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They had changed jobs and had to move house. Their children had many friends there and were very attached. They knew they were not going to have a good time. I didn’t know how to lessen their emotional impact or how to tell them.
Did you know that several studies point out that moving house is a major stressor and cause of emotional imbalance? Surely at some point in your life, you have had to move for reasons of work, studies, the beginning of life as a couple, or separation. Every move is associated with a change in your life project that, despite being something desired, becomes overwhelming and often difficult to manage.
What happens when you have children? This point is very important. It doesn’t matter if you are moving within the same city, to another community, or to another country. There is a pattern of common fears and doubts that arise in almost any change of address with children. On the other hand, it is true that, depending on the displacement, you will have to take into account things such as the change of school, family separation, or language and may increase the emotional imbalance.
We are going to give you some guidelines to help you explain to your children the change you are going to make.
1.- Topics to be discussed before the conversations
The title of this section may shock you Conversations? Yes, conversations. It is very common to believe that you are going to have a big talk with your children to tell them the decision you have made and it is totally false. You will probably have some preparation time until the move is made. Throughout this time you will have (together with your partner if applicable) several conversations where you will gradually deal with the changes derived from the move. On the other hand, separating the issues will not overwhelm your children and will help them understand and process each change.
It is recommended that everyone responsible for the children be involved in communicating the news. This also applies in cases of couple separation or in family units where the grandparents live together and take care of the children. All parties should agree on the message to be conveyed and, if possible, both parties should be involved in the discussions.
Before talking about the news, all the people in charge should evaluate all the points to be taken into account during the move, whether they have to do with the children or not (change of job, house, car, schools…). The aim of this is to make you feel as secure, focused, and in control of as many factors as possible. The better you are with the process, the more tranquility you will transmit. Regardless, children can always ask you something you don’t expect.
It is important to remember that there is no “generic” and “ideal” way to convey the news to your children. The best way will always be the one that is most adapted to them (age, personality, tastes…) It is advisable to introduce names of important people for them, games, festivities, etc, with which they feel comfortable. Finally, if you have more than one son or daughter, you should consider whether to tell them the news together or separately.
2.- When is the best time to talk to them about moving?
While it is true that you will have to take several factors into account, the timing will depend on your emotional state. If you and your partner (if applicable) are doing well, but your children are having a difficult day, it would be advisable to postpone the conversations; if you are too insecure or fearful, you should also postpone the conversations.
On the other hand, it is advisable to have the conversation in the morning or in the evening, but never close to bedtime. It would also be preferable to do it on a day when they do not have school so that you have all the time you need.
3.- Communicating the news
It is advisable to keep the speech as short and clear as possible. In a first talk, you should only convey the news and when it will be. Avoid overwhelming them with information that they cannot deal with at the time given the impact of the change on their lives. Also, do not lie if they ask about a specific issue. It is important to answer any questions that come up, but it is not necessary to address the topic in depth at that time. Don’t forget that they may not be ready to address all the implications of the move and that you will be having several conversations.
Finally, you should not respond or try to be encouraging by talking about future friendships or activities they will be able to do in the new place. They will be hurt by the loss of their friends, school, home, etc., so you should respond in reference to their concerns. Read this article for further information about how to talk to children.
4.- Response to the news
All reactions are to be expected and are not an indication that you have transmitted it badly. If you follow the above points, you will transmit the news in the best possible way. It is normal to react with a tantrum, crying, silence, or disdain. The important thing is to welcome that response and give them the space they need to express themselves and process the changes. No response is better or worse than another since your job will be to help and accompany your son or daughter throughout the process as it evolves.
5.- Things to keep in mind
As a summary I would like to highlight some of the above points and other aspects to keep in mind:
- Use short, clear sentences. Adapt the language to their age. Be clear about the message you want to transmit and how you will do it.
- Never lie or hide information.
- Don’t be overwhelmed with too many topics.
- Don’t make them make decisions that are not appropriate for their age.
- Make your children an active part of the move.
- React to their reactions based on emotion.
- Personalize the explanation.
- If you have more than one child, consider talking to them together or separately.
- Solve any doubts they may have.
- Offer to be available to talk when they need you.
- If you (and your partner or family) feel well, you will convey that to them.
- In cases where there is a change of school, it is advisable to inform the school in case there are mood swings. school in case of mood or behavioral changes in the classroom.
Finally, I would like to remind you that there is no perfect way to help you communicate the move to your children without them feeling any pain or loss.
It is probably one of the most important changes for your little one, but that does not mean that you are going to destroy his or her life (one of the most common fears among mothers). You are in a time of change, one of those many that will happen throughout his life and you are there to accompany him in what he needs. It is a process of preparation and adaptation, so you should not put all the weight on the talk of communicating the news. It is a path in which you will help your son or daughter to overcome their fears in the best way. If you are reading this, you are concerned about his or her reaction and are looking for what you can do to help him or her, can he or she see a better start?
They broke the news together in a simple and terse way. They accompanied the pain that the news brought them, but they took it better than I had imagined.