Moving house as an adult is notoriously stressful. In fact, it’s one of the most stressful situations you can encounter.
The experience can be chaotic in more ways than one, especially if you haven’t researched a professional company to work with. Fortunately, you can rule out having your possessions damaged or lost with modern online marketplaces for hiring house-moving professionals. Using TaskRabbit or AnyVan, moving large, heavy or specialist items can be easily arranged as well as cost effective.
However, if you’re moving with children, this knowledge will do little to comfort them. For them, the sense of control is rarely something they are able to experience during a house move, no matter how seamless the move is. Finding the right methods to reduce the inevitable anxiety and stress, especially children in families who move house frequently (the average Brit finds themselves facing around eight times in their lifetime), can be a difficult task.
In order to protect children and teenagers from experiencing high levels of stress, there are a number of measures which can be taken by supportive adults figures, such as parents and close family.
This is one of the most important parts of any parent-child relationship and in situations that threaten to put strain on that relationship, however temporarily, communication becomes even more crucial.
Your children should be introduced to the idea of moving house as early in the process as possible. By the time your ‘for sale’ sign is up outside, lines of communication between you and your children should be well established, allowing for any of their anxieties to be sensitively and freely discussed.
It’s important to prepare for any questions your children may have in advance, explaining some of the reasons and logistics even if the details of the move, such as dates or locations, aren’t yet confirmed. Being honest and open from the beginning will prevent issues arising further down the line.
Depending on the age of your child, the extent to which answers to these questions are understood will vary. Older children tend to need more transparency and detail in order to understand and accept the move.
As soon as your child is made aware of the disruptive event ahead, they can begin (with parental support) mentally preparing themselves – a process which, for some, can be similar to grieving the loss of loved one. With strong communication, parents and family are seen as a source of support, rather than the source of disruption.
Throughout the moving process, there are opportunities to reestablish your child’s sense of control. Although there is an extent to which children are protected from unnecessary anxiety by being excluded from decisions, making them feel involved in the process can transform the move from something potentially negative and frightening to something exciting.
Having an opportunity to look round their potential new home, choose a bedroom and have a say in how it might be decorated are all important in reducing trauma. The more severe the disruption, the more feelings of control will be valued.
For instance, some house moves will take children away from their school and social peers. In these situations, providing opportunities for them to exert influence over a decision will go some way towards helping them adjust.
3. Distraction On the Day
Everyone needs a chance to say goodbye to the old house when it comes to moving out. This is usually a day fraught with emotion, so make sure that your children know how the plan for the day is expected to unfold.
Once your children have seen the packing process get underway, it’s usually best to take them away from what is likely to become a high-stress environment. This could involve organising activities which introduce them to the new area, or it might revolve closely around already-familiar activities and situations, in order to reduce feelings of strangeness.
Some families will have the option to arrange for their children to stay with close friends or relatives until the new house is more organised. Others will spend the first night in the new home together with their children. For the latter, having food and sleeping arrangements ready will help everyone to feel more relaxed and secure.
4. Rewards and Welcomes
Any promises made to children about what to expect from the move should be kept realistic, especially any bargaining or bribing offers made as part of a compromise. Otherwise you risk damaging trust and causing longer term problems for you and your child.
However, offering proportionate rewards can help children to see the move in a positive light and maintain a good parent-child relationship. Redecorating bedrooms, buying new school equipment and organising ways to help your children stay in touch with friends from the previous neighbourhood are all ways to demonstrate support.
For children moving schools, the most daunting part of a house move is making a new network of friends. There are a number of things that parents can do to make this process easier and less daunting. For instance, being aware of local events that will provide your child with opportunities to socialise and encouraging them to join societies or clubs with children their own age. These activities will also stop children from becoming isolated or shy, radically improving their feelings towards the new area and house.