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How to Help Children Cope with Moving to a New Home
For all the talk of marriage being made in heaven, the obvious reality around us is that divorce is made in Hell. At least, that’s where it takes those involved in it. While it may be a choice between husband and wife, the most emotional damage is handed down to the children. They are now prisoners of war with no rights of their own.
Children, who till the day before were choosing between Batman and Spiderman, now have to choose between mum and dad! For most of them, a divorce means a paradigm change in their way of life. Many have to leave behind familiar homes, schools, friends, and playgrounds, not to mention a parent. All this, after being tossed around in ugly custody battles, with each parent saying that they love them more and that they are only getting a divorce for their sake and betterment.
Moving to a new home is never easy for anyone. It signifies a break from the old, the familiar, the trusted, and the dependable. Moving without a choice is even more difficult. For children, who’ve built their tiny lives on a particular stable platform, moving can be a bone jarring experience. Nevertheless, there are several steps that we can take to make the nightmare of divorce a little easier.
Tell your children about the move. Make them feel like they’re part of the decision. Children like to feel important. They should never feel that they were never consulted. It also gives them a chance to say goodbye. Closure is important at any age.
Find out as much as you can about the new place you are moving too. Further, search for playgrounds, movie theatres, baby sitters, amusement parks, zoos, or anything that could entertain your children and take their mind off the move. Finally, make sure you do a good study of the schools in the area.
Making new friends and fitting in with the ‘right’ crowd is not as easy as it sounds. Check for schools that have a strong extra-curricular programme. An activity packed day is a good cure for a child’s nerves and it would also be a great idea to scout for a good child psychologist to help them deal with the emotional issues created by divorce.
Take the children on an orientation tour of the new area in which they will live. Show them all the sights and sounds. Further, introduce them to the other children in the neighbourhood; easing them into the new house will be a lot easier if they feel that they have something to look forward to.
In the choice of new house, ensure that the children are as comfortable as they were in their former home. Remember, children like nice new shiny things so you may want to decorate their rooms in their favourite colours, and sprinkle their favourite toys about the place.
In the initial stages, take time off to spend with the kids as you might be the one familiar thing in their lives. Let them feel that you’re there for them, and that you will get through the problems that arise, together. If possible, arrange for people they know like grandparents or close friends to come for a visit or a weekend stay; this will make them feel that they still have some semblance of a connection with their old lives.
Be prepared to pamper them in the beginning. Remember, most children cannot deal with a divorce. They may feel unloved; or worse that the divorce is their fault. They also may feel that they are being forced to bear the brunt of this major change. ‘Mummy and daddy have got what they wanted, and we have to make the adjustments’; it is not always possible to convince them that you have their best interests at heart.
Don’t cry or be upset in front of the children. You have to be strong for everyone. Many children are forced to grow up early and they have to become the pillars of support for their families. Give them their space and time to grow up. Whatever said and done, a child’s move to a new home, minus one parent, should be as smooth as possible.