A New Workbook Helps Children Cope With Moving

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From Herd: The Houlihan Lawrence BlogAugust, 2014

Moving with children can be a daunting prospect.  Experiencing those challenges firsthand convinced child psychologist and mother of four Lori Woodring, Ph.D to pen My Very Exciting, Sorta Scary, Big Move, a creative workbook to help kids cope with relocation.

Woodring conceived the project after moving to London with 18-month old twins, then back to Connecticut five years later—now uprooting four children all under the age of 7.

“One night, my hysterical, inconsolable six year old came to me with her plan. She would find dad a new job in London so we didn’t have to move,” Woodring explained.  “She had some creative job prospects for him I must admit; her next pitch was, ‘Dad could go back to America to work and visit us every weekend.’ And her final, and heartbreaking plea was that she could stay in London and be adopted by a British family!  I was crushed.”

While storybooks had been written on the subject, she sought to create something with a more interactive, hands-on approach.  Her book, she says, is the first of its kind.

We caught up with Lori to learn more on her project and advice for parents facing similar challenges.

What do you hope children and their parents will get out of this book?
Over forty million Americans, or one in five families, move each year.  A move around the corner can be just as challenging as a move overseas for some children, who thrive on familiarity and routine. My husband moved 12 times as a child and we have often explored how his reaction to those moves and how the moves were handled shaped his personality today.  I think that there is so much to be learned from moving and this book provides valuable tools to help children process the experience of moving, discover meaningful ways to say goodbye and stay in touch, get involved in the process of moving, be proactive in learning about his/her new school and neighborhood, and think about ways to make new friends. The book exposes children to numerous strategies to manage emotions with the help of parents. The intention is for the book to generate meaningful discussions between parents and children in a positive and solution-oriented framework.

What advice would you have for parents as they prepare for a move with kids?
1.  Tell your children thoughtfully. Think about timing, environment and attitude before you tell your children. Be sure to tell them as soon as you know the news is certain, set the atmosphere for a well-planned conversation that allows times for feelings to be shared and questions answered, and remember to be positive but honest (it’s okay to admit that it might be hard).
2.  Prepare your children for the move.  Get kids excited and involved in the entire process of moving, from researching their new neighborhood, community and schools, and decorating their rooms, to saying goodbye to the people and places they will miss most. Remember to be a role model!
3. Allow your child to express his/her feelings about the move – good, bad or indifferent.  The more your child expresses and label his/her feelings, the more you can help them talk about ways to manage those feelings and your child will be less likely to internalize or act-out negatively at a later time.

What sensitivities can realtors have to what parents with young children are dealing with?
Realtors have the awesome responsibility of not only finding parents their next house but also finding a family their next home. In this process, it is important to recognize the impact of such a move on all members of the family. Often, parents can get wrapped up in the logistics and may loose sight of their kids’ emotional journey. Anything a realtor can do to help parents stay focused on their kids would be helpful because, in the end, happy children equal happy parents.

“Any big event, weather happy or sad – exciting or difficult, is an opportunity for families to grow and become closer and for children to become more resilient,” Woodring added. “This book provides a format for such learning to take place.”

For more information on Woodring’s book and work, visit her website: movingwithchildren.com

– See more on Herd: The Houlihan Lawrence Blog

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