Making sure your kids are ready to move is by far the toughest part of moving. Someone asked me how we did it. How did we explain to the kids that we are moving again? So after answering her, and realising I totally repressed those conversations we had with Ron, I thought that maybe there are others who will find it interesting, and in any case – if we ever want to move again, it’s a good starting point…
I really want to emphasise here that this is what WE did. It worked for us, with our kids. It is just our story, our suggestions, and our experiences. They are by no means rules to follow that will work for everyone in the same way.
Let’s get started then.
The short answer is – Upsell. As much, as hard and as enthusiastically as you can.
The long answer is – it depends on so many variables, that there is no one right answer for everyone or even for every move. The things to consider are:
Age of kids
Time until moving
Why are you moving
Things that come with you in the suitcase / shipped / sold
Living arrangement before moving and after you get where you are going
School / nursery change (a year back/forward, new school)
Where are we going?
The truth is I found that for my kids it is about feeling in control and secure. The larger quantities of these you can provide, the easier it gets for them.
For us I found that it is mostly about being able to contain the kids’ difficulties, and being prepared for the worst. Maybe it’s my Israeli side speaking, but usually in life if you are prepared for war you won’t have to engage in one. So be prepared for the worst and you won’t have to deal with it. When we first moved we were prepared for Ron to not speak for a year, to go back to bed wetting, to have a total regression. None of it happened.
Basic information about our moves –
First time to Gibraltar, Ron 4.5 years old, Yon 5 months old.
Second time to London, Ron 7 years old, Yon almost 3.
They have not been to Gib before moving, Hidai was a few times and we both went on a preparation trip in which we rented an apartment and enrolled Ron to a school.
They have been to London 5 months before we moved, on a 3 day visit (Ron also 2 times before when he was much younger so didn’t remember), we could not close anything in advance so we had 2 weeks of living in a temporary house in London.
Each time we had no constant home for about 4 weeks, and we had about 2 months without our things (except the suitcases).
Game plan –
First step – “The Talk”
1. Explain the why (daddy got a great job opportunity in…), where (country, city, street – whatever you have), when.
2. Upsell – use whatever you can find, for the move to Gib we used the new language (in London – you already know the language!), new friends, you’ll be a year ahead in school (they start school in the English way, a year before Israel), living almost on the water, traveling to Spain, a great adventure for everyone. For the move to London we used football shamelessly. We promised to be near Arsenal, to go to matches, to enter all contests, to find a young Arsenal club, whatever we could think of at the moment. We also talked about museums, parks, a zoo, being closer to family, having a better school with more options for advancement.
3. Deal with fears and sorrows – we talked about the fact that he already knows the language, that it is the same school curriculum, that he already knows all the TV shows, the movies, the songs, the holidays (All those things are correct for the second move. The first one was harder. We just promised new everything, and how much fun it will be to discover new things).
4. Deal with the friends/family issues – for both times we promised mails, Skype, visits. Whatever works. In reality with friends it didn’t work. At the beginning it was too hard for him to read / see his friends from Gib. He didn’t have anything new and the loneliness and longing were too much. After he started his new school he moved on and wasn’t interested in that. But anyway we were all for it if he wanted to keep in touch. With family Ron was used to talk with granddad everyday at lunch, so even though we couldn’t keep that, we talk to them every evening and try and get the kids to talk to them alone a few times a week (not always work, but we try).
5. Conclusion – it is okay to be sad, we are sad too. We love it here, we had plenty of good moments, we made lots of friends. But it is also very exciting to start a new adventure. We know it’s scary, but you are not alone. We are here with you, we will help you whenever you are sad or scared. It is also okay to be excited about moving to a new place, about doing all the great things we will do (Upsell again). I promise you it might be hard and scary at first but it will get easier and much more fun.
*We enter here the fact that Ron dealt with difficulties bravely and superbly before – moving to Gib, his operation, etc. And the fact that bravery is not being “not afraid” but overcoming fear, and that, well, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (with some examples of how he overcame fears and was better for it).
Second step- The Practical.
Ron needs everything to be organised, in control, and mainly – known. He does not do surprises well.
1. Explain what is going to happen in every day – when to tell people, when will he have a going away party, when is his last day at school, when we will be packing, when will the movers arrive, when we are flying, where, etc. Basically a very detailed time table.
2. Let him tell whomever he wants.
3. When it’s packing time, we explained again and again and again that all his things will get to the new house when we have one, but in the meantime they are all going into boxes. I actually don’t think he believed me in either time… But anyway the thing was to let him decide (under guidance of course) what he wants to pack in his suitcase. I put out a suitcase in each child room and let each of them pick the clothes, books, DVDs, toys they wanted to take with them. The only restriction was it had to fit in the suitcase. In the end each of them got a 20+ kg suitcase and a handbag (Yon’s was full of animals naturally).
4. Helping with packing the house into boxes so he could see that everything is coming with us (on the first time we couldn’t take everything, so we promised to replace everything as soon as we got to Gib). Yon was in charge of interrupting and Ron on writing the numbers on the boxes (you have to number everything and write what there is in each box for customs. Not only because I am crazy).
5. Show him again the neighborhoods we are looking at, where the Emirates Stadium is, some Google Maps, some Street View.
6. Promise him extra control when we get there – he can help choose a house, he will okay the school, he could choose his room, etc.
7. Talk, talk, talk about how sad he is, and how much fun he will have in the new place. Turn the fact that there are no more furniture in the house to an adventure – play football with a real ball, jump off the only couch left, sleep on a mattress in Yon’s room, eat breakfast at a coffee shop, etc.
8. Feel guilty and as the worst parent on earth, but only when the kids are not around.
Third step- when you get there
Unfortunately it doesn’t all become okay when you land…
1. Explain again what is going to happen, where are we going, how long we will stay there, when will our things arrive, etc.
2. Upsell – as enthusiastically as possible, all the great things you are going to do now in this crazy adventure. Try and do some fun things between all the errands. We took the kids to the London Aquarium for instance, and in Gib, we took them to Toys R Us to choose a gift for being so great.
3. Get them involved as much as possible – when we decided on a neighborhood we took them to see a few houses with us and “consulted” with them on the one we chose. Actually they are the ones who chose to sleep in the same room (we wanted a room to each of them). When we settled on 3 schools we brought Ron with us to see which one of them he likes the most. In Gib we enrolled him ourselves (he was younger and there weren’t any options) but we still brought him to meet the head-teacher and get to know the school before he started. In Gib we let Ron pick which room he wanted, and to pick our home phone number.
4. Try and turn everything to fun – there is no bed to sleep on for the next week? great! you can sleep on the air mattress and jump on it all day; no furnitures means yes for football; need to sit for more than an hour on the tube to get to the social insurance thing? Great, you can play all the DS you want, see daddy, and eat McDonalds. I am a big believer in Take The Kids Everywhere With You method, but the truth is you have to learn how to do that even if you don’t like it, because like it or not – you’ll have no choice. So to make going to the post office more fun I turned it into “exploring adventures” and we tried new routes, or new places every time we left the house. It doesn’t always work, but it’s always worth a try.
5. Talk about the difficulties they have this moment, but again – upsell.
6. Let them help organise the room(s), just so they can see they got all their things.
7. For Ron, at the beginning it really helped him to have a yearly calendar in his room with all the planned visits written on them.
8. Feel guilty and as the worst parent on earth, but only when the kids are not around.
Fourth step- is this forever mummy?
After he got settled, found friends, started enjoying school and stopped missing Gib, Ron asked me if we will stay here forever or move again and when. I told him the truth. In our case the truth, and what I told him is – I don’t know. I do know we are happy here now, daddy loves his job, you kids love London. We want to stay for now. But I don’t know what the future will bring. We have rented this place for 2 years, so for the next 2 years (minus the months from July to now) we are not going anywhere. After that? nobody knows. But I did promise him that if we want to move again we will talk to him and Yon, and that we will never take them to a place that is less good than the one they are in. Gib was better than Israel; London better than Gib. I reminded him all the promises we made when we moved from Gib, and how we kept all of them and he now loves London. And promised that we will move only if we find a better place than London.
Conclusion – I think that in the end of the day moving (twice) was our choice, not theirs. They are just paying a price for something we forced on them. So letting them feel as much in control as possible, letting them voice their concerns, and trying to shed as much positive light as possible are the ways to minimize the huge difficulties the kids have to face when moving to a new place.
I won’t lie. It is hard. It breaks your heart. It doesn’t matter if you truly believe you are doing the right thing for your kids. You feel like the worst parent alive. You feel like your kids will hate you forever. You feel like you did indeed ruin their life. Especially when you do it for the second time.
But it is also true that they have experiences not many kids have, they gained so much from moving each time, and are so happy here now, they adapted so quickly (each time), and we do believe we did the right choice for them. It takes time (and huge amounts of chocolate) but it does get easier and better.
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