Fred Rogers talks about
"Children pick up on and share their parent’s emotions. If parents feel optimistic and enthusiastic about a move, then the chances are that their children will share that enthusiasm and optimism, even though they may have sad and angry feelings as well. "
Whether Some adults and children like the adventure of a new home right from the start. Others take longer to adjust. Moving can be especially hard for young children. They consider their home and the things around them as part of them. For young children, "my" is "me," so they feel very much attached to their bed, the window in the bedroom, even the stairs. When families move, children can feel like part of themselves is left behind.
Lots of Feelings about Moving
Some parents are reluctant to bring up anything negative about a move, thinking that if they don't mention how sad it is to leave, the children won't feel sad. But it's natural to have some sad feelings about a move. If we talk only about the exciting things and not at all about the sad ones, children may think there's something wrong with them for feeling sad. But if we let them know it's okay to feel sad and happy about the same thing, they're likely to find some of the happy things about the move.
One time when our family had to move, I told out sons that so man people have felt two ways about the same thing (happy and sad) that there was a word for it in our language. The word is “ambivalent.” The boys latched onto that word and made it theirs! “I really feel ambivalent about this move, “ they’d often say --like a code--which, of course, meant, “I don’t feel all good about it, but I don’t feel all bad about it either.”
Children can also be mad about all the changes. In fact, anger is a natural reaction to loss. It’s important that we do what we can to help them find constructive ways to deal with their anger by encouraging them to use words, pound play clay or make up a song or dance. As with other angry times, we can let them know that it's okay to be angry, but it's not okay to hurt themselves or others. Such limits can be comforting to children. If you don’t allow them to hurt anyone else, they’ll come to understand that you won’t let anyone else hurt them either.
Understanding Temporary Setbacks
When children feel the normal stress of moving, one of the most common ways they react is by regressing – becoming more dependent, clingy, and whiny, sucking their thumbs and crying. They often lose abilities they've just acquired, like toilet training or sleeping through the night. Regression is their way of showing us they want to go back to a safer and more comfortable time. Usually the regression is just a temporary setback until the new place feels like home.Stressful for Parents, Too
On any list of “stresses” in adult life, you'll find moving very near the top. There's so much to do! And so much to feel! Even if there are some exciting things about going to a new home, there's almost always some ambivalence.
Even though parents may have sad and angry feelings, if they feel somewhat optimistic about a move, chances are that their children will share in their enthusiasm. Of course, we shouldn’t hide our true feelings from our children by pretending to feel something we don’t. One of the most important, helpful things we can do if we're angry or sad, is to let our children know that they are not the cause of our anger or sadness. They need to know that they are loved, and that together the whole family can try to make the best of the move.
Knowing that they “belong” and that their parents are counting on them during any time of transition can be an enormous boost to their growing sense of self. Over time, everyone in the family comes to terms with the move in his or her own way, at his or her own pace.
Before the Move:
This article is excerpted from “The Mister Rogers Parenting Book” the last book Fred Rogers worked on before his death in 2003. In this book he wanted to support parents in their most important work of parenting and to help them better understand their young children. As he wrote in the introduction to the book:
“.. if we can bring our children understanding, comfort, and hopefulness when they need this kind of support, then they are more likely to grow into adults who can find these resources within themselves later on.”