Helping Our Kids Cope With Change – The Move
We must all face change in our lives and as adults we understand that change is not only inevitable but something we must learn to embrace. Many of you will already have experienced the stress of changing countries, work places, schools and possibly even families. Change is a challenge for everyone but especially for young children. We have explored their need for routine and clear expectations in previous articles. What seems to underlie this is their attachment to all things familiar. This is not surprising really as we can observe babies from a very young age recognizing and responding positively to their parents voices, and forming attachments to transitional objects like blankets or cuddlies. Familiarity with our environment helps us to feel safe and ‘contained’. Somehow within our families and homes it is OK to be ourselves. But change happens… and as parents we are often unsure how to help our children cope.
This month my little family will be moving home. It won’t be a big move in fact we’ll only be relocating several streets from where we already live. But for my 4 year old her world is changing and she is not backwards about telling us so. Lucky for us really because it would be that much more difficult if she didn’t express her feelings, however it is hard not to be thrown by her obvious distress.
I think we often underestimate the importance of taking the time to listen to our children especially when they are perhaps telling us something we don’t want to hear. This is when I find sharing an oversized Dame Blanche (ice cream) and a new pack of felt tip pens very useful.
Her first concern of course was for her toys, books and treasures… would they be somehow left behind? Then she’s concerned that her room in the new house just isn’t the same and of course our old house (apartment) is so beautiful. In fact she’s just adamant she doesn’t want to move. Recognising we’re at a little bit of an impasse I lick my spoon and resort to cuddles and words of reassurance. Clearly I need to think about a new strategy. This is where the pens come in handy. The next day we sit in the middle of her bedroom and mind map it’s contents together. She’s in charge of cutting out pictures to represent all her things and I’m in charge of drawing it up. When we are finished she seems a little more happy that we intend to move the contents of her room – so much for decluttering!
Next steps I resort to finding some words of wisdom on the internet. They suggest I treat it as an adventure, involve her in all the decisions and buy a dolls house remove all the furniture, move it to another room and recreate the whole process with miniature moving vans! Of course all these suggestions give me some insight and certainly some ideas to begin with, but the most useful advice reminds me of the danger of our fondness as adults for rational explanation.
Parents often believe that using words will suffice to create an understanding of what the child is about to experience. But young children do not comprehend the meaning of words describing experiences they have yet to experience! It may seem as if they do – but don’t be fooled.
In fact my daughter’s feelings are entirely rational to her and only time, patience and open communication will help her through this experience. Meanwhile it seems that she will develop resilience to further changes in her life by copying her parent’s ability to cope with change. As always it ‘starts at home’ wherever that home may be – no pressure there then!
Further Information: Useful Links
Moving and young children by Kalman Heller PHD (2005)
Article about the psychology of kids coping with change with some good suggestions like creating a moving book together or a memory box.
Helping kids cope with moving
Article specifically about moving with kids at different ages and stages.
How to cope with moving house
An article from UK parenting site.
Helping kids cope with change by Fiona Baker
Article about helping kids cope and developing resilience to change.
Lynn Frank is a coordinator for Passage, the Parent Support Group for the English-speaking community in Luxembourg. If you would like to know more about our work contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org