Here is How to Help a Child Accept a New Move
Children are incredibly susceptible to panic attacks during significant changes in their lives. They haven’t had as much time as we have to become accustomed to things moving around and being different. It’s especially hard for an older child around the beginning of puberty to feel comfortable with a big move if they’ve lived in the same place their entire life.
Remember, relationships and consistency are so crucial to a child’s development. Your child most likely has friends at school and in their community that are important to them. It’s essential to keep this in mind when getting ready to move and helping them with any panic associated with moving.
Even moving to a new house in the same city can come with fears for your child. It’s important to be able to validate your child’s experience while helping them come up with coping skills that can assist them in the years to come.
Here are a few tips on dealing with panic attacks in children during a move.
Give Your Child an Adjustment Period
Even adults need to adjust to big decisions. We can sometimes forget that in the midst of moving and planning all the adult stuff, we have a young human relying on us to give them the heads up that something is going to happen.
If you spring something huge on a child at the last minute, they’re most likely going to feel super anxious and afraid. Besides, wouldn’t you? Every human likes to know what’s going on when they decide to change something. That’s why we put so much planning and time into moving, even if it’s just up the street.
Let your child know that something new is going to happen. Phrase it as a fun and exciting adventure where they’ll be able to experience something new and meet new friends. However, be prepared for your child to get upset. They don’t have to react positively to something that may seem scary to them.
When you choose to let your child know you’re about to move, do it a few months beforehand. The sooner you can tell them, the better. They’ll have more time to notify their friends, talk to their teachers, and prepare themselves mentally. Allowing them this time should reduce the chance of severe anxiety or panic.
Prioritize Existing Relationships in Their Life
Most children have friends and relationships in their life, whether at school or near home. If your child has been best friends with a kid down the street since they were old enough to walk, they’re most likely going to be upset to not be close to their friend anymore.
You can help your kid still prioritize these friendships by:
- Purchasing a journal that your child and their friend can write back in forth in as pen pals
- Allowing your kid to spend more time with their friend before the move
- Allowing the friends to talk on the phone or by supervised chat/email
- Letting your child know that they can visit their friend when you come back to visit family
- Potentially paying for your child to visit the family of their friend (depending on their age and your closeness with their friend’s family)
Friendships don’t have to end just because they’re long-distance. Help your kid come to this conclusion by being supportive and entirely open to allowing them to continue the relationship. Also, show them the possibility of making new friends where you’re going.
If your child is going to be attending a new school in the same town, let them know that they can still have playdates with their friends from their old school and that their friend group will only grow with time.
Consider Your Child’s Wishes
It’s important to let your child come to you with their wishes. Even if your child wants to tell you that they absolutely won’t move and they’re not going with you, hear them out.
Obviously, you don’t have to stop your move because your kid doesn’t want to. However, you can validate their emotions and see if there’s a way to make it easier for them. Don’t just shut them down and tell them, “that’s too bad. Suck it up.” That won’t help anything, and it’ll make your child feel hurt and not listened to.
Tell them, “your feelings make sense. I know this is hard for you. What can I do to make it easier?” Sometimes your child won’t know what you can do to help them, so give them some ideas. These could be:
- Promising to go out to dinner every Friday for a month to celebrate your new home.
- Showing your child fun family attractions in the new city that they’d love to visit.
- Offering the possibility of more stability or more space.
- Showing the child what cool clubs or activities their new school has.
- Taking your child to visit before you move, so they can get an idea of the new city and have some space away from home.
- Letting them know of the possibility of adopting a pet someday soon.
- Taking your child to a therapist who can help.
- Letting your kid pick the furniture for their new room.
There are many ways you can give your child a say in the move without giving them total control. Children are just small people, and they have desires and wishes, just like adults. Give them a sense of control, and you might just see that their anxiety and fears will go down.
Teach Your Child Coping Mechanisms
Most importantly, if your child is struggling with panic attacks and anxiety, you’re going to want to help them find coping skills to get through it. If you’re unsure what to do, a licensed therapist is a great place to start.
Therapists for children are trained in child behavior and thoughts and can help your kid understand themselves and the moving process in a way that makes sense to them. You can even try an art therapist. Art therapy helps children express themselves when they don’t have the communication skills that adults do.
Ask the child’s therapist for skills you can teach your child at home. Practice these with your kids by turning them into fun activities with awards. If your child is older, explain why the coping skill is essential and what it can help them accomplish. Kids want to be safe and happy, just like we do.
Moving doesn’t have to be hard for your children. Even when it is hard, there are many ways to lessen the anxiety and help children deal with their fears.
As a parent, you have the possibility to support your child through something potentially scary. If you understand the stress of moving, you can understand the fear of such a big thing for a small person. Your reaction and the way you validate your child’s feelings may just help them be able to deal with future significant changes in their adult life when they grow up.
If you’re personally dealing with panic attacks or anxiety during your move, make sure you get advice from a licensed therapist or counselor. You can explore BetterHelp’s incredible resources for panic attack here: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/panic-attacks. No matter what route you choose for help, online counselors are available 24/7 and can help you get back on track during this difficult time.
We hope you found this blog post Dealing With Panic Attacks: How to Help a Child Accept a New Move useful. Be sure to check out our post 8 Tips on Helping your Kids Adjust after Moving for more great tips!
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