It’s that time of year — whether it’s parents completing graduate school or waiting for the kids’ school year to end, summertime is often moving time. And whether the move is across town, across the country, or across the globe, parents want to know how to help their kids make the transition smoothly.
While it’s normal for parents and kids of all ages to feel both excitement and anxiety about a move, kids need different kinds of support at different developmental stages.
INFANTS & TODDLERS
For infants and toddlers, it’s all about the routine. The move WILL disrupt their routine, but you can help by preparing ahead of time. Talk with them about the changes to come; they’ll understand more than you realize, especially as the changes happen.
Plan to set up baby’s bedrooms ASAP, and make it as close as you can to the old room, at least to start. Hang up familiar pictures. Place familiar books on the bookshelf and favorite toys in the toy box. Bring the bedding from the old home unwashed, and place it on the bed for at least the first few nights. (The “smell of home” will be comforting.) Work to resume the child’s regular bedtime and sleep routines as soon as possible — even the first night. This can take some pushing, but you want to establish good sleep routines in the new house (and not start bad ones!) right from the start. Everyone will be happier as soon as the baby is sleeping well!
Preschoolers still generally thrive on routine, but they can start to understand what moving will mean, and what it means to leave their current home, school, playground, and other familiar places. Talk with them ahead of time about how “we won’t live in this home any more,” and brainstorm what will be the same, and what will be different in your new home. Take them to see, or show them pictures of, your new home, including where they will eat, sleep, and play. Include your preschooler in planning how to decorate his new bedroom, and let him “help” pack some of his things (the ones that won’t break, obviously!). Consider a going-away party with preschool friends, and make arrangements for ongoing communication with special friends.
Just like for infants, it’s helpful to preschoolers to set up their room right away. At this age, they can help to decide what’s kept the same and what’s different. Bringing sheets and blankets unwashed from the old house helps here too, as does returning to the child’s regular sleep habits. Make a point to take some breaks from unpacking to discover new playgrounds, libraries, and other fun kid places in your new community.
School-aged children will start to anticipate the move, and may be sad or angry about leaving friends, school, activities, or favorite places. As you plan goodbye parties and visits to favorite local places, acknowledge that moving is hard, but also talk about the new friends and places you’ll find in your new location. Engage children in searching out fun things to do in your new location, and look for particular activities that your child has enjoyed here, such as sports teams, musical lessons, or a scout troop. Introduce your child to her new school as soon as possible, and try to get in on some summer activities with kids who will be classmates. If your child has special learning needs, be sure to talk with the school right away, so that all of the needed supports can be in place when she starts school.
Adolescence is an especially hard time to move, since teens are very connected to their peers and working to separate from parents. If you have the option, it’s worth considering NOT moving, especially for older teens late in high school. If there really is no option but for the family to move, is there a way to allow the teen to stay with a family member or close friend and finish high school before joining the rest of the family? If there really is no other option, be sure to plan for ongoing communication between your teenager and her friends. If possible, leave some money in the budget for a return visit or two during the first year after the move.
Just like for younger kids, teenagers can be put to work finding fun things to do in your new community. You may even be able to put them in charge of that job for the whole family! Allow a teenager to be completely in charge of decorating her own room, and just as for younger children, work hard to plan for school and meet school peers over the summer.
For kids of all ages, you’ll want to find a new pediatrician. Ask your Kids Plus Provider if he/she has any recommendations; we know a lot of docs around the country, and even a few around the world! Dr. Pai was recently able to personally recommend a pediatrician in Singapore for a Kids Plus family moving there! You can also ask your new neighbors and work colleagues who they like. You’ll also need a new family dentist, and any therapists or support providers that your child needs.
As for transferring medical records – make sure your Kids Plus portal account is active, and you’ll have access to the basics that a new doctor will need (vaccine & growth records, visit summaries, lab results) from anywhere in the world. Once you have a pediatrician picked out, complete and forward to us our MedRecordsRelease811.
Once we receive the form, we will quickly send your child’s complete medical record to your new pediatrician.
Moving is both exciting and stressful. Be honest with kids about that, but be clear that, “this is an adventure, and we’re in it together, as a family.” If you’re getting ready to move, we’ll miss you from the Kids Plus Family. But keep in touch via our website and Facebook page, and come back for a visit if you’re back in The ‘Burgh!
Dr. Sarah Springer, a shareholder in the practice, is the Medical Director of Adoption Health Services of Western Pennsylvania.