After five moves in five and a half years, I have been accustomed to gear up for change. The excitement of something new; the sadness of leaving what we have grown accustomed to; the packing and the unpacking; the curiosity of a new place; missing the last place.
But what I wasn’t prepared for when we started this journey was my role as a mother and wife, which leaves me not only to anticipate my own transition but that of each family member.
Our family recently made the move from Switzerland back to the U.S. It was a move we were very much looking forward to, but it didn’t occur without the ever-flowing mix of emotions that comes with moving.
We hated leaving behind our dear friends, whom we had made so many wonderful memories with, not to mention the cheese and chocolates! But, we also eagerly waited for the time when we would return to a more familiar life in the United States, where we would be near family and friends.
Over the past few months, we have ridden the roller coaster of transition. Although we are not out of the woods yet, I thought I would pass on a few things that helped my kids, in particular, with this transition.
- Talk about it. I think as parents, we often feel our kids won’t understand changes. They do! Even if they don’t understand everything, they know that the winds of change are blowing. When this happens, talk about the upcoming transition, whether it be a move, a divorce, or the coming of a new child. Give your children an opportunity to talk when you aren’t answering questions for them. Schedule times to bond with them: watch a movie together, go out for a walk or do something that they really enjoy… without involving the “transition talk.”
- Give them freedom to feel what they feel. As you begin to talk to your child more openly, do not be shocked if they exhibit a wide range of emotions. They might be excited one day about their new back yard, then sob the next about leaving a buddy, or angry the next that the packers are taking their bed. Just buckle up; everything they are feeling is legitimate. As adults, we have the luxury at times of postponing how we deal with feelings. In the same way, kids need help knowing that it’s safe to talk about how they feel. Sometimes knowing that mom and dad are sad is helpful, too. Don’t act shocked at their emotions, but try to reassure them that it is okay to feel that way! Keep it real.
- Make a book or drawing. One activity we did this time around was to make a little book with our 5 year-old. You could make it as simple as you want, with a few note cards and a ring clip, yarn, staples or whatever you’ve got. For my child and I, we sat down together and wrote something like this: “My name is Jackson and I live in Switzerland now with my family. Soon, we will move to a new place. Our new place will have _______ and________. I am going to miss __________. And I am excited about __________. Soon, the packers will come and take our things, then they will bring them to our new house. We will fly on an airplane and our things will ride on a boat.” Each page had one line and Jackson drew pictures to go along with them. This simple little story was a great way for him to process the events and also addressed some of his anxieties. (I have made similar books for friends, when siblings have a new baby coming into the family or a family member dies.)
- Look at pictures…of the old and new. Like the book, looking at pictures of the new place will help set your child’s imaginative mind at ease. If you don’t have pictures, Google the new place and learn something fun about it. Also, spend some time reminiscing about the good memories from the place you are leaving.
- Bring along some favorites for the ride! What things make life familiar for your kids? If you will be traveling for a while, allow space in your luggage for some things that will make life just a little bit more familiar for them. This could be a favorite bedtime book, blanket, or CD. We spent the summer bed-hopping, but my oldest son had his blanket from his bed, which we pulled out at each stop. It felt like “home” to him at bedtime. If you have older kids, consider finding a way to fit that skate board that they use every day, or find a temporary Internet solution so they can Skype with friends until life is a bit more permanent. It’s the inconvenient things like a heavy skateboard in a suitcase that might make life feel more predictable.
- Make a calendar. Print or draw a calendar so that they child has something visual to mark the time. Obviously this varies with age, but even a simple picture calendar of travel days, visits with grandma, and celebrating birthdays along the way will put your child at ease a bit.
Transition is not easy for any of us. That’s why doing some preparatory activities can at least lessen the blow for small children. The goal isn’t to make it all lollipops and butterflies — transition is throny! But the goal is to keep it real, and to enjoy times throughout the transition.
Do you have any transition experiences or tips to share?
This article is an original article written for World Moms Blog by Kristen Kolb of www.seasonsworthsavoring.com. Picture was taken by Lucie Milton of Primrosa in Bern, Switzerland.
Photo credit to the author.