Research has shown that moving house is one of the most stressful events you will experience in your lifetime, along with bereavement and divorce. For some, the pressure of moving house may be further intensified by relocating with their family overseas and it is perfectly natural to feel overwhelmed at this time. However, amongst the chaos it is important to think about the impact moving house and starting a new life abroad will have on your children.
Toddlers live in the present and will not fully grasp the concept of moving and its implications at such a young age. It is best to avoid telling them about the move until you are in the final stages of the moving process and they are actually involved. Once it gets to that stage, then break the news with a positive attitude and turn it into an exciting new adventure. Young children are intuitive – if you are sad or apologetic about the move, they will pick up on these negative emotions in an instant.
You should also avoid telling younger children about the impending move too far in advance because they are likely to become confused, which in turn will lead to them feeling anxious. Explain to your children that the move is a team decision and focus on the benefits the move will bring the whole family. It is a good time to develop trust with your children, so do not make promises you cannot keep. If you promise them you will adopt a cat in the new home then make sure you can keep your word. However, do not bribe them with gifts because this will only reinforce the notion of moving as a negative experience.
Unlike toddlers and younger children, teenagers should be told about the move long before the removal company has been booked. At this stage of their development, adolescents are trying to carve out their individual personalities and rely on the stability and support of their peers. Treat your teenager’s concerns with respect and avoid brushing off their worries. Most adults will underestimate how difficult the moving process is for teenagers in particular and the subject must be handled delicately. After all, you are asking them to leave behind their school, friends and social life. For many teens, this will be their first real experience of moving on and the thought of creating a new life will be a terrifying thought. Be patient with your teenager and give them time to plan and adjust to the idea of moving in their own time.
It is important for you to be open about your own fears with your children but do not burden them with your problems. Whenever you share concerns with your children always make it a point to remind them of the positive responses to those concerns. For example, it is okay to tell your children you are sad about leaving your friends but then emphasise how excited you are about meeting new people and making more friends. Your children will appreciate your honesty and it may also bring them comfort to know you share some of their concerns and will aid in them not feeling isolated.