or state as your new place, stake it all out on GoogleMaps and have some fun streetviewing your new ‘hood! The faster your child makes their new neighborhood their own, the faster they will feel calm, safe and secure in their new surroundings.
Mock It Up
Ooh! This is the fun part!
Take time with each of your kids to create a model of their bedroom for the new place (again, alone time is key!). Use graph paper to show measurements. Indicate where the door is and where the windows are. If there are non-negotiables due to space constraints, have those areas already placed on the mockup (where the bed has to go, for example). Keep in mind air vents and heaters. Then create little cut-outs of each furniture piece (bookshelves, lego table, side table) and have your child play with how they see each piece fitting. This simple activity can help them feel like they have some control over a huge change! And it’s fun!
Create a Cozy Corner
What does your child absolutely love? Legos? Reading? Barbies?
Plan ahead to create a cozy corner where your child can do their favorite thing. If you already have that area in your current home, brainstorm a few ways this can be recreated in the new place. It can be a special spot reserved in their bedroom, the new playroom or the sunroom, but make sure your child feels like they have a place to call their own. Plan for that spot to be filled with favorite books, favorite stuffed animals and a few favorite toys.
You can even add a tent like this, or netting like this, to create the cozy look you’re going for. Twinkling lights and bright ceiling stars are also kid favorites for creating that cozy vibe! The idea is for kids to feel safe and secure in their new home as quickly as possible.
Pack It Up
Just like when you leave on a roadtrip, plan to have each child pack one suitcase each. They need to have full control over what goes in that suitcase. It can be nonsense items (that nonetheless mean the world to them) – like stickers, their snail shell collection, a toy or favorite blanket. Or it can be useful things – like their favorite outfit for school the day after moving or their comfy bath towel. Whatever they chose, try to relinquish some parental power here and let them take full reign. It is a little bit of control for them in a time filled with lots of upheaval, change, and uncertainty.
You may be excited to finally purchase that new lawn set you’ve had your eye on for weeks. Or your partner might be looking forward to the new tv that will fit perfectly in the basement.
Just like us, kids would surely enjoy looking forward to something new. It doesn’t have to break the bank either. A couple of new books (like this one about moving), a new stuffed animal who already “lives” at the new house (like this super cute dinosaur) or a new toy set that can be added to the playroom could do the trick!
As much as kids can sometimes be erratic in their behavior, they crave routine. In this sense, continuity matters. As challenging as it might be, try to keep the same schedule and routine with your kids during this challenging time. If you all wake up at 6:30a.m., keep waking up at 6:30a.m. If you cook pancakes every Saturday morning, keep that up too. If you read 2 books together every night before bedtime, that’s an important ritual to keep going.
Research shows that children who engage in daily routines with their family lead healthier lives. They demonstrate stronger social and emotional skills. Routine adjustments are inevitable during a move – that’s a given. But for the anxious child in particular, changing their most cherished and important rituals can be too much. Pinpoint what matters most to them, and keep your schedule similar pre- and post-move.
Plan D-Day Down to a T
Except in rare occurrences, moving doesn’t just sneak up on us. There are usually a few months prior to the big day when everyone is made aware of the move. So you’ve talked the move up, looked at pictures together, made a model of your kid’s bedroom, and staked out the neighborhood. What’s left to do?
Plan moving day out well in advance. Things to keep in mind:
- Can your child carpool to school that day to free you up?
- Do you need to book a babysitter for any younger kids at home?
- Who is actually going to be physically involved in the move? Friends? A moving company? If you can, plan the packing early in order to reduce your own stress and to give yourself more time for the unpacking.
- Plan a snack bag for you and your kids : water (stay hydrated!), fruits and nuts will tide you over and keep everyone from feeling “hangry”
Even the best-laid plans have glitches. Movers arrive late, kids fight naps, and mamas mislabel boxes (oops!). Try to roll with the unavoidable punches and keep your chin up. Just think: soon enough you’ll be all unpacked and sipping your morning coffee while watching the kids play in their new home!