We are moving. Luckily it’s just a couple of miles away and even closer to my sister’s family and also to our best friends. Nevertheless, a move is a big deal for our little girl who, only nine months ago, moved to our home from her long-time foster home. In fact, our little girl has never experienced change up to this point in her life that was not traumatic. In our case, moving two miles away might as well be two thousand.
So, how can parents help kids with a move? I had a very stable childhood, yet, I distinctly remember moving when I was seven, and I was not happy about it! Home is, well, home. Leaving it behind is bewildering. The hope, of course, is that children will be attached to us—the parents—and not primarily to things (like houses). Nevertheless, it’s usually a mixed bag of attachments: mommy, teddy, daddy, blankie, my bedroom, the dog, our tattered copy of The Poky Little Puppy…
Speaking of familiar objects, this can be one place to start as you help your child with a move. We’re going to set aside one big bag that our little girl can put her most special things in. That bag will be sacred; she can keep it with her on move-day. Those items will not go into boxes, will not get packed away or taped up, and will not go on the moving truck. She can keep her bag of special objects in her sights all day.
We’ve decided to let her stick around for the first hour or so of the move; she can watch as guys haul our furniture out the front door. She can see the beginnings of what our house will look like without our stuff. And then, after seeing how it all works, she’s going to go over to my sister’s house with our dog to play and get some mostly undivided attention on a day when I won’t be able to give her mine.
I’m also planning a little “good-bye” ceremony for our house. Either the night before or the day of the move, after everything has been moved, I want us to spend a little time in each room, share a few good memories that happened in that room, and then say good-bye.
As for the new place, the first time she goes there, we’re going to have a gift waiting for her. We’ve been planning for months to get her a kid-sized kitchen. This seemed like the right time. It will be a special gift for a special girl and will help our move have an element of fun built in. We’ll also be careful to set up a “kid corner” for her in the new place just like we’ve had in our current place: her kid-sized table, chairs, bookshelf, and alphabet banner will still be featured prominently.
Final thought on the subject: we want to help our little girl understand that “home” is what we all build together—that home is where we all are together. We may build a home out of cardboard and all climb in, or maybe we can just draw one together with markers—somehow we will figure out a way to help her visualize that the new place is still home just because we’ll all be in it together.