Now that I'm an adult, I can look back at the number of times we moved when I was a kid (a total of twelve or thirteen), and reflect fondly about how each place we lived shaped my character as I was growing up. Having been an Air Force brat, I was privileged to live in countries that most kids had never even heard of, and visit even more.
I stand by my opinion that moving as a child is beneficial to emotional and cultural growth, but as an eight year old, I really just didn't want to be the new kid at school again. No matter how much foresight you have as a parent that your child will be fine a few months after this move, take it from me; that is the last thing they ever want to hear. These tips, however, will help in the process:
1. After you have made the decision (or have been told, in the case of some careers) that you will be moving, be as upfront and honest with your children as possible. Knowledge about the future makes kids feel empowered, secure and also part of the decisions.
2. Be prepared for all types of reactions. Upon hearing the news of our sixth move (to England from Virginia) I choked on my peas in tears at dinner, and my brother started bouncing up and down with excitement. Expect anything.
3. Explain everything in ways your kids can understand. For younger kids, be specific about moving things and people to other destinations in trucks and boxes. For older kids, visit community websites on the internet together to see what's in store for your new hometown.
4. Let your child be emotional. This may take awhile for your kids. School is a tough place, and younger kids will most likely do much better. For preteens or teenagers, starting a new school can be nothing short of excruciating. Try to understand, listen, wipe away tears, and help them remember that one day, they won't be the new kid anymore.
5. Try to get internet and television set up as soon as possible in your new home. I know this sounds silly, but as a kid, regular TV shows and nowadays, social networking, will help your child feel as if they are in a familiar environment. The Simpsons got me through about ten whole years of moving.
6. When in doubt, book an appointment for your child to talk to a therapist. Teenagers especially need to vent, and most of the time, not to their parents.
7. If you're not a mover, teach your kids to treat the "new kid" with kindness and respect. There's nothing scarier than being alone.
Got some to add? I'd love to hear them!
(Image: Me in the red hoodie with my brother, 1984, after third move. Photo by Ronda Wurster)