A relocation move can be seen as a great opportunity for the whole family, but it can also be a hard time for children as they leave a familiar landscape of home, school and friends.
In this article, Douglas Ota, a child psychologist who has counselled families on the move for 25 years, will give us some advices for helping these children to manage the challenges of moving and cope with change, in order to best benefit from mobility.
Douglas Ota has gathered 10 tips that can help families on the move, and they come directly from children themselves:
1. It is important that parents also prepare their children for a tough time. After all, moving is an experience of loss: important people, places and roles are left behind… After the “honeymoon phase”, children, as many people, can feel lost and bewildered.
2. Parents should plan goodbye parties and rituals for their children and for themselves! By saying goodbye well, they’re doing a favour for all people involved and, then, it will be easier for the whole family to welcome new people into their lives.
3. Before moving, the stress feeling can also affect children. Thus, for a successful mobility experience, these feelings need to come out. It’s very important that parents do not underestimate the healing power of listening their children.
4. It’s important to anticipate the move and start discussing with children long before it actually occurs. According to David Pollock, who wrote “Third Culture Children”, it takes six months to pack up your heart and six months to unpack it! Of course, parents should keep discussing with their children during and after the move.
5. With an introvert, shy and cautious child, parents should pay even more attention to him during a mobility experience. How quickly one tends to process emotions has a great deal to do with personality factors; and dealing with mobility successfully means processing all the associated emotions well.
6. For many children, the experience of having to move is an exercise in ‘choicelessness’. To avoid this strong feeling, it’s important to give children choices about things that reasonably belong in their domain, such as which school they will attend, or seemingly minimal ones, like what to wear or what to have for lunch.
7. If some children have negative feelings during the move, it’s important that parents welcome and carefully listen to them. Sometimes, children feel under pressure from their parents like if they were not permit to have negative or difficult feelings…
8. Beyond simply listening, parents can also practice reflective listening with their children. This means listening for the core message in what their child is saying, then repeating it back, perhaps such as in a question, to see if it’s right.
9. Parents should pick “pivotal” people, back home. Sometimes, children experiencing a move can feel that their identity has been erased; this may be a result of the loss of trusted audiences. Therefore, it’s very important to maintain “pivotal people” who aren’t moving.
10. Maintaining traditions within the experience of mobility is important for children. It can be done by bringing furniture, pictures and precious objects but also by doing certain things the family used to do.