Everyone knows moves are hard, especially for children, and I am sure you have all read at least one of the dozens of tip lists available about how to make PCS easier for kids. These lists contain wonderful suggestions, such as: allow your children to help with packing, give them choices so they maintain a sense of control, maintain a routine so your kids have an idea of what will happen next, explore your new location together, and the list goes on… and at times may seem impossibly long. However, if you took all the different tips and boiled them down to their basic principles you would discover that what helps make moves easier for kids is communication, knowing ahead of time what to expect, and maintaining some sense of control. A great way to accomplish all three of those things and spend some quality one-on-one time with your kids (also important during a move) is by helping them create their own personal move book. A move book is just what it sounds like, a story about a move; more specifically it is a story about your move. However, as I mentioned above, it is not just a simple story it is a way to communicate with your kids about the move, to provide them foreknowledge of what is going to happen, offer them a sense of control, and add a little bit of fun to an often boring process. The other great thing about a move book is that even if you have already moved you can create one to help your child talk about the move they have just experienced and settle in to their new location. Now that you know why these books are helpful, here is how you can create one:
- Move books can be created using any medium your child likes. They can be written, typed, drawn, or collaged. Letting your child choose how to create the book is the first step in providing them with a sense of control during this rather hectic time.
- Once you and your child have decided how you want to create your book, start by putting in some basic facts about your child and your family. “My name is Lily and I have 4 people in my family. Right now we live in Colorado but very soon we will be moving to Georgia.”
- Add in any details you have about the timing of the move. You can do this by listing out the information or drawing a calendar right into the book.
- Write or draw out the sequence of events that will happen during the move. This is helpful because it provides the same benefit as a routine; in that your child will know what comes next. This is especially important when it’s not possible to keep your normal routine. “First, we will pack up all our stuff. Next, movers will come and load it all up into a big van. Then we will get in our car and start driving to our new home. We get to stop in Nebraska and see Grandma along the way….”
- Once you have spelled out the sequence of events, it is time to add information about the place you are moving to. There are no limits to what kind of information you can add. You can add specific information about what your house will look like, or what school your child will be attending. If you don’t know those details yet you can just put in information about the weather, the scenery, and anything in your new location that your child might look forward to, examples could be a local fair, a great park in your new neighborhood, or a nearby pool. When you are adding information make sure to keep in mind the age of your child, for younger kids you may want to keep it simple and just add in a few pieces of information you know they would really be interested in, whereas for older children you may want to include more details.
- Somewhere in the book it is also helpful to talk about feelings. First, you can describe how you feel about the move, and talk about how other people might feel when they move. Then, if your child is comfortable doing so, you can add in their feelings about the move. Make sure to allow your child to voice both positive and negative feelings about the move, it is important for them to know that you can have several different feelings about the same event. It is also a chance for you to talk to them about healthy ways to deal with uncomfortable feelings, like taking a deep breath or hugging their favorite stuffed animal.
- Once you have created your book, make sure to read it regularly with your child so that the information really sinks in. Reading the book regularly also provides a chance for your child to talk and ask questions about the move.
Remember that this book is a work in progress, your child can always add in new feelings they might be having about the move or new things that they are looking forward to. Even after the move it can be helpful to add information about how parts of the move may have gone differently than they expected or to make a list of their favorite things about their new home.