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ASK THE EXPERT: How Can I Make Moving To A New Country Less Stressful For My Child?

Is your child feeling down at the thought of moving to a new place? Dr. Richard C. Woolfson answers how to let him or her know it’s all going to be okay.  

With the global pandemic exacerbating job instability, many families are being forced to move or relocate due to financial woes brought about by Covid. Amidst the chaos of moving however, it’s important to keep your child’s well-being in mind.

Psychological surveys reveal that moving is a very traumatic life event for adults, ranking third in terms of stress, after the death of a partner and divorce.

It can be even harder for a young child because she hasn’t any previous experience to draw on for reassurance.

There are many reasons why your child can become stressed by the prospect of a move. These reasons include:

Loss of familiarity

She will have to adjust to a new bedroom, house, neighbourhood or even country. Familiarity is comforting, while loss of familiarity is unsettling for a child.

Loss of friends

Your child will be afraid of losing contact with her friends once she has moved. Peer relationships are important to her at this age.

Loss of school

She’ll have to get used to new teachers, a new building and new classmates.

Before the Move

Talk to your child about the move long before it happens. Almost certainly, once her initial excitement at the idea has died down, she’ll begin to express concerns over the effects that the move will have on her life. Reassure her that she can still keep in contact with her friends. Give her some practical suggestions on how this can be achieved. For instance, she can write or email them and vice versa, or give them a call at planned times.

As soon as you have selected your new home, take her to see it – even if just online. Point out all the advantages it has compared to your existing house, such as a larger garden, more rooms, nearer shops and better play areas, and talk about decorating and furnishing her room. Let her choose her favourite paint colour and wallpaper, if possible.

The same applies to her new school. Naturally, she’ll be apprehensive about meeting her new teachers and classmates, so the sooner she gets to know them, the better. Try to visit your child’s new school with her several times before she starts, possibly staying in her new class for an hour or two each time. This will build up her self-confidence.

After the Move

The move itself will be a hectic time for all of you, and your child may be upset despite all of your preparations for the change. Spend time with her each day, talking to her and reassuring her. The typical 5-year-old, for instance, can be very fragile emotionally and need lots of love and attention during difficult phases.

And do what you promised about helping her keep in touch with her friends. Your child may need some prompting from you, not because she doesn’t want to speak to her old friends, but because she is afraid they will have lost interest in her. Get her to call her friends or write them a letter or send an email. Making a special effort to support your child in this way will help her adjust to the change more quickly.

From The Finder, August 2016 / Updated by: The Finder Team, August 2020

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