How to talk to the kids about moving.
We often take kids for granted when moving or making life decisions in general. We expect them to just fall into place and adapt like little dutiful followers. Bad idea.
I remember when we changed houses some years ago. On one of the first nights, my daughter asked when we would be going back to the old house.My son on the other hand, asked if anyone will ever come to ask us to leave. Keep in mind both houses were in the same compound!
That is when we realised our mistake; we did not involve them in the move. Sure enough, they had packed what they could and had even picked out the paint colours and designs for their rooms, but we did not TALK to them about it. It was a bad assumption on our part that they could figure out what was going on.
When making the move to Kampala, we decided not to make the same mistake. Luckily we had been here before to visit some friends so they were a bit familiar with the place. Funnily enough, my son kept on saying he wants to live in Uganda then; little did we know his wish would come true a few months later.
So how then does one prepare kids for a move?
First, talk about it with them. Sit down as a family and tell them.
Listen to them too, and let them ask questions about the move. Obviously you have to use child/ age friendly language so that it is not intimidating to them. And try your best to answer them truthfully and in a friendly manner.
Anxiety is natural, but try to address their fears by talking to them about the positives of the move; focus on the good. But also be realistic about the fact that things may not fit into place perfectly at first. It will take time for all of you to adjust.
Remember it is natural for them to feel upset. They are leaving behind all that is familiar to them; their home, school, familiar places, family and friends. It is hard for them too. You can show them pictures of the new place too if it’s already organised so it can be familiar to them. Or even learn fun and interesting facts about the place you’re moving to.
It is very important to listen and observe their response to the news of the move. Some kids may not be willing to talk about it, but observe how they play with their toys and listen to them as they talk to each other. I have found this very important in understanding how my children think and their understanding of how the world works.
Let them pick out and pack their favorite toys, books or any keepsakes that they treasure; It is will make them feel a bit more comfortable and grounded as they have a feel of the familiar in a new place.
It is not easy for both you and them. I learnt and practiced A LOT of patience when we moved. But having a routine helped immensely. Not a rigid one but one where they know ‘what happens when’ so they do not get bored fast.
We were also lucky to get a good school through recommendation of some friends whose kids are in the same school. Go for orientation with them, let them see the school, the classes, the playground, dining hall, pool, and meet their teachers if possible. Don’t wait till the day they have to report.
We had a few weeks before they had to report to the new school. Story books, games, toys, movies and tablets came in handy at that time. Plus a lot of outings and outdoor play as the weather here is lovely. The best thing about kids is they are so creative and can play with anything they come across, and their imagination is still so fertile and vivid. Just make sure they are safe.
Constant communication with family and friends who are no longer near is also very important. Organise a WhatsApp video call with an old neighbourhood or school friend and let the kids catch up with each other. Trust me, it is such a delight for them!
Those months together with them have also worked out to our advantage during these quarantine times. It has been fun coming up with a routine with them that we are all comfortable with.
There are many resources online to help you tackle this subject. Kidshealth.org, parenting.com, psychologytoday.com , childdevelopmentinfo.com are just a few websites that provide a lot of helpful information on the same.