PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3
I will never forget the day we drove away from Ms. Susie’s house for the last time. My daughter and son (ages seven and five years old respectively) sat silent in the back seat as we left their beloved caregiver for the last time. Suddenly my son burst out with a sudden and heartbreaking cry: “I’m never going to see Ms. Susie again!” And thus began our first of several necessary, and as we would come to realize later traumatic, moves away from everything and everyone we knew in pursuit of better jobs, better schools and a better future for our family.
Suddenly my son burst out with a sudden and heartbreaking cry: “I’m never going to see Ms. Susie again!”
I discovered I was among the more fortunate parents whose children were fairly young and in some ways less vulnerable to the pitfalls of moving than families with older children settled into longer and deeper relationships with family and friends. Despite their youth, my children suffered because they had to learn to maneuver and negotiate a foreign culture hundreds of miles away from a large and loving company of grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins who were more like siblings.
Trust me when I say my husband and I thought long and hard about this move with lots of consults from family and friends and fervent prayer that we were doing the right thing. After all we were an African American family moving to the midwestern cornfields of Iowa. Yes, you heard right, IOWA, where the ground in winter can be frozen and covered for weeks in ice and snow with below zero temperatures that make you want to holla!
If you happen to be one of the many families facing the daunting task of uprooting and moving your family far from familiar shores let me share a few thoughts on how we managed to make it work for our children and our family as a whole.
TALK IT OUT
You always have a better chance of success when you are made aware of what’s coming and have time and opportunity to ask questions, share perspectives and gradually adjust to the idea of significant changes in your view. It also helps to have clear and sensible rationales that offer practical benefits for making this change. Even young children have an amazing ability to comprehend big subjects when approached in ways they can understand. Your trust relationship can be enhanced and their resilience strengthened when treated with the respect of being included in the “loop”.
If we’re honest this also works best for adults who are much more likely to accept major change when announced well in advance with honest explanations and authentic opportunities to have questions answered. You can see the logic in this approach if you’ve ever been blindsided with a huge change decision and been forced to “just deal with it.” If this is difficult for adults, imagine the reactions of children and adolescents who are still developing the coping skills required to handle difficult situations. It can drive your offspring to acting out behaviors that make them unrecognizable and leave you wanting to run for the hills!
Where once we might have thought of military families being the main units that had to relocate on a regular basis, we experienced for ourselves how frequent moves can become a part of the life of college faculty and staff as well. For more tips on how we navigated our career moves with kids, check back next week for Part 2.
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