Moving house is a big step for all children – and parents too – but for a highly sensitive child (HSC) the wrench away from the familiar and trusted environment to a new unknown place can hit particularly hard. We moved from one side of the Netherlands to the other last summer and I prepared my sons as much as I could before we actually relocated.
Here are some tips that helped our HSCs with a big house move.
1. Look After Yourself
Ensure that you are in a fit state to help your child with their emotions about moving. If you are stressed about the upcoming move then your child will pick up on that and take on your unease. You will also be mentally and emotionally unable to help your HSC process how they feel.
Ask for help, set up a healthy routine and make sure you find time to empty your own bucket on a regular basis.
I know from personal experience, especially as a highly sensitive person, that this is the hardest advice to act upon – but it is essential. There is a tendency to put yourself as a low priority but no one benefits when you are overwhelmed and run down.
2. Visit the New Place as Much as Possible
If the distance allows then spend as much time as you can visiting the area you will move to. The more familiar a place feels, the easier the transition will be.
HSCs benefit from being able to picture how things will be – this includes their new house, school, after school clubs, local shops, points of interest, significant buildings – anything that forms part of their daily life. Show them how they will get to school, or to their football training or dance classes. Show them where you will do the grocery shop. Normal life.
Take lots of photos and videos. Make a photo book so your child can look at images of their imminent new life when they return home.
If you can, arrange for your HSC to go to their new school for a day or two before you actually move, or join in a sport or dance class they will participate in before moving. They can meet people and also then know what to expect once they move, which will in turn greatly reduce anxiety.
Our three sons attended their new school for two days just before the end of the school year. It meant an overnight trip but it was definitely worth it. They became familiar with classmates, the layout of the classrooms, the teachers and the new way of doing things. They loved the days they had in their new classes so throughout the summer holidays they were actually looking forward to the new school year instead of stressing about how it would be for them. That was a huge amount of stress taken away from us too!
3. Explore the New Area from Home Using Technology
If you are moving to a place that is far away from where you currently live, it may not be possible to travel there regularly enough to get to know the place before the move.
Luckily, you can use technology and the internet to explore the area you are moving to. Look at your new house, street and town on Google Maps. Look at schools, sport clubs, places of interest online so that your HSC has a feel for the place you are moving to. Make it as visual as you can.
4. Focus on the Positives
There are many reasons for moving house and the positives you can focus on will depend on the why. We moved from a town to a rural village, from a relatively big primary school to a small school, from a densely populated area to a more sparsely populated part of the country. We moved for more greenery, more nature, and more space around us. The positives were clear and deliberate. And they helped our children look forward to making the move and embrace the change they faced.
So make a list of the benefits of moving – the negatives you will leave behind and the positives that will be added to your lives.
5. Get Your Child Involved in the Decor of Their New Room
Our sons were in complete charge of how their new bedrooms would look. They scoured Pinterest for decor ideas. One chose a space theme, one football and my youngest wanted an animal themed room. It made them excited for something new, whereas usually they would be happier with the familiar.
Starting from scratch can actually be exciting and involving the kids in that can reap huge benefits.
Sometimes, a child will opt for their new bedroom to look exactly like their current room – and that is comforting too and certainly a way to help with the transition from old to new.
It’s important to get your children’s rooms ready as quickly as possible to help them settle. We made it our priority so the boys’ bedrooms were ready before any other room – that way they had a place to retreat to away from the mess of the rest of the house in the first few weeks.
6. Prepare a Personal Moving Box
Prepare a designated moving box for your HSC that contains items for the first night in the new house that will provide comfort. Think along the lines of bucket emptying activities, favourite toys or books, bed linen and a favourite pillow, a lamp they are used to reading by, photos, drawings, creations – and make sure their comfort blanket or cuddly toy is close at hand.
Take this box with you in the car when you move so that your HSC knows their things are close at hand and cannot get lost.
7. Make Space for All Emotions
Make sure your HSC knows that all emotions are valid. They may be upset, anxious or even completely against a move. Don’t try and sugar coat a move – it will be hard and there will be emotional dips along the way (we have recently learned that this is around the six month mark for sure!). Friends will be missed. The familiar will be longed for. Adjustment will be tough some days. Let your child know that whatever they feel it is valid and okay. Be honest and open about your own feelings too – you will also go though highs and lows.
8. Be Patient
It takes time to adjust to the idea of moving, let alone the actual move itself. Be patient with your HSC as they get used to the change facing them. All the tips above will support your HSC as they go though the process of accepting and adapting.