Moving to the Berkshires from the city or elsewhere can be delightful for all family members. Buying a home in the Berkshires assures fresh clean air, a greener environment and wonderful schools and colleges in addition to cultural and sport activities. Here in the Berkshires as elsewhere children are the light of our lives and grandchildren shine even more bright in the eyes of grandparents. Even though the move to the Berkshires is a good one remember your child is leaving behind connections to playmates and school friends that will need to be fostered in their new Berkshire home town. Deciding to move increase stress for the entire family and especially for the children. Adults tend to focus on the practical problems however, a child will focus on all the losses that the move causes. This can be the loss of their friends or of a safe and familiar environment.
The decision to move is, after all, taken by the adults and the child feels powerless because it cannot, and should not, influence that decision.
The degree of stress in moving is often underestimated. Research shows that moving is one of the greatest stresses we will face in our lives. In its capacity to cause psychological distress it comes only after losing a close relative in terms of severity, and ahead of illness, loss of employment and divorce.
Talk to children about the move. Talk to them early to give them as much time as possible to comfortable with idea of moving. Tell the children all about their new home and give them lots of facts and information appropriate for their age group and level of understanding.
Young children have short attention spans, so be prepared for them to talk about the move only for a short while before moving on to something completely different. Do not expect a young child to spend the entire evening discussing the move and its consequences. If a child is ready to talk or has a particular question, make the most of it and be ready with answers. Even though a child can't decide which house to buy or which town to move to, they can get involved in other ways like choosing colours to decorate rooms. Choosing colors and a theme for a bedroom will give the child something to anticipate in the new location. If possible, take the child to visit the new place a couple of times before moving in. This will often help make the whole thing more real and familiar. Moving home with children calls for the best of our parenting skills both for our children and perhaps for the grandparents who will mourn the loss of daily contact with the grandchildren. Depending on the age of the child when the move occurs the method of assisting the child to cope will be different. Although newborns take up many hours of parenting time, they will most likely be the least affected by a move to a new home. The most important concern that must be addressed when moving with infants will center around transfer of medical records and immunization records. Selecting a new pediatrician is the vital first step if you know the city or town you are moving to. Newborn and infant emergencies can arise without warning and having a pediatrician who is familiar with your child's medical history assures your infant will receive care. Ask your current pediatrician for recommendations and referrals. If you are moving closer to your family then ask who they use as a pediatrician and begin the process of record transfer. It would also be appropriate to carry your children's medical records from the pediatrician with you in case of untimely emergency. Keep them in your luggage until you are safe in your new home. Toddlers and children age 2-5 years old will usually be most concerned about leaving familiar surroundings and playmates. Toddlers and children under the age of five may:
- start sucking their thumb
- wet the bed
- talk baby talk
- cling to you constantly.
Older children may (ages 6-10) may:
- refuse to eat
- suffer insomnia
- twirl their hair endlessly
- become shy
- become aggressive.
School age children may:
- change their sleeping patterns
- have trouble concentrating
- have stomach aches or headaches.
Some children seem to change their personality and may suddenly start lying or stealing. These reactions are stress reactions. Since a child cannot always understand what is going on or express their own complicated feelings may begin to "act out" these feelings in ways that can cause further distress at school and home. It is essential that the child has at least one adult who can spend time with them and give them the opportunity to talk. During this difficult period of transition, quality time with their parents is very important for a child. Small children under five are the easiest to move. Their sense of security depends entirely on their parents and they usually feel safe provided their parents are around. Prepare young children for the move with simple explanations, that you can repeat often. At this age, a child will benefit from being told stories about other children their age who are moving. When it's time to start packing, explain to the child that their toys are just being put in boxes so they can be taken to their new home. Otherwise, the child may worry that all their toys are about to disappear or be taken away from them. Do not make any promises that you cannot keep. For example, don't promise that when you move the child can have a pet if that's not going to happen. If a parent breaks a promise, the child will find it harder to trust them.Try not to buy a new bed or other furniture during this period. New things create a feeling of insecurity. Old things are familiar and create a feeling of security.
If possible, it can be a good idea for the child to spend moving day with friends or relatives. Otherwise, they may feel left out or in the way because Mum and Dad are so busy. The big question when you have a school-age child is whether they will like their new school and make new friends. Children spend many hours of the day in school so it is important that they like the chool and their classmates and peers.
It is debatable whether it is better to move during the school year or the summer holidays. If the change of school takes place over the summer, the child has more time to get used to the idea and has a fresh start with the rest of the children. The drawback is that the child will then spend the summer without their old friends and without much opportunity to make new ones.
What is the move like for a teenager? A teenager has the mental ability to understand why the family has to move and what the consequences are. However, a move may upset a teenager's life very much. They will often lose their group of friends which is the most important thing in a teenager's life. The teenager may be separated from a boyfriend or girlfriend. It can be hard to start a new school at this age, when being accepted by people of your own age group is so important to self esteem and self development. Above all do not brush their feelings and concerns aside by using clichés like 'everything will be fine' or 'time is a great healer', unless you want a teen rebellion on your hands. The best way to help a teenager is to listen to them and treat their concerns with respect. Let them know you understand that the situation is difficult and that you must find the best solution together - if there is a solution. It is important to listen, understand and above all, respect the teenager's feelings and wishes. The day of the move is a day of change and the decision is now set in stone. Take care of your child's new room first. Having a base will make the child feel more secure. Stick to normal mealtimes and bedtimes. If you do not have time, ask someone - a friend, a sister or brother or your child's grandparents - for help. Do not expect a child to be ready to go to school straightaway. They need a little time to get used to their new surroundings. Once in school, a six-week period for a child to get used to their new surroundings is normal. During this time expect tears, temper tantrums and emotional upsets. This is normal and is way of coping and adjusting to the new stresses of finding friends, becoming part of peer groups and finding a place in the order of the new school.
- headache or stomachache
- lower marks at school
- anti-social behaviour such as lying or stealing.
If, after a month or two, the child has not adapted to their new school and new home, the parents may consider getting professional help for the child. It is critical to be aware of your child's reaction to the move and monitor their adjustment even while you adjust to the move yourself. Impressions and events that happen to children at any point in their trip toward adulthood can have a lasting impact which will be felt for years to come. Do as much as possible to assure that your child behavior is understood and that you foster an environment where feelings are shared and respected.A move may turn out to be a positive experience for the whole family, provided they go about it in the right way. The reason behind the move may be something good, but any kind of change creates the need for a lot of communication and planning and this may create closer relations in the family. Suddenly it's more natural to talk about feelings and expectations. During a move, parents get the opportunity to learn more about their children, their reactions and feelings. After a successful move, they may find that their child has become more independent.