Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Little Kids and a Big Move

Today is my last full day in New York City. I've lived here for close to nine years now, a period that has seen many life changes for me (you can read my love letter to NYC at my other blog, One of the biggest life changes has been becoming the mother of two small children. I have my own complicated feelings about this move (out to the suburbs of Philadelphia) but one big question for me right now is how to deal with my kids' feelings about it.

We've been talking about it a lot. The kids have seen the "new house" several times, and had fun playing in the back yard and running through the empty hallways. Indeed, as we've left to come back to NYC, Jasper has sometimes asked to stay at the house. He's also really excited that we will have a car (not a part of an NYC kid's existence!) So we think they'll be happy with it. But it's not easy to convey the permanent nature of a move to small kids. It's not easy to convey that there will be new schools with new friends in the fall, new babysitters, new routines, and so forth. We've looked at the new house's location on the map. I've been on the watch out for any questions or particular feelings about it. But little kids are little kids. The other night when he was in bed, Jasper told me "Mommy, I'm sad." I asked him why, thinking it would be about leaving his school or friends. But he informed me that he was sad because "I want you to bring me milk." Ah.

I'm curious how others of you have dealt with big life transitions with kids. How do you explain a new school, a new home, or other new arrangements?


Harriet M. Welsch said...

We're doing this in reverse, currently living in the Chicago suburbs and considering a job offer in New York City. Mostly I've just been talking about my own transient childhood. My son's ten, so he's old enough to get his head around the issues on his own. The other day he asked me, "can you give me some ideas about how to be the new kid in school?" He's watched other kids be the "new kid" and I've had him talk about what he did to help them out. And we've talked about my experiences also. We've made lists of things that will be the same and different, talked about how to stay in touch with old friends. He is seeing it all as one big adventure right now, which is a good way to be, i think.

Anonymous said...

Communication is the key in my opinion. Talking with your child and being honest about what you know/don't know, can do/can't do, etc. really helps the child and yourself get through the transition. If you are interested, here is some other information.

Anonymous said...

I think the younger the kids, the easier the transitions, because they don't know yet that it's not normal. We haven't done a big relocation with our son, but he did change schools twice in the last year (first after skipping 1st grade and moving to a different local school, and then transferring mid-year to a different school district). These were big changes, meaning he'd be changing friends twice. We talked about it a lot, and we promised that we'd still see his friends from the other schools. This is easier since we are still living in the same town as those friends, but hopefully you'll be able to visit or Skype friends in NYC too.

Jeanne @The Noodle Factory said...

My oldest son skipped from 2nd to 4th grade last year so we had to deal with some issues that are similar (new friends, new environment, etc). I started by telling him everything I knew about what was about to happen; good and bad. Because he always seems so mature, I thought that would be the best way for him to prepare himself. What I found is that, while he understood everything I was telling him, he wasn't emotionally mature enough to handle all of it. He didn't know how to prepare himself for the bad so, while I thought I was preparing him, I was really just stressing him out. The approach that has worked much better is flat out telling him that he isn't old enough to take on certain things and that that's what Dad and I are here for. Really bright kids tend to want to take the problems of the world on their little shoulders already, so we've started taking some of that weight off, and using the "parent card" to do it. We can actually watch the stress melt off of his face when we tell him that he's not allowed to worry about whatever it is he's worried about. It's beautiful!
The second bit of advice I can give you is make sure your kids know that they can talk to you about how they're feeling. But tell them to let you know before hand if they want advice or just to be heard. I used to try to fix everything, when sometimes my kids just want to vent. As tough as it is sometimes not to put in my two cents, I don't want them to stop talking to me because I can't just listen.

Heather said...

My kids are 7 and 10, and we've relocated across state lines twice in their short lives (at 2 & 5, and 4 & 7). The main thing that I've noticed is that kids are resilient--much more so than I am. They were sad about leaving friends, and the familiar, and worried about meeting new ones. But those feelings were short lived. They are so much better than adults about accepting the here and now. They adjusted to the new surroundings much more quickly than I did.

I think the best is to just acknowledge their feelings as they come up.

Yiotula said...

We've moved 7 times in 9 years of marriage. I have a 6 and a 2 1/2 year old who have lived in 5 and 4 states respectively. Kids are resilient and they enjoy adventure. My kids love their "new" house, "new" parks and "new" schools every time. I think that as long as you have a good attitude about it so will they. We try and focus on the positives about moving and new and exciting places and the kids go with the flow! We are doing Letterboxing ( and that is a neat thing they can do wherever they live. Good luck with the move it will probably be harder on your furniture than your kids!