Psychologist Emma Kenny has recently worked with Purplebricks to produce a free children’s guide downloadable called A Kids Guide to Moving House written in collaboration with the Diary of a Wimpy Kids series to help families through the moving process.
They say moving house is one of the most stressful things an adult can do- but is this the same for children?
In some ways it is actually more challenging for kids because they genuinely have little, or no control over the decisions being made. Often, the belief is that kids ‘just get on with it”, but that is rarely the case. Often, kids simply become overwhelmed and shut down, or avoid thinking about, or confronting what’s occurring and in the short term they can seem fine, however, sadly at times their behaviour can be affected months down the line.
How would you broach the subject with a child who will understand the process?
The more honest and open that you are, the more reassured and happier your child will be. Tell them as soon as you decide to move that this is a decision that you have taken. Allow your kids to express their feelings and allow them to ask as many questions as they need. Describe all the positives that you believe will occur because of the move, and any worries they may have, counter with a solution, or compromise that they feel works for them.
What is the best way to make sure your baby has a smooth transition?
Routine is key! Babies are happy as long as they are fed, warm, loved and given the rest they need. Try to keep bedroom routines the same and a month before you leave your old home plug in an air freshener with one particular scent. When you get to your new home, plug this freshener in so the baby’s senses are calmed by the familiarity of the scent.
Is there any benefit to focusing on getting your child’s room ready as quickly as possible?
Personally, I would allow your child a sense of ownership over their bedroom, so allow them to plan, and get involved in the design of their own room. This will help them feel a real sense of connection to their new home. If you can get their rooms sorted asap then that will also make a difference to the way that they settle.
What do you suggest if a child keeps asking to return to their old house?
Remember that this is less a request to visit their old home, and more a desire to cling on to their past. Change is scary and it makes sense that when you feel a little outside of your comfort zone, you wish to return to it.
Understand that this is completely normal, kids who were happy at the place they lived are going to have loving feelings about it. Allow your child time to discuss their feelings and reassure them that their new home is going to be just as great as the one that they have left behind. Make sure that you don’t get angry, or frustrated by their requests, it means that your child cares about things that they have formed bonds with and that is a good thing.
What things you can parents put in place to make a child feel more comfortable once everything is moved and settled?
Start getting the whole family excited about all the fantastic plans you have for the everyone once the move is complete. This can include new activities that your kids can try, such as enrolling in a gymnastics club, or starting with a local theatre group, and you can bring these ideas to life by getting them to research them online. Even better, get them to create a wish list of things that they would love to do now they are settled and then help them set some goals so that they can achieve these wishes. Encourage them to take a few mementos from your existing home which will remind them of all the happy times they spent there. These can be a few rocks from the garden, or a plant that they can dig up and replant at their new property. This helps your child feel that they still have connections to the home that they have left behind.
It is really important to check in regularly with your kids to ensure that they can confide in you any troubling feelings that they may be experiencing. I would suggest taking ten minutes each night before they go to bed to discuss their feelings about moving home. This allows them to feel supported and also unpack their feelings so that they don’t lie worrying in bed, because tired kids find the world a great deal more challenging.
Children need to come to terms with leaving their loved and familiar territory and friend behind. Just like in any loss, there is a grieving process associated with moving and you need to allow your kids an opportunity to come to terms with this for them to adjust to the changes that are imminent.
Does moving house provide children with anything positive along the way?
A house move can be hugely exciting and really beneficial for every member of the family as long as it is managed well. Change in life is inevitable and when a child is able to see that things may change, but that the important things in life, such as friends and family remain, they are better able to navigate the world around them.
What would you say to a parent who is reluctant to move house because they are worried about their little one?
I would firstly say that they are an excellent parent for firstly considering their child’s feelings as this means that they are likely to ensure that whatever transition their child is facing is one they will help them navigate effectively. The reality is that life is full of change and preparing your child for such inevitable changes helps them to forge resilience meaning that they are better able to cope in the long run. So simply put, trust that they will be fine.
Is moving house something you have experienced with your own children? If so, how did it all go?
I moved two years ago with both my boys and if I am honest, I am now living in a homes that I would never have personally chosen, but my boys absolutely fell in love with it on the very first viewing. I love old houses, and they wanted a completely new home as they find the places I love ‘spooky’. Whilst I may not be living in my dream home, I think the sacrifice was absolutely worth it as we have settled brilliantly in our new house and in our new area. My kids love their rooms and they have decorated them awfully, but their space, so their choice.
What is next for you?
My new series “The killer in my family” is out on Quest Red at the moment. I am about to launch Appy, the first free health, fitness, nutrition and wellbeing app, and I continue to be This Morning's agony aunt and Closer’s weekly life columnist.
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