Military families often have to move, and learning how to make this transition can sometimes be difficult. The experience for kids moving, in particular, may lead to feelings of sadness. There might also be anxiety around how to make friends in a new school. By expressing a positive attitude about military moves and inviting your children to participate in the process, you can help them feel more at ease about the changes that may come with military relocation. Take a look at our military moving tips below.
When announcing the move, treat it as a special announcement. Make sure all of your family members are sitting down together. Then tell them that you have exciting news about a “new family adventure.”
The prospect of how to make friends in a new school might cause anxiety. Tell your children that this is an opportunity for making friends in a new city. You can say, “It’s difficult to say good-bye to friends. But the good news is, soon you’re going to have even more friends, and you can still keep in touch with your old friends, no matter where you are.” Making friends in a new place can be exciting.
If you notice anxious or upset feelings, give your children the language to explain those feelings. You might say, “I notice that you’ve been frowning a lot today. Are you feeling sad or nervous about being in a new place?” Offer reassurance that it’s okay to have big feelings about the move, and talk about ways to feel better, such as drawing a picture for the new room or playing a favorite game.
Do some research (online, at a library, and/or in person) about the place you are moving. That way, you’ll be prepared to answer questions your children may have. This will also help the whole family feel less nervous about what to expect.
To help make packing more exciting, encourage your children to help by decorating the moving boxes with markers and stickers. That way, when you arrive at your new home, your kids will know which boxes belong to each of them. They can unpack their own boxes first.
Positive reinforcement helps to build confidence. Remind your children that they are loved and supported. You can say, “I like how helpful you’re being by packing up your toys and books” or “You’re being a great big brother/sister by helping your sister/brother pack their things for the move.”
Allow each child to bring a few favorite items along in a backpack, so there’s something comforting right on hand during the journey.
Go for a walk around your house and neighborhood to allow your kids to say good-bye to important people and places. Take a picture at their favorite places, such as the neighborhood playground, to create memories for after the move.
Create good-bye cards for each child to give to friends. Include the new address, as well as e-mail addresses, so that it’s easy to stay connected.
Discuss how you’re going to get to your new home (by plane, car, etc.). If you are going to pass anything exciting on the way, be sure to include it. It’s fun to have something to look forward to seeing.
If you start to feel overwhelmed during the process of moving, take a break from unpacking and do something fun together as a family. Healthy outings (such as a walk or bike ride) are a great way to get a fresh perspective and regroup as a family. Or, for a shorter break, try putting on music and dancing around the room.
A few hours in the car or on a plane can feel like days to a young child. Have some games in mind to change the focus to fun. Create “I Spy” challenges to play during the journey, such as “Find a dog on the street” or “Spot a red suitcase at the airport.”
Unpack your kids’ rooms first–together–allowing them to choose where to put special items. Then unpack a room where the family can spend time together, such as the living room. Put up family pictures as reminders of the many people who care about your children. Involving everyone during the unpacking process will help the whole family feel that they’re an important part of the move.
Be patient if any of your children are sad or behaving differently than usual, such as clinging to you or being resistant at bedtime. It may take some time, but with your love and support, you can help them learn how to transition to and thrive in their new environment.
Maintain family routines, such as Friday Family Game Night or Taco Tuesday, as much as possible to help your kids know what to expect. Also try creating new traditions to celebrate being in a different place together. For example, at dinner, each of you might describe the high points of your day, or on Sunday afternoons, you can gather for a story hour.
Once you’ve arrived, have fun exploring your new community together. Go for a walk and discover the closest parks and playgrounds, and talk about places that look interesting to your children and that they’d like to go back to and explore, such as a mini-golf course or zoo.
Set aside a time to catch up with friends and family. Put it on the calendar so you can all look forward to it. Remind your children that those you love are always reachable by phone, e-mail, letters, or video chat.
Help young children make new friends by practicing with dolls or puppets. Act out a scenario with language they might use to approach a new friend. You can say, “Hi, my name is ___. What’s yours?” Encourage your children to think about the qualities of a good friend. Ask, “What does a good friend do?”