Surviving the Stress of Moving

by Susan Miller

The last box was unloaded, and the moving van slowly drove away. I felt as though cardboard boxes and moving vans had become a part of our life. All of a sudden, my to-do list became unimportant. I watched our children play with empty boxes in the yard. They seemed so content for the moment, but I knew the reality of change would soon settle in.

In our 10 moves as a family, I had watched my children go through a roller coaster of emotions — from excitement to apprehension to sadness to acceptance to happiness. Getting them connected to our new community as quickly as possible always made a big difference in their adjustment.

To smooth this transition, the first thing our family did together was share something we were thankful for about the move, such as "our home" or "our family being together." This helped everyone refocus on what was really important.

The next thing we did was find a church. This is where connectedness began — with a place to worship, grow in Christ and make friends. A church home gave us roots in the community and a place to belong.

Another important step was to get involved in the community. Each time we moved, I got our children involved in a favorite activity or sport. When we moved to Arizona, we temporarily lived in a hotel, waiting to move into our new home. I looked up soccer leagues in the phone book and registered our son and daughter from our hotel room. Not only did I learn my way around the city by having to find soccer fields, but friendships with other parents were also formed during our first soccer game, and we still have those friendships today. Our family motto quickly became "join up and join in — that's the way to make a friend!"

When our children were small, I would walk our new neighborhoods and look for bicycles, swing sets, toys — any sign of where children might live. It was fun to slip an invitation in their door for the moms and kids to come over for a playdate. When our children were older, I let them invite some of the kids in their classes to our house for pizza and popcorn so my kids could get better acquainted with them.

If you've recently moved, you may be thinking, What about me? How will I begin to put down roots in this unfamiliar place and start all over again? Make an intentional choice to do whatever it takes — whether it is joining an aerobics class, getting involved in a Bible study, volunteering to help with a worthy cause or reaching out to someone who, like yourself, needs a friend. In time, your last box will be unpacked, the world around you will become familiar, your family will settle in, and you will begin to call this new place your home.

~If you're preparing for a move, take a look at our moving checklists.~

Susan Miller is an author, speaker and founder of Just Moved, an outreach ministry for women and families who are relocating.

What the Kids Are Feeling

Depending on their ages, children will respond differently to the losses they feel from leaving people they have become attached to. Preschool children don't understand the reality of moving and can't comprehend what the move involves. Reassure your preschooler that moving does not mean separation from parents, siblings, pets and toys (unless you will be leaving those behind). Emphasize that you will be together, only in a different place and a different house. A preschooler's whole world is her family, and she needs to know moving will not change her world.

School-age children are centered on the family, but friends and school are also an intricate part of their lives. Our daughter, who was in fourth grade when we moved to Arizona, left behind her "best friend in the whole world." "My life will never be the same without Kanata," Ginger said. "I'll never find another friend like her!" Saying goodbye to each other brought many tears and much sadness that lingered for months.

Saying goodbye could also be part of the healing. Let kids gather together to celebrate good friends and good times. This could be a pizza party, a sleepover, a "build your own ice cream sundae" party or an open house. (It might be easier if you don't call it a farewell party.)

Moving can have a huge effect on teens, and many resist the changes that it brings to their life. At an age when teenagers are beginning to exert their independence from family and develop close relationships with their peers, the picture of their world becomes a kaleidoscope of emotions. They are saying goodbye to their friends, perhaps even a romantic relationship, and to the identity they were struggling to establish. A teenager's response to moving might be withdrawal, emotional outbursts, acting out or resentment.

I encourage you to get in the trenches with your kids. They need sensitivity, comfort and understanding, along with your tender loving care. Listen with your heart. Let them know that the moving blues are normal. Reassure them you understand by sharing that you will miss your friends, too.

It is difficult for children of any age to imagine life beyond who they know and love at this time and place in their lives. Parents need to help them understand that with all endings come opportunities for new beginnings. 

—Adapted from But Mom, I Don't Want to Move! by Susan Miller. Copyright © 2004 Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Used by permission.

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This article first appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of Thriving Family magazine and was originally titled "Unpacked Boxes and New Beginnings." Copyright © 2011 by Susan Miller. Used by permission.


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