Renee Raab Whitcombe, mother of two girls, grew up in Scarsdale and Manhattan, and has relocated 11 times, twice with her daughters, now 6 and 7. She has turned this experience into a keepsake journal, Look Who's Moving To a New Home (Budding Family Publishing, $24.95), which helps kids in transition. Sotheby's Real Estate is giving the journal to clients with school-age children moving to or from Westchester.
Whitcombe offers tips for families who are relocating:
1. Present the move in a positive light. Explain to your child the circumstances of the move (job transfer, new job, being closer to family), and let them know why relocating is good for you all. Convey your genuine enthusiasm about the new home, new school and new neighborhood, but don’t overdo it with over-the-top cheerleading.
2. Listen. And then listen some more. Communication is critical between parents and children when introducing and preparing for a move to a new home. Encourage questions and candid discussion. Be sensitive to fears, sadness or confused emotions. Let your child know you are available on an ongoing basis.
3. Explain the timing and process. No matter what age your child is, the whole idea of moving becomes more clear when you explain everything step-by-step. Be generous with details about who does the packing, when the movers will come, how the family will travel to the new home, and how the movers will transport everything.
4. Involve your child in the moving process. Allowing age-appropriate input on decisions and planning will help your child feel like a participant in the move. Let your child help pack his own belongings, allow him to decide which things get thrown out or donated to charity, and let him mark the boxes from his own bedroom.
5. Avoid Moving Day Melt Down. Judge your child’s emotional threshold for observing movers methodically pack, wrap and empty your home, and make plans accordingly. Perhaps it’s best to drop him off with a friend or relative, or hire a babysitter to take him to the park and out for lunch at a kid-friendly restaurant.
6. Visit and research the new neighborhood. Find out as much as possible about your new home and area, and share the information with your child. If your child can’t visit the home ahead of the move, bring back pictures or a video to help him envision his new room and the kitchen where he will be eating meals. Get a local map of the new area and highlight school, parks, grocery stores and other places of interest to kids.
7. Stay in touch with friends and neighbors. Help your child to understand that moving away doesn’t mean losing special friends and family forever. Buy a new address book to collect contact information. Take lots of pictures before you go — for a memory book. Have a good-bye gathering (at your home, a friend’s home, or a local pizza place). Send postcards with your new contact information to friends and family, and include a request for visits, phone calls and email.
8. Be prepared for some acting out and moodiness. These are natural signs of stress and adjustment. Your child may be experiencing several conflicting emotions. It’s entirely possible to feel excited, sad and scared at the same time. Going from familiar to unfamiliar is difficult, especially for a child who wasn’t responsible for the initial decision to move in the first place.
9. Transfer routines. As you get settled in your new home, remember to bring traditions with you. Keep your same places at the dinner table. Arrange food and drinks in the fridge as you usually do. Resume Friday movie-and-popcorn-night as soon as possible.
10. Plug in to the new neighborhood. Seek out new friends on the block. Sign up for activities your child already enjoys (sports, art class, dance, martial arts). Visit the new school. Get a library card and hit the mall. A proactive approach will go far to generate a sense of familiarity quickly and is sure to help break the ice.