Both in adults and in children stress is recognised as emotional reactions (sadness, anxiety, panic, mood changes, anger…), cognitive reactions (self-criticism, impaired concentration, forgetfulness, intrusive thoughts…), physical reactions (palm sweating, heart beating, flushed face, abdominal pain, headache…) and behavioural reactions (crying, stamping, aggression, uncontrollable fits of rage, withdrawal…)
Moving house to another part of the city or to another city is part of the life experience of many families and children. The child, as well as the whole family, experiences big changes, e.g. changing kindergarten or school, loss of familiar neighbourhood and environment, friends and peers s/he has played with, favourite place to play, etc. In time, children and youth, typically, adapt well to the environment they moved to.
Talk with children about changes
However, it is important to remain alert about the aforementioned aspects of the loss as consequences of moving and to estimate possible difficulties from the point of view of the child or adolescent. If parents and significant adults estimate the severity of the loss from their, adult point of view, believing that “it is not such a big deal”, they will possibly be less sensitive for the signs children send indicating that losses have been hard for them. Adults forget that maintaining contact with friends and people they have left behind is easier for them than for their children. Some of the signs mentioned may be expressed as irritability, frequent mood changes, pronounced separation anxiety, rebellious behaviour and more frequent outbursts of anger, absence of mind and consternation, learning difficulties, difficulties at school, possible withdrawal and difficulties in making new friendships.
It is, therefore, important to talk with children about changes caused by house moving, provide support and acknowledge their sadness for what they experience as their loss. Providing the child with enough time to accept the idea of house moving and the accompanying change is necessary. Children need support in finding ways of saying goodbye to friends, their old room, flat/house and neighbourhood. It is good to talk with the child, especially with a young child, about possible ways of maintaining contact with old friends. Parents can support the child by making contact with their child’s friends’ parents, helping the child in recording their telephone numbers and addresses and negotiating possibilities of future meetings, and similar.
Encouraging the child and never rushing him/her in the new situation is also important – adjustment to changes is a process and requires time so that the child gets over losses, accepts and gets used to new circumstances.