We just moved to a new town. My daughter will be in 6th grade; my son will be in 9th grade. How can I help them adjust?
Moving presents some great opportunities and some significant challenges. Several years ago we moved with our three boys from Denver, Colorado to John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. What a transition! We went from the Rockies to the Ozarks. This gave us a chance to practice with our own family, what we had for years shared with other parents. Here are some simple ideas that helped our boys and have helped numerous other families in similar situations.
At the risk of sounding like we are “spiritualizing” we’ve found that one of the most important first things you can do is to pray with your kids, pray for them, and get at least three other couples who covenant to pray for you and your kids at least once a day for the first six months. Encourage these couples to call your kids once or twice a month to “check in” and let them know that they are being prayed for.
Acknowledge that moving is a major transition. It involves a real loss and can create a crisis for children and adults. If you believe Romans 8:28 then you know that it can also be a significant opportunity for growth. Make time every day to talk about something good that has happened, something you have learned or a new friend that you have made.
Be open to listening and discussing any issues and concerns that they express. If they share painful or negative emotions don’t correct them or give them the message that it’s wrong to have those feelings. Feelings are feelings and listening tells your kids that they are important to you, they are respected, and that in your family it is safe to feel and to express pain. You can normalize their feelings by talking about your own emotions and asking them to pray for you just as you are praying for them. Just be careful not to let them dwell on them as it’s easy to get stuck in a rut of negativity and a rut is nothing more than a grave with both ends kicked out.
Don’t get too busy too quick. We have seen many parents move and want to “hit the ground running” to make a good impression on the new employer. Immediately (Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200) carve out time in your schedule to be a family and for one-on-one time with both children. Go up to their room at bedtime to chat with them and pray with them. We’ve found that many kids open up at bedtime. Sometimes it can be an excuse to stay up late, but if they are talking about what’s going on in their world, then that’s okay for a while.
Don’t be surprised if they develop eating, sleeping, or school problems. We’ve seen some kids who never had problems with bed wetting develop a problem after a move. If none of this happens to your kids then praise the Lord. If it does, know that these are often emotional problems manifesting themselves in other ways. As you take time to stop, look, and listen, as you model for them that they are still safe and secure, as they sense that they are precious in God’s sight because they know they are precious in your sight then you are likely to see these problems disappear.
Our first six months in northwest Arkansas was difficult for all three of our boys. They didn’t like not being able to ski or having to give up our great season tickets to the Colorado Rockies baseball games, but now they love it here. In fact, our two older sons can’t wait to come from college back “home” to Arkansas. There is a beauty in the Ozarks that can’t be matched. As you allow God to use you to help your children make this transition know that they will be learning skills that will last a lifetime.