Q. My family is moving to a new town over the summer. How do I get my kids ready for the transition?
A. Thanks for your question—this one is really tough. Moves are tough for adults, and tough for kids. Moving is one of life’s most stressful events actually, right up there with death of a loved one, change of job and divorce. Remember that stress and anxiety can result from both positive and negative things, and moves can be either. Moves are also an almost universal experience in the current era, so children and adults all will experience it at some time.
It is really important to talk to kids about the move before it happens. Let them know why you’re moving and when it’s happening, and help them picture what life will be like in the new place. Visit if you can and let them have some choices about things—whether it’s what house to buy or what school to attend or what their room will look like. Help your kids to visualize a picture of what life will be like in the new area and become comfortable and develop some excitement about their new city. Lastly, I think it’s helpful to plan for a specific return to the old neighborhood or city before you have left. This will make all the transitions more easy and have less finality. You can also plan for a visit from a key friend or person from the old town to your new home.
Lastly, and this is what all pediatricians try to emphasize, remember that children are moving through a developmental spectrum and are different at different ages. Prior to adolescence, most children are tightly bound to families, but one of the normal and important stages of adolescence is a bond to friends that is tighter than the family bond—at least in some ways. It is very difficult for adolescents to move because some of their tightest bonds and identity are and should be related to their peer group. Spend extra time and attention helping adolescents if moves become necessary during those years.
If you have a question about your child's health or happiness, ask Dr. Steiner or any of our experts by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Mike Steiner is a pediatrician in the division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at UNC and North Carolina Children’s Hospital, a group of health-care professionals dedicated to improving the health of children and adolescents through clinical care, research, education and advocacy. The group includes over 35 physicians, practitioners, nurses and other health-care professionals. We supervise the care of children with general medical problems at N.C. Children’s Hospital, including hospitalized children, the newborn nursery, primary care clinic and a complex care and diagnostic clinic that also sees patients at the N.C. Children’s Specialty Clinic located on the Rex Healthcare campus in Raleigh.