Moving to a new apartment
How to make it easier with the emotional impact and the adaptation to the change
Shiri Daniels Ph.D.
Every change in our lives and other shifts we experience hold within a potential for a growth and a hope for a better
future. However, a change might be a traumatic event and bring about anxiety mixed with uncertainty of the unknown and a forced separation from all that is familiar. In order to cross this river successfully, the ability to adapt and some skills to deal with changes are so necessary.
The developmental psychologist Erickson claimed that a human being's development process is linked to passing from one crisis to another. A simple change that occurs within the norms, such as moving to another home, or a coming crisis due to moving to a new place actually sets the challenge and brings about the growing of the personality. The use of the potentials a person has and acquiring new coping skills provides a feeling of achievement and self confidence, it forms the grounds for a better adjusting in to future, towards the next move or change.
On the one hand, a person needs to break away from the routine, he needs excitements in his or her life and a variety of new experiences, on the other hand an extreme or a big change can cause great tension and an emotional distress.
It is a common mistake to assume that pressure is a result of negative incidents in life, or unexpected incidents. In fact, pressure can arise following positive events such as a marriage, giving birth or a promotion at work. The researchers Holmes and Rahe (Holmes & Rahe 1967) found that any meaningful change in a man's life, positive or negative, might bring pressure since it requires a readjustment and a direct coping with new changes. It is important to point out that one change in life can be accompanied with additional changes in life and as a result it would magnify the feeling of stress.
Moving to a new apartment is a change, along with the joy and the excitement that accompanies the change it also requires a complete adjustment of all members of the family. Sometimes the change has to do with the change of the residential area, sometimes even a change of a life style or living style (including moving out of the country, moving from rural areas to urban areas, from the small towns to the big cities, from the city center to the outskirts etc'). Moving an apartment requires the individual and his family to adjustment to a new place, a new frame and sometimes a new culture or language. Moreover, moving away could be accompanied with separations, the discontinuing of close social ties and the need to develop new social contact. From time to time parallel to the moving a person can experience some changes and passages that are not within the norms (a divorce, a loss, unemployment, sickness etc'). The coping in a certain situation when parallel to something else at the same time requires an emotional resistance and energies.
As a result of moving to a new apartment, for the children there are also structural changes of moving to another school which carries an impact on the social-emotional state of the pupil and his parents. Frequent changes and passages form pressure situations for children as well as for adults and make it harder to gather the emotional resources which are so necessary for the coping with a situation within the norms.
Coping means the collection and use of the individual in skills in order to overcome stress situation. Each person experiences stress in different form and strength. In a similar way the ability to cope with the stress differs from one person to another. For example a child can experience an emotional stress in situations in which adults would not feel such stress, it would happen because of lack of methods to cope efficiently with a situation, in contrast children usually adjust well in a new place, they do it much faster than their parents, as a characteristic of age, which exposes an emotional flexibility and the ability to make new contacts much easier.
The bigger the gap is between the characteristics of the residential areas, the longer the period of time needed for the adjustment. It has also become obvious that the ability to cope with stress situation is linked to the subjective way in which the individual perceive the stress situation in comparison to his previous experience, his mental abilities, his social resources and the characteristics of his personality.
The difficult process of adaptation following the move to a new place can be expressed through anxiety, lack of self confidence, a change of self esteem, staying home more than usual, and longing. With children the crisis can form a decline to earlier development stages (wetting the bed and night, sucking fingers etc') or frequent complaints of headaches or stomach aches, nervousness and lack of peace of mind, sometimes even aggressive outburst. Children who find it difficult to adapt to changes would suffer from the symptoms more than children who show a better adjustment. The difficulty can be noticed as soon as they receive the news regarding the move (anger, cry, rebellious behavior). However, in other cases the symptoms would be noticed only after the actual moving (a withdraw from toilette training, bad dreams, a difficulty to let parents leave, introversion, anger outburst etc').
Psychologists usually recommend not to get involved with a few changes at the same time. We have to keep in mind that kids love their routine and need it, the stability and constancy, therefore it is necessary to follow changes gradually and to avoid coping with a few changes in parallel to each other. Accordingly it is not recommended to try new changes such as toilette training while experiencing moving to a new place, it would put more pressure on the child. It is necessary to point out that sometimes the reality dictates coping with a few issues in parallel, such as giving birth to a baby brother close to the move itself, in such cases one can only show sympathy and be more sensitive to the child's needs and to his feelings while providing support, love and care which would fill him and strengthen him to gather his resources and to adapt to changes in his world and his surrounding.
When you face a new situation of moving to a new apartment it is important to widen the social support circles of members of the family and to get counsel when needed. The purpose of the emotional support is to elevate adjustment reactions which are suitable to new conditions and changes. When the case is a sharp change without the proper preparation and arrangements, it would bring feelings of anxiety in these circumstances. It is important to prepare for more awareness and to discuss previous separations and to relate to previous changes as a basis to learn more adaptation strategies which were discovered to be efficient for the family members and which promoted a healthy adaptation.
Major Outlines to Relating Emotionally to Children through Conversations along with the Moving to a New Home and Adapting:
Moving to a new area requires working on a supporting social net. Social unity and social ties create supporting elements for the coping of a person in face of social stress. Children and adults with close social contacts and good social skills expressed better adaptation abilities in new areas. A supporting social net provides an important tool in personal and inter personal quality of life. Moreover, sometimes the individual has a difficulty to use the potential of the support in his reality. Therefore it is advised to listen to children's expressions of feelings, to encourage them and support them in a nonjudgmental or critical manner. In addition, they need to be encouraged to share their feelings with others and not to keep it for themselves and remain in their distress.
It is important to learn from past experiences and changes and to identify promoting ways of coping and blocking ways of coping and building abilities for the move on the grounds of successes and previous changes and the tool box that the child and the teen used for coping. We must let the child connect to his positive and promoting abilities which allow adaptation and well being. The awareness to these positive abilities creates motivation among children and teenagers to use it to try to cope with the difficulties and to succeed. It is advised to discuss with them and with their parents to think together about their personal abilities and characteristics which can be channeled to help them succeed with the different tasks they face when moving to a new place.
We must allow children and teenagers discuss openly about the difficulties arising from moving to a new place and to think together how to deal with them. In parallel, it is recommended to discuss the possible personal and social gains that can be the result of overcoming the difficulties and adapting to the change. One must relate to the feelings and discuss them, the thoughts and the behavioral tendencies of the child in order to plan a better dealing, while elevating self confidence and faith of the individual in his ability to cope successfully with the big challenge facing him.
If a child expresses an emotional stress it is highly important to be attentive to his feelings and not to ignore or take it lightly along with giving legitimacy to his fears (you must avoid saying: "There is no reason for you to be afraid, no reason you should worryֹ" you should rather say: "it is natural to worry when you move to a new place, you have already experienced changes and coped well, we will do everything to help you"). You can also share with your children, depends what age they are, some of your feeling as a parent due to the change and what you have experienced with the current change and help create a feeling of sharing together the overall experience.
The way parents handle the change highly affect the children's reaction. Parents who show optimism, create an atmosphere of confidence and resistance, focus on the positive aspects of the change and not hide their difficulties and doubts, present their children a model of a meaningful adult who has the ability to overcome difficulties and to help them adapt.
How to Make it Easier for the Children to Adapt: Some Practical Guidelines:
Anticipated ways of coping ׀ prepare the children to the future change:
After coming to a decision to move, it is suitable to discuss it with the children and to explain to them what is going on or why you are moving, when, where and how, even which moving company they would use. Sharing with the children this important process is important in order to provide a feeling of control of the future change.
You should present the positive aspects of moving, the advantages which the child can enjoy (a bigger room for himself, a yard).
The very young children ׀ you should tell them about the move, according to their age and developmental stage, straight forwardly and with sensitivity, close to the actual move and the time of packing. This is important so you would not magnify the feelings of uncertainty and anxiety in face of the fear of change in the long run. When we discuss older children, there is another aspect of a social change. In such cases you must share discuss it with them much earlier prior to the moving so they will have enough time to properly say goodbye to their friends and acquaintances, to cognitively adjust, emotionally and behavior wise, to start to accept things and be ready for the coming change of moving to a new place. It is an idea to make a farewell party for the child and to think together of ways to keep contacts with friends who are dear to him.
It is important to take the children to visit and see for themselves the new house or apartment as much as possible, before moving. In addition, it is worthwhile to take the child around for a tour of the new place, to help him get to know the place. In addition to the new home there are the facilities around, so you can show him the playground close to his new home, the shops, the restaurants and the entertainment places, as well as the school or the daycare center where he will attend. While touring you can point at some trucks of different moving companies on your way to throw light of the technical preparation involved
It is advised to let the child meet other children who will be in his class in his new school or daycare center beforehand.
dealing with the separation from the safe and familiar apartment and with meaningful family ties and social ties:
It is recommended to let the children participate in the packing process, their own belongings. It is also helpful to let them put labels on the boxes or decorate them themselves. However it should be done close to the actual date of moving in order not to harm the relative feelings of stability, in other words to avoid an experience of living around boxes. You can ask the movers to load the children's boxes prior to the big day so you can fix their rooms first
On the day of moving to the new place, it is better to allow the kids to enjoy an outdoor activity away from the house you would be leaving (you can let them visit relatives or friends), the purpose is not to expose them to the sight of the emptied home or the truck of the moving companies parked outside and to avoid another bad emotional experience. Moreover, you can let the kids hold things or objects that are important for the day of moving, things which they can take themselves to the new place.
It is advised to let the children feel involved in decisions regarding their own rooms. They can be partners to decisions such as which room to choose, how to place the furniture in their rooms, which color to choose to paint the rooms, how the local movers would wrap their belongings etc'. Through this participation the children would feel involved, and they would be partners in decision making regarding their new home.
In order to reduce feelings of alienation and to strengthen the feeling of control it is recommended that the child would take some things he is attached to (a pillow, a doll, pictures or furniture pieces) and place them by himself in his new room. In addition, it is advised to fix and organize the children's rooms first, so when they get to their new home they will immediately have a nice comfortable room that has some familiar things from the old home and that will help create a feeling of a comfortable routine.
Soon after you are through getting organized again in your new home, it is important to keep in touch constantly with friends and family members through the phone or the Internet. It is great to install a video camera on the computer through which the children can see the people they talk to and feel as if they are there with friends and family they have left behind.