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When it comes to stress, as the old saying goes, moving house is on a par with death and divorce. It seems that no matter how many times you move house, it’s a nerve racking experience. Try and take out some of the trauma and put in some fun. What can you do to make life as easy as possible for the whole family during these trying times (without resorting to Prozac)?
Keep children involved
Kids get uptight when they don’t understand what is happening so the first thing to do is to keep them informed of everything from start to finish. Allow them to voice their opinions on the properties you view, to show their excitement when they see the swimming pool, gardens and their new bedrooms. Encourage them to believe that they are part of the decision-making process.
Regularly show them photos of the new property to remind them of all the good things that they saw and what they will soon be experiencing.
The prospect of a new school can be scary, so once you have chosen the new school; let the children explore it freely online and with any brochures you have. Discuss curriculum and uniform (or lack of it) with them. It will hold less fear for them and they can spend time planning what activities they would like to join. Make time to answer their questions and stay positive. Ask open-ended questions so you can understand what their own impressions are about the school and the move.
Learn the language
Children learn a new language much faster than adults. Give them a head-start by providing them with a children’s phrase book or DVD, or show them basic language videos online. You can find some basic language and video links in our ‘Simple Portuguese in ten minutes’ article. Turn this into a game for the whole family - everyone will no doubt have a few laughs trying out different phrases.
Let them help
Involve older kids in helping you to find information online. This will be a boon for you and an education for them as they learn about the intricacies of moving to, and living in, a new country. Let them sort through their own toys and possessions and help you prepare for packing.
Think of different topics to discuss, perhaps over dinner or when ferrying your kids around in the car.
- What is the climate going to be like, what clothes will be needed?
- How do you protect yourself in the heat?
- What will not be needed in your new home?
- Will friends and family be coming to visit?
- What sports are offered by the school or available nearby?
- Will your children participate in some of the more unusual sports available, such as horse riding or surfing?
- What exploration are they looking forward to? Local nature reserves? Biking in the hills? Going to water parks in the summer months? Go-karting?
There is a wealth of information on activities for kids and adults to browse through and come up with ideas to entertain the whole family. Older kids can read these and share information with younger ones. You can help to build a picture for them of the good times they can look forward to. Not only will your kids be happy to know more about the place they are going to, you too will get more ideas of how to spend your free family time together in the sun.
Check the library
Many books have been written for children about moving house, because kids can have a funny outlook on life and we don’t always understand what is on their mind, or what pre-conception they may have. They could be worrying about their hamster, wondering if they will ever see grandpa again, or that the house you have bought will still contain the furniture it had when you viewed it. A book written especially for children will often allay concerns that we don’t even realise they have.
Encourage children to play with family pets during times of upheaval or stress. Animals are sensitive to moods and will pick up on tension in the air. Take time to explain how Doggy, Puss or Bunny will be feeling and ask the children what they suggest to help their pets. You can take let them act on their ideas if they are not too whacky!
Boxes and suitcases, strange people and all that goes with moving can cause fear and stress in your pets. Letting your kids take Doggy for a long walk or play a game in the garden when you have a grand clear out will help you, the kids and the dog. Putting Puss or Bunny in a quiet place during clear out time is a good idea.
Ask the children to play/stroke/calm pets when a lot of bustle and noise is going on, which will not only help the pets but also make the kids feel important. If the kids get bored (within ten minutes of course), suggest that they talk to the pet about where they are moving to, and perhaps feed the pet some treats as well. This will help both the pets and the kids to take their minds off what is going on around them.
Don’t lose the cat!
‘Losing the cat’ is quite common when furniture is being packed and moved and boxes are all over the place. Many’s the family who have had to unload vans to find ‘Snowy’ or ‘Tigger’ neatly packed into a box or wardrobe. All the more reason to keep your pets safe and calm when mayhem is going on all around.
Many if not all of these ploys will also be a great help once you get to unpacking and settling into your new home. Don’t forget to let the children help as much as possible so that they too feel at home.
The best tip of all is to download our handy Moving Checklist