Discuss moving with children to help them make adjustments

***image1***Moving can be a hardship on any military family member. While parents are more equipped to cope with the stresses involved in a move, children are often bewildered by the changes and may have a difficult time adjusting.
The move will be viewed differently by each child, depending on their age. While babies are the least affected by a move, preschool children can experience a sense of loss as the security of their home is disrupted.
To help children cope with this difficult time, the following are some tips to minimize the stress of a move for children of all ages.

Before the Move
• Communication before and during the move is paramount to relieving pent up frustrations for parents and children.
• When military members receive their orders, they should talk openly with their children about the upcoming move. Discuss why the move is taking place and what can be expected.
• To help the children stay in touch with their friends after the move, provide them with a photo album and address book and encourage them to fill them up with pictures and contact information about their classmates.
• Particularly in the case of preschool-aged children, it can be a reassurance if you give them the option to set aside a separate suitcase or box of their treasured belongings (special blankets, stuffed animals, favorite books, etc.) that will be placed in the family car or carried on the airplane.

During the Move
• To keep your children occupied during the trip, buy a spiral notebook and label it as a travel journal with room for your children to draw pictures or write their most enjoyable experiences on the road or in the air. It is helpful to include a map of your route and write out a list of landmarks and cities that will be passed during your travels. As you pass each location, have your children check them off in their journal. This gives them a visual idea of how much farther they still have to go.
• Bring your toddler’s car seats on the plane. They often prefer their own car seat to your lap or the plane seat.
• To give your children something to look forward to during a long plane ride, prepare surprise packets that will be opened by them periodically during the journey.
These packets may contain special snacks, toys or books that will keep them occupied. Your local discount store is a wonderful source for these items.

After the Move
• To speed up the settling process, don’t plan to unpack every box. Instead, unpack the essentials and leave the nonessential unpacking for a later time. When unpacking your children’s belongings, give your children a say in how to arrange and decorate their rooms.
• It’s important to initially spend some time investigating the new community and meeting neighbors with children of similar ages. Encourage your children to make new friends. Although these may not be lifelong friends, they will help your child feel apart of their new community.
• Arrange a tour of your child’s school and set up a time to meet your children’s teachers and principal. If your children are in junior high or high school, meet with the guidance counselor.
• Both parents should try to spend as much time as possible with the children, especially during the first few weeks. Listen to their concerns and be as supportive as possible.
• Give your children some time to feel completely relaxed in their new environment. (Courtesy of Ramstein Family Support Center)