Helping kids when moving houses

With an increasing number of couples changing cities or even countries in search of good jobs, it becomes quite difficult for their children to adjust to the move. Anu Bhambhani has some advice to help parents make the transition experience smooth

When Roshni Tekwani shifted base from Delhi to Mumbai, it was the fourth time in six years that her family had changed cities. Roshni had found the perfect job in Mumbai but her husband was doing well in his career in Delhi. After a series of debates, they decided to move to Mumbai. Things seemed to be falling into place since her husband got a transfer and could continue to work with his present company. However, a few days after their shift to Mumbai they found themselves at their wits end trying to manage their older daughter, 10-year-old Madhvi.“We used to believe that being career-oriented meant you have to always be ready to move to wherever the best opportunity leads you. What we didn’t realise is that in the process of moving so many times, the children end up making compromises for their parents’ sake,” explains Roshni. When they were settled in Delhi her daughter Madhvi had made friends in the neighbourhood, was doing well in academics and her track record in extracurricular activities was outstanding. Then she felt her world being displaced yet again, as they packed their bags and moved to Mumbai. Here, she felt the environment was too competitive, she was struggling in school and had less time to play. She also hadn’t been able to make new friends and constantly missed her friends back in Delhi. The end result, regular fights with her parents for bringing her to Mumbai.

The irony is that as parents, we make a lot of compromises to ensure a better future for us and our children. But if that means frequent relocation during the growing years of the child, it’s worth giving serious thought to your child’s preparedness to adjust. School life changes forever, new friends have to be made, and as in Madhvi’s case, it means pushing harder to achieve success in a new school. Most of all, it creates a feeling of uncertainty, not knowing when the next family move will be announced and to which city or which country.

When the move is inevitable

Ritika Khosla is a homemaker and mother to two school going kids. Her family changes cities every three years because her husband has a transferable job and that’s the way it is. Rather than allowing this constant change to disturb the peace in their lives, Ritika decided to equip herself and her family in a way to be able to handle the changes better. Both, her son and her daughter, have had no problems adjusting to the various city and school environments they have been in. “In fact, it is we adults who take longer to adjust, especially I as a stay-at-home mum,” she explains. On how she helps her kids adjust to the move, she says, “Once we know that the family needs to shift, my husband and I do our research about the new place and share exciting information with our kids. The kids start looking forward to the big shift then. We never show any apprehension about moving to a new city. Once we familiarise them beforehand about common and popular places in the new city, they don’t feel so alienated when we move there.”

And, Ritika has another tip to share, “I always buy some new exciting stuff for their rooms so they are happy with every new room that they occupy.” While problems will be inevitable, ensure that you as the parent make the move as smooth as possible.

When moving…

  • Stay calm about the transition, if you are tense and anxious it will be reflected to your kids and cause them to be nervous.
  • Have a small ‘going away’ party in the old home for your children and their friends. Involve other people who your children may be close to, like neighbours or teachers. Get lots of pictures clicked and make sure the kids exchange contact details. This will make sure that your kids get to say farewell to their friends while making promises of keeping in touch.
  • If you know the date you will move, start talking about it months in advance so that the children are not in for a surprise with a fortnight to go.
  • Make a list of fun places around your new home for the kids to visit. It will help them look forward to the shift.
  • Use email, phone calls, text messages, video chat, letters to let your children stay in touch with their old friends. But if your children are very young, they will be dependant on you to help them with this.
  • While packing your kids’ stuff, make sure they are involved and all their favourite things are packed to be taken to the new home. Some of the things may certainly seem petty to us parents and we may want to discard them but it’s best to let the child decide about their belongings. Taking them along to the new home will help maintain familiarity.
  • Get your kids to participate in some hobby classes or sport activities. If possible sign them up for this even before you move to the city so that no time is wasted and they can start attending as soon they move. This will help them make new friends sooner.
  • If this is not the first time your child will be moving homes, remind them of all the positives of having moved homes the last time.
  • Keep your personal schedule more fluid initially so that you can spend more time with your child, till they settle in comfortably.
  • Have grandparents or other relatives that your children may be close to come visit soon after you shift homes. This will add to your kids comfort while also giving you time to attend to other errands. Knowing that your children are being looked after while you can deal with issues that come with shifting homes will give you peace of mind. This small tip is more important that you can imagine.

 This was first published in the May 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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