How To Ease A Move For Kids

Summer is a time when many families with kids move to a new home. It allows the family to settle in before the new school year begins.

But moving can be tough on the children, no matter what their age is and no matter how carefully parents plan.

There are, however, some things parents can do to ensure a smooth transition.

"You want to address the child's needs," says child psychologist Larry Kutner, Ph.D. of Massachusetts General Hospital, co-director of the Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health and Media.

He tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler parents may be trying to protect their kids from adult details, but a 3- or 5-year-old may sense that something is different. Moves tend to occur when you have a new job, or you lost a job, or you're getting married or divorced, or something big is happening in your life.

Pre-teens and teenagers think about what they're giving up. At these ages, Kutner says, friends are everything. "At age 8, a child believes their parents know everything, but in the pre-teen and teenage years, friends and peers are the ones who know everything. If you're being yanked away from friends, that's scary because you're finding out who you are and it's through friends."

So to ease the tension, he offers the following advice:

Younger kids
Reassure them
– Kutner explains, "Little kids worry whether they'll be left behind and will they have to fend for themselves. They may wonder why mommy and daddy are acting different and wonder, 'Am I going to be abandoned?'"

Pack their room last, unpack it first – "You want to have a certain sameness to it," Kutner says. "Kids take a certain security from having the same blankets, the same sheets, the same stuff on the walls. Even though you may say it is time to redecorate everything, hold off with the kid's stuff."

Talk to children about their fantasies – When he was 7 years old, Kutner's family moved from a house to an apartment building, and to explain his point, he says, "I had this fantasy that all kids who lived in apartment buildings in New York were in wheelchairs. It was a symbolic way of me dealing with the idea that I wouldn't have a backyard to play in anymore. Kids often have bizarre ideas of what it will be like in the new place. As a parent, talk to them about that. Share what they're scared of."

Use a buddy system –"Schools are pretty good about this," Kutner says. "If you can, hook up with the school ahead of time so that the child meets the teachers and meets one or two kids from the classrooms. They would see at least one friendly face. Schools have gotten savvy about this. They often have formal programs to tap into."

Beware of giving to much control
– Kutner explains, "One thing you don't want to do is say: 'We'll only move into a house that you approve of.' Because if they don't want to move, there won't be a house they'll approve of.

"What they can deal with is the stuff directly related to things like their rooms or choices where both choices are acceptable to you. You need to put some constraints on it. But you also want to give them more notice because they're concerned about the social stuff. When you're going to high school and you're 15 or 16, you don't care about Algebra 2, what you care about is your friends. Give them permission to stay in touch with their old friends and helping them get involved in activities."

Manage your expectations - "You have to expect that they'll be a bit depressed," Kutner says. "They'll be agitated."