Moving to a new home or city is overwhelming for adults and children alike. However, children are often more likely to feel moving anxiety as the unfamiliar can be scary for them. Knowing how to help your child cope with moving anxiety can be a useful skill that will make your next move just a little easier on both you and your child.
Keep reading to learn a few tips on how to help your children with one of the biggest transitions they will experience in their lifetime.
3 Common Causes of Moving Anxiety
Anyone of any age experiences some form of fear, grief, or sense of being overwhelmed with change and transition. Before we dive into how to help your child cope, let’s first understand some of the most common causes of moving anxiety.
Fear of the Unknown
Many individuals, especially children, have a fear of the unknown. A new home and a new elementary school environment can trigger this fear. No one can predict the future, but children don’t have the life experience to truly understand this expression.
The more information they are given, the less fearful, anxious, and stressed they will be. However, be sure any information you do share is age-appropriate. Depending on the age of your child, their stage of development may warrant various approaches.
If your move is quite a distance from your current home, it can cause grief for your child who must say goodbye to their school, friends, and the home they likely have always known.
Changes in their physical environment can also cause grief. The loss of a favorite playground, public park, or ice cream shop can be just as traumatic as the loss of connections with the people they associate with home.
Moving requires a lot of transitioning and work. This can be overwhelming for children because they are so much more impressionable to their external environment. Sensory overload is something many adults experience, but we have a toolbelt of coping strategies from our wealth of life experience that helps us through it.
New and different smells, sounds, and even climate can be extremely overwhelming for younger children like preschoolers. Developmentally, they rely more heavily on their senses to process information, so switching daycares is a delicate process.
Let’s move on to some tips on how to help your child cope with moving anxiety.
5 Tips for Coping with Moving
Knowing the common causes of moving anxiety for adults and children and understanding your child’s stage of development lends well to these five moving tips that can benefit the entire family.
Discuss the Move
Before even making the move, it can help ease nerves if the child is aware of how the move will look. Discuss the new home with them, why you’re moving, the benefits that will come with this move for the whole family, etc. Having an open family talk about what to expect will decrease anxiety for everyone.
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) recommends giving your children an opportunity to regulate their emotions through creative expression. Encourage younger children to draw what they think their new home and school will be like. Older children may want to express their expectations in written form.
Create a New Routine
As you settle into a new space, creating a new routine quickly can help ease the transition and help your child settle into a new space. Children of all ages — and most adults — need some form of structure and schedule to function.
Based on research from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, routines and daily schedules are critical for appropriate child development.
Even before the move, prepare a chalk or dry erase board with your entire family to hold the daily schedule for when you arrive on moving day and afterward. Be sure this is the first thing that is unpacked and hung on the wall so your child can have a reference point.
Tour the New School
When making a huge life transition, consider the stage of development of your child. A child coming into first grade, for example, may have a particularly difficult time because, after only one year in school, they will be expected to get to know all new teachers, administrators, and students.
Aside from all new people, it’s a new physical environment with different rules, schedules, and procedures. To them, it feels like their first year of school all over again.
Schools are typically open during the summer and have open houses close to when school begins. If you are moving in the middle of a school year, perhaps waiting a few weeks before having them start and taking them on a tour of the school will help.
Arrange a visit outside of school hours so they can see the new environment without all of the physical chaos caused by the presence of lots of people in a small space, especially if your child is still developing the most critical social skills for kids. Then, go back for a second visit to meet teachers and students as well as observe some of the new processes and learn their new school’s rules.
If your move keeps you at a reasonable distance from your child’s current school friends, consider scheduling playdates shortly after or even prior to the move so they still have some sense of normalcy.
Joining a social platform like the NextDoor app is a great way to connect with your child’s future neighbors and friends. Facebook also typically has private groups for each city, and they are often broken down into subgroups based on special interests.
Make an effort to connect to your community ahead of time instead of relying entirely on organic integration.
Let Your Child Help
Giving your child a chance to help you with packing or unpacking gives them a sense of control over the situation and can help calm their nerves. They also have the opportunity to create a new space that they will enjoy.
According to the National Institutes of Health, developmentally, adolescents desire some independence but with a safety net. For example, giving preteens the task of setting up their own bedroom is a great approach. Encourage them to draw out their plans and decide on a new theme in decor, but be ready to step in to facilitate if they become overwhelmed.
Choose Your New School With Cadence Education
If you are still asking, “How can I help my child cope with moving anxiety?” We can provide guidance. Our trained teaching professionals are equipped with all the skills they need to help your child acclimate into a new environment and succeed in school. Contact Cadence Education for more information about how to find schools in your new city