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In the military community, moving is a part of life. For adults, it can be easy to focus on the bright side of moving. Adults can cope with moving well because they have a good idea of what lies ahead and the steps they will have to take to transition back to everyday life. However, that's not the case for most children.
Here are six ways to help prepare your child for a move so the transition is as smooth as possible.
Listen to your child and encourage them to communicate.
As with any tumultuous time, it's essential to clarify to your child that it's okay to express their emotions in a healthy, productive manner. Natural peaks of excitement and valleys of sadness or anxiety will occur. Encourage your child to ride these waves and let you know how they're feeling. Let them know it's completely normal to feel this way and that everything will be okay. Try to spend as much quality time with your child as possible so you can keep a pulse on how they're dealing with the situation.
Make sure they feel like a part of the process.
To make your child feel heard and integral in your family's decisions, maintain open communication with them and involve them in as many aspects of the move as possible. Have them help with packing, making snacks for moving day, picking out décor for the new house, carrying some of their toys in, and anything else you can think of that will bring them into the action.
Continue with family traditions.
Make it clear to your child that moving doesn't have to mean losing. Make sure to continue with any treasured family traditions like game night or movie night. This will help build a sense of familiarity in the new place, and they can take comfort in the fact that these beloved traditions are not being left behind in the old house.
Get your child excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.
Some children look at moving for military relocation as sad and scary because they don't know what lies ahead. Getting them excited about their new surroundings is one of the best ways to ease their fears. Look into activities available in the new neighborhood that they would enjoy.
Remain in contact with your child's friends.
One of the hardest parts for children during a move is leaving their friends at their current school or neighborhood. Comfort your child by promising them a visit every so often (as distance/time permits) and following those promises. Another way to help keep a child connected to their old friends is to distribute envelopes to each friend with the new house's address. The children can write letters to your child when they're thinking of them, and your child can look forward to receiving the letters at the new place. Friends are a big part of a child's life, and keeping in contact with them during the transition will help them feel more comfortable.
If possible, visit the new place before the move.
The most common reason why moving is scary to children is that it's unknown territory. Your child has probably never been to the new neighborhood and has no idea what's in store. Help make the transition as smooth as possible by taking your child to visit the new place before moving if you can. Spend time at the parks. Tour their new school. The more you can do to familiarize your child with the new area, the better.
Moving for military relocation can result in a clean slate and a plethora of opportunities. But for children, their feelings about moving can walk a fine line between excitement and fear. Spending extra time with your child and taking steps to make sure they feel supported and comforted can ease their fear and amplify their excitement.