Sooner or later, we all make the decision to move, but for some families, that move can involve going much further than across town. Whether because of a job, education or other responsibilities, picking up from a rural, country lifestyle and settling into a more urban environment can be disruptive for everyone. Children, in particular, may find the shift more traumatic, especially if they do not feel comfortable moving to a city and leaving the low-key country life they’re familiar with and love.
The best way to help your children transition is to give them special attention and make them part of the decision-making process. This guide gives you a few tips to help create a low-stress moving process for everyone.
Talking About the Decision
As you consider making a move that will remarkably change your children’s way of life, weigh the ultimate benefits of that move against the country comforts that your kids currently enjoy. For example, your children may feel nervous about the crime and violence in a bigger city, but you can assure them that’s just not the case. In fact, a recent study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine shows that rural areas have a 20% higher risk of death from violent crime or accidents than larger urban areas.
While your kids may not be old enough to understand the statistics or percentages, let them feel they are playing a role in the decision-making process by asking them what makes them feel safe in the country and making sure to incorporate some similarities in your new home.
If the resolve for moving comes from an employer’s decree, explain to your child how the choice is out of your hands, but try to maintain a positive outlook about the new opportunity. Remember, your perspective and attitude can influence the way your kids feel. They may act out, behave stubbornly or even talk back, but try to remember your child is just scared, anxious and looking for reassurance about this big life change.
As a parent, you can provide that kind of reassurance by:
- Supplying your kids with as much information about the move as soon as you can.
- Being truthful and transparent when you answer their questions.
- Explaining some of the benefits that your children could experience, such as bigger bedrooms, nearby parks or more frequent or exotic vacations.
The truth is, no matter what you say, your children may find themselves frequently thinking about the things that frighten them about change. You can help quell some of these fears by:
- Letting them share their opinions about house-hunting and new schools.
- Taking a trip to let your kids explore the new city.
- Showing them how some of their favorite activities are in the new city, like a major league baseball team, an amusement park or a playground in the new neighborhood.
Moving with Kids with Different Needs
Moving from a rural environment to an urban setting will impact each child differently. Some kids will go along with the move with excitement, ready for a new adventure. Others will fixate on the friends they will leave behind, important events they will miss, and the differences that they just don’t see how they can ever get used to. Here are some beneficial notes on how to help children of specific ages and with special needs have a smooth and successful transition.
Toddlers and Preschoolers
- Be calm: Studies show children younger than six adjust and adapt more easily.
- Be expressive: Explain the move by reading a story or acting it out.
- Be clear: Don’t assume they understand what’s happening. For example, when you box up your little one’s toys, explain that they aren’t being throw away or put up, but just moving to their new bedroom.
- Be patient: Avoid making other big changes during the move, like toilet training, or at least be patient if your child regresses.
Adolescents and Teens
- Be seasonal: If possible, move during the summer to avoid disrupting the school year. Be sure to provide summer social outlets or move close to the start of the new school year so your older child doesn’t feel isolated or alone.
- Be a good listener: Let your teens know that you respect their concerns and issues.
- Be proactive: Plan a trip back to the countryside or a visit from a friend from their old neighborhood.
Children with Disabilities
Children with special physical, mental or emotional needs are particularly prone to feeling unsettled during a move where there are so many uncertainties. They need plenty of time — maybe even a month or more — to understand what city life will be like and accept that the country will now be a place they visit. Here are a few ways you can make the transition easier for children with special needs:
- Be considerate: Examine living in temporary housing or a hotel if you haven’t found a house, or have purchased one you’ll need to renovate in order to make it accessible.
- Be engaged: If it’s safe for your child to help, get them involved with tasks, responsibilities, and decision-making.
- Be prepared for rollercoaster emotions: The stress from chaos can be intense for children with special emotional or behavioral needs. Meltdowns are likely to occur; be compassionate when you can.
- Be consistent: Make your kid’s room the last to transition, so they have a safe space in your home for as long as possible. Be sure their room is one of the first, if not the first, set up in your new home.
- Be flexible: Take breaks from packing and moving, and be positive about the process to keep it from becoming overwhelming for your child.
- Be visual: Create a timeline or post a colorful schedule so your child can easily understand what will happen next.
- Be willing to ask for help: Ask a friend or family member to watch your child during moving day.
- Be consoling: Make a comfort kit with your child’s favorite foods, toys, textures and other pleasures that will help them feel calm during the move.
Settling in After Moving Day
Adjusting to the move takes time, and the hardest parts may come after moving day. Even in this new urban environment, keeping your children’s routine familiar, like the same schedule for meals and bedtime, will give kids a sense of structure and understanding.
Be sure to include your children in the unpacking process and, when applicable, try to keep some rooms similar to those at your old home. For example, if specific art and rugs were in the old living room, try to keep that same decor in the family room of the new home, at least for a while. Other ways you can help your child adjust to their new home include:
- Involving them in planning exciting renovations, like painting their bedroom or putting a swing set in the backyard.
- Introducing them to their new neighbors, especially if you knew your neighbors well in your rural community.
- Exploring the differences they see, such as skyscrapers or high-rise buildings, urban parks or walkways, shopping centers and malls, tourist areas and places with historical significance or modern architecture.
A move can present many challenges, especially when moving from a rural area to an urban environment. While there are many benefits to this kind of change, life as your child knows it is going to be vastly different. Be patient before, during and after the move, and this could easily become an opportunity for your family to grow even stronger in an exciting new area.