A moving survival guide for families relocating in tough times.
By GreatSchools Staff
Yes, the U.S. economy might be improving, but another 36,000 Americans lost their jobs in February, forcing many parents to look for work in cities they might not have considered before. Job opportunities vary widely by region too: While the unemployment rate in Charlottesville, Va., is a fairly low 5%, Bend, Ore., is now at 14.5%.
Uprooting a family can be especially hard on children, since they have to leave behind familiar friends and neighborhoods and adapt to the academic and social setting of a brand-new school. Wondering how to make the process less painful? Whether you're moving across the state or across the country, we've got the tips you need to make a smooth transition.
Timing is everything
Families considering a move face a potentially overwhelming array of choices about timing and logistics. Move right away? Wait until the end of the school year? Commute long distance? Split up the household while the parent with the new job settles in?
When it comes to minimizing kids’ stress, timing is especially important: Experts agree that it's better to move during the summer. Jodi Goldberg, the executive director of GreatSchools Milwaukee, cautions against switching schools mid-year, citing studies that suggest it's much worse for children's education to move during a school year — even if their current school is merely mediocre.
Waiting until summer gives students the opportunity to finish a grade without interruption, say their goodbyes to friends, and start the next school year with a clean slate. And it's usually easier to make friends and adjust to new surroundings when your peers are doing the same thing.
Breaking the news
Once you've decided when to move, you'll need to tell your children, and how you do it will depend on their ages. For younger kids, you may need to explain what it means to relocate — draw pictures, act it out, or just find a way to explain the process in the simplest terms. For tips on getting the conversation started, check out these recommended reads for preschoolers and elementary schoolers. A visit to your new home ahead of the moving day could quell fears and anxiety about the place and even give your family a chance to meet the neighbors.
Older children and teens with more-established social lives might be upset (and understandably so). Parents should be prepared to face complaints, accusations, or guilt trips.
But you don't have to dismiss these emotions outright. One mom, Nancy Masterson, moved several times with her family, ultimately landing in Jacksonville, Fla. Her approach mixed empathy with firmness. "In all of our moves, I felt that acknowledging our children's feelings was important when they didn't want to leave their friends," says Masterson. "At the same time, we treated each move in a very matter-of-fact manner."
Facing hard times, Sonali Morris, now an employee at GreatSchools, moved her family from a small town near Cleveland to Detroit. But she took a direct, upbeat approach in talking about it with her kids.
"We decided not to shelter the kids from anything," Morris says, "so we were always up-front about what was going to happen, how hard it would be, and what it meant for them. They knew they'd be leaving familiar friends and places, but I made sure to emphasize all the positives about where we were headed. I told them they would be able to call, Skype, and write their friends to keep in touch."