When you think of summer, what do you envision? Long days by the pool? Family vacations? Summer camp? Backyard barbecues?
For many families around the country, summer means moving trucks. Each year, millions of people take advantage of the school break to move to a new place. As a military family, we're often a part of this yearly migration—we have moved with our young children three times in past five years! Whether you're moving down the street or to a new city, moving can cause anxiety for anyone, but it can be especially stressful for our children.
Here are a few tips to help your child cope with the anxiety of a move:
- Let your child be involved in setting up the new house! Allow him to see the homes you are considering; let her pick which room will be hers; or help her pick out new paint colors or bedding for her new room. Your child will have more ownership of his new home if he has been part of the process all along.
- Help your child make new friends as soon as possible (you might even make a new friend, too!). Sign her up for summer camps at her new school. Take swim lessons at the local pool. If you have younger children, consider a parent/child music class. It may seem like a lot to commit to lessons or classes when you have so much settling in to do, but taking time to meet new people and make new friends as soon as possible will pay off for both you and your child!
- Check out the local parent Facebook groups. Today, in many areas there is a local parent Facebook group. These Facebook groups are usually unaffiliated (often called something vague like "Smithville Moms" or "Gotham City Parents"), but they give you immediate access to other parents in the area and can be a wealth of information. Here you can find out what pediatricians to consider, where to go to find the best price on soccer cleats or what city park has the best playground.
All smiles for the first day of school!
- Get back in the groove of your regular routine as soon as possible. Children thrive on routines, so get back into yours as soon as you can after moving day. Even if you're sleeping on air mattresses and eating take-out every night, try to stick to your nightly routine. A good friend of mine (who has moved six times in the past eight years) insists that the key to her family's low-stress moves is to immediately find a Girl Scout troop, a place to take piano lessons, and a babysitter for Saturday night date nights with her husband (try Care.com or Sittercity.com if you're in need of a sitter or nanny). Giving your child some familiarity will help him or her cope with the many new things a move brings.
- If you're moving to a new city, help your child maintain their relationships with old friends. Let your child know it's okay to feel sad about leaving old friends—but let them know there are many ways to keep in touch! Show your child how to write an old-fashioned snail mail letter, or help coordinate a regular time to Skype or FaceTime with your child's old friends. If you made a move across town, schedule a playdate with your old neighbors; if you made a bigger move, book a trip to go back to see your old friends over spring break. Knowing that saying goodbye for now doesn't mean saying goodbye forever can help ease the anxiety of a move (for both you and for your child!).
- Coordinate a play date with a new friend. Did your child hit it off with a Little League teammate? Did you get a phone call from a parent at your child's new school welcoming you to the community? Don't be shy about asking for a playdate! The sooner your child makes friends and feels included in his or her new community, the sooner he or she will begin to feel comfortable.
- Be a tourist and let your child help design your itinerary! Take a day away from unpacking boxes to check out your new city or neighborhood. Invite your child to pick out something to do—visit a new park, the science museum, the trendy shopping district, etc.—and design a fun day around that activity. Have lunch at the local diner that has been in business for 50 years; take a stroll through the tourist trap gift shop; and don't forget to pick up some postcards—have your child send your new address to all her old friends! There is no shortage of fun and exciting things to do in our Tampa Bay Area!
Moving can be stressful, but it can also be a lot of fun. It's a chance to try new things and meet new people. Let your child be involved in the process, and see the many new opportunities a new move brings!
After three moves with two boys in the past five years, the Merritts are happily settled in St. Petersburg, FL, where Kate works as the Director of Annual Giving and Alumni Programs at Shorecrest Preparatory School. After attending Junior Kindergarten in The Experiential School of Tampa Bay, the Merritt twins look forward to rising in to Shorecrest's Kindergarten.