Is your child prepared to launch? How to support your child in ‘letting go’ before moving

For some, the launch site is a permanent home. You will temporarily be leaving home, but will return after a fixed amount of time. For others, the launch site changes every 1-5 years and may never be a landing site again. Regardless of which type of launch site is affecting your family, it’s worthwhile to create a feeling of closure before a move so that children can feel good about leaving and be ready to accept landing in the new location.

Letting go is a process that varies based on the children’s ages, their personality characteristics, and tolerance of change. Generally the process of letting go before a move includes:

  • Informing the child about the pending move and giving them sufficient time to accept the reality.
    • Younger children (0-5 years) will benefit from less time as they are unable to understand time as an abstract concept.
    • Older children (school-age and older) will need more time to accept and prepare.
  • Identifying age-appropriate ways to help the child communicate with friends and acquaintances about their upcoming move.
    • Younger children will need help sharing the information with friends, preferable through trusted adults. Feelings can be expressed through touch (i.e. hugs and kisses) if verbal language is limited. Additionally, materials for drawing and painting can be used to support emotional expression.
    • Older children will be able to share the information and their feelings related to the move by talking, writing, or other creative avenues (i.e. music, dance, art). However, some may need emotional support to engage in these activities.
  • Fostering positive relationships in the child’s life at the launch site to help bridge the gap between launch and landing.
    • There is often a lag of time before children find new friends in their landing place. The use of positive relationships at the launch site can help sustain the child until a new friendship is created.
    • Communication via the Internet (i.e. Skype, FaceTime) can promote the relationships after the launch and landing have taken place.
  • Promoting a healthy balance of attention prior to the move from school, friends, and community.
    • It is very tempting to plan numerous parties, events, and special activities to send off a child on a positive note. The child may experience a new popularity that makes it even more difficult to leave because she or he has reached a desired social level.
    • Over-inflating the sendoff from the launch site will create an even greater let-down when landing. Moderating the amount of attention generated can support healthy letting go by keeping a realistic expectation of the child’s importance in their community.
  • Acknowledging the sense of loss and uncertainty the child will encounter with the move.
    • Younger children may regress developmentally as the move approaches. Bed-wetting, sucking thumbs, or security blankets may return as the child looks for ways to create stability. Parents should recognize these behaviors as a phase and address the issue in a non-disciplinary way.
    • Older children may become more aggressive or regress as the moving date approaches. Extroverted children tend to act out more while introverted children may retreat more. Encouraging expression of thoughts, feelings, and fears can help children deal with the emotions that are causing their change in behavior. Within the limits of the family norms and values, parents should manage their children’s actions with empathy.
  • Avoiding making grand schemes to encourage the child into accepting the move.
    • Landings are most often fraught with uncertainty. It is wise not to promise extraordinary things to convince a child that moving will be a positive experience.
    • Parents are better positioned if they maintain a clear and consistent message that the experience going to happen and that the parents will support the child emotionally through the transition to the best of their abilities.

Letting go is an essential part of moving. Failure to address the needs of the child as they prepare to launch from their school, friends, and social communities, can permit the child to develop bad habits that will not support a healthy adaptation in the new environment.

Some common activities of a child who does not understand letting go includes: lying, creating a false persona, manipulation of friendships to gain power, throwing friends away, and projecting an artificially secure self-image. This happens because the child believes they will leave everyone behind after launching and get a clean slate to start again when they land in their new environment. Unfortunately, with the Internet and social media sites, such as Facebook and Instagram, the world is very connected. Older children can now find that their past behaviors follow them to new places.

Teaching children how to learn to say goodbye is a vital life skill, especially if the family will be moving frequently. Letting go is a process that can be learned, if property fostered. When mastered, children will be able to say goodbye, feeling confident that they can maintain a relationship with those persons that are most important to them while opening themselves up to accept new friendships in their new home.


Knowledge is power

  • What new information did you learn from this posting? 
  • Did it help you identify something in your family you would like to change? 

Share your experience below and what steps you plan on taking to guide your family.

 

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About the instructor
Proactive Parenting
Dr. Deanna Marie Mason PhD
More than 20 years of clinical experience helping families:
Bachelor's Degree in Registered Nursing, Master’s Degree in Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and PhD in Nursing. University professor, patient education specialist, pediatric researcher, published author and reviewer to first-line international scientific journals, continuous philanthropic activity related to health promotion and education, wife and mother of two children.

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