Top 10 Tips for How to Minimise Anxiety in Children When Moving House by psychologist Emma Kenny

My favourite UK psychologist Emma Kenny has recently worked with Purplebricks to produce a free children’s guide downloadable here 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. London Mums get to exclusively share her top 10 tips here. 

Moving to a new house is considered one of the most stressful experiences that a family can go through, and whilst to some degree even the smoothest of moves can pose a fair few challenges, the experience can be made easier when all family members feel involved.

Children, just like adults, feel a whole host of emotions when they contemplate what a move of home and area can bring. These range from elation and excitement to absolute terror, so it is absolutely paramount to understand how your kids feel throughout the relocation process.

Let’s face it, moving home is a big deal, and the more that you can prepare your kids emotionally, psychologically, socially and physically, the better it will be for the whole family.

I personally believe that one of the major mistakes that many parents make is excluding their children from the moving process, and whilst I get that parents are the ones who are in charge, and are also busy organising the endless details involved in the home move, children should still feel that their needs and wishes are fully taken into account.

Imagine how it feels to firstly know that you are no longer going to be living in your familiar area, but potentially that you will also be leaving your close friends behind and maybe even having to start attending a completely new school, and you have no control over any of it? Scary right? As a parent you may have a long list of reasons why the move may be absolutely fantastic for the whole family, but children tend to think about what they are losing, as opposed to what they are gaining.  That is why you need to make a concerted effort to get the children fully ‘on board’ and embroiled in the process, ideally from the beginning.

 

Here are my Top 10 Tips for Parents to help Children Through the Moving Process:

 

  1. Communicate and help children verbalise fears

As soon as you firmly decide to move home it is time to begin communicating your decision to your children. Before  you sit down with them to discuss the move, make sure that you have created a list of reasons as to why you have decided that moving to a new house will be brilliant. Remember, the more positive and prepared you are, the more convincing you will be, and this will help to reduce any anxiety that your children may have.

Get children to openly discuss and explain any fears or worries that are concerning them regarding the house move. Explain that it is totally normal to feel a bit scared when facing a big change, so don’t worry if experiencing anxiety about the change of location.

Encourage children to write down any questions so it is easier to chat them through. Sharing and talking about issues can often make you feel a lot better.

 

  1. Provide children with a sense of control

Children like thinking that they are in charge! It feels good for them to perceive that they have a say, and a certain amount of sway when it comes to what is happening in their life. Get them to sit down with you and list all the fantastic things about moving house. Making new friends, learning new activities or starting a completely new life can be hugely exciting. The most positive you think the most positive they’ll feel. Also take them along with you when doing viewings – this really helps them feel a sense of authority and that they have a say in the process.

 

Be prepared for any questions that they have and above all, take their concerns seriously.

As you begin searching for houses, show your kids the homes that are catching your interest and allow them an opinion about the ones that you shortlist, remember, they have to live there too, and their thoughts do matter.

Whilst you may want to go to house viewings initially without your children, as soon as you find a few likely contenders, get them excited about accompanying you to the viewings.

 

Ideally, use these visits as an opportunity to familiarise your kids with the local area. Maybe take them to a few parks or go for a delicious lunch at their soon-to-be-local cafe or shopping centre. Creating some positive associations can really help to reduce the natural fears and anxieties that moving to a new area can present.

 

When your house move is confirmed, you need to keep your children fully informed of the process, there is nothing more shocking than suddenly being told you are days away from relocating. Children need to come to terms with leaving their loved and familiar territory and friends 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.

 

  1. Use their imagination

Children love using their imagination to conjure all sorts of fantastical eventualities. Get them to draw a picture of their ‘Dream Home’. This could be totally wacky, princess-style castle or a country cottage – whatever they bring to life, will help them understand the concept of moving into a new home and living in a new place.

  1. Do a trial run

 

As with many things – try before you buy! It can be really helpful for the whole family to spend some fun, laid-back days in the new area before you make the big move there. Knowing where the fun places are – that kids will enjoy will make it seem all the more appealing. A nice welcoming cafe, a park, a library or museum are all good places to draw their attention to and get them looking forward to experiencing more time together in the new area.

 

  1. Play games

 

Packing can be an arduous process, especially with the contents of several children’s bedrooms to tackle. Why not make a fun game out of it before you start and play a light-hearted game such as ‘Spot the difference when moving’ – a game which features in this free booklet Purplebricks have launched, called A Kids Guide to Moving House. It is designed to help children and their parents through the process of moving and is available to download here online. Involving the kids in a fun game like this helps them see moving as an opportunity or fun as opposed to a threat.

 

  1. Get organisedand plan how to keep in touch with friends

 

Encouraging children to grab a pencil and write their own packing list of ten important ‘essentials’ that they wish to take with them to the new property will forge a better understanding of packing up and moving their belongings. Even doing little drawings of their favourite toys, games or cuddly toys will help them decide which things to pack up.  

 

Leaving friends behind is understandably one of the most upsetting aspects of moving to a new house and area. Don’t minimise your child’s feelings no matter how young they are, as whilst they will make new friends, it doesn’t stop saying goodbye being difficult or leave them feeling sad. Instead, acknowledge that it is tough to leave their friends behind, and discuss strategies that will make keeping in contact with friends really easy.

 

On moving day, get your kids involved by assigning them jobs such as packing boxes, or helping to make sandwiches and snacks. 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.

 

  1. Bury a time capsule Before you move to your new house, create a time capsule in a box filled with memories of how you lived your life in your old home. Many years later you could always return to the spot and open the capsule with your family and share your memories. Have the children write down their favourite memories of their old house and the item they’ve put in the capsule to represent that memory. Just make sure you bury it in an accessible place!

 

  1. Make a wish list and give them ownership Start getting the whole family excited about all the fantastic plans you have for 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 physical wish list of things that they would love to do once they are settled to the new place and then help them set some goals so that they can achieve these wishes.

Have your children create a wish list of all the things they’d like to try when they move house. They might want to join a new gymnastics club, go to the new local football stadium to watch a game or check out the new swimming pool with a slide. A move can be a fresh start for all members of the family so why not encourage everyone to try something new.

 

As you settle into your new house, ensure you allow your child some ownership over the design of their new room. Whilst you may think that letting your little ones go crazy with their imagination could lead to some questionable choices in home décor, it enables them to emotionally bond with their new environment and also provides a focus whilst they settle in.

 

  1. Creative writing Work with your child to write a moving home story with a main character that moves with their family. Encourage them to use their imagination and have the main character go through the experience of moving homes with their families and settling into a new place and making new friends and joining new clubs and groups in the new area. This will help them envisage what the new environment will be like and familiarise themselves with the concept of moving home. 
  2. Check in with them regularly and read books about moving It is really important to check in regularly with your children 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.

 

There are lots of books available, to borrow from the library or purchase which include stories about children moving house. One such book is the new Penguin book Diary of a Wimpy Kid where the main character, a little boy called Greg and his family start to move home or Jenny Eclair’s latest read ‘Moving.‘ For younger children there is Topsy and Tim Move HouseMy Funny Family Moves House or On the Way Home by Jill Murphy. 

 

Every loving parent wants their child to feel as happy and content as possible, and whilst we all have different reasons for moving home, we all want to ensure that the move is a positive one for the whole family. These simple steps can make an overwhelming change feel a great deal more manageable for your child, reduce their anxiety about the move, and this will make a huge difference to your own stress levels which can only be a good thing.

About Monica Costa

Monica Costa founded London Mums in September 2006 after her son Diego’s birth together with a group of mothers who felt the need of meeting up regularly to share the challenges and joys of motherhood in metropolitan and multicultural London. London Mums is the FREE and independent peer support group for mums and mumpreneurs based in London https://londonmumsmagazine.com and you can connect on Twitter @londonmums

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