If you’ve been a Realtor for more than a month, chances are you’ve already encountered families with children. Whether they are moving across the street or across the country, moving creates anxiety in kids, just like it does in adults. Unfortunately, in the overwhelming rush and confusion of managing a move, the stress that children are experiencing can easily be overlooked.
An ordinary move is difficult enough. But if the move is brought about by divorce, death, or some other family upset, the stress can become serious. You’re not a therapist, a counselor, or a psychic. But there are things you can do to help ease the transition for the children in the family. Here are ten creative ideas to get you thinking.
- Get connected. Do some general research ahead of time and develop contacts and connections for both parents and kids. A contact list you can hand to parents could include dentists, pediatricians, emergency numbers, and school contacts. If you know the ages and grades of the children in the family, you can even customize your list with the names of teachers or school counselors.
- Have fun. For the kids, create a special list of parks and other recreation facilities such as pools, movie theaters, bowling alleys, and skating rinks. If there are special activities for kids, like free Saturday matinees at the local theater, be sure to list days and times.
- Let’s go surfing. If the family is relocating from out of town, send them a list of web site addresses the kids can explore online before they arrive. Provide links to any extracurricular activities you think they might be interested in, such as local sports teams, public parks, music teachers, or dance classes.
- Be a tour guide. Plan a special tour just for the kids. Show them around their new neighborhood, stop for an ice cream or a pizza (with parental OK, of course). If you know local kids of the same age, invite them along and give the newcomers a chance to meet some potential friends.
- School’s in. Get connected to local schools, so you can easily call up the principal, counselor, or someone on the staff when you have new students coming in. Arrange a visit or tour. Find out what extracurricular activities they are interested in, so they can meet the volleyball coach, band leader, or art teacher while they are there. If there’s an enrollment packet or list of required documents, be sure the parents have that in advance.
- Think small. Younger children are fearful too, because their normal routine is being upset and it may be hard for them to understand what moving really means. Put together a special care kit to keep in your office or car. Include some cuddly stuffed animals, coloring books, or other amusing distractions. Always include them in the conversation if they are in the room when you’re talking to their parents. Use toys and other props to tell stories that will help them understand the moving process.
- Encourage conversation. Whether big or small, children benefit from a chance to talk and to be heard. Don’t ignore the fact that they are leaving friends and familiarity behind. Ask them about their old home, their school, their friends. Whenever possible, relate their likes to local possibilities.
- A house IS a home. Do everything possible to help kids feel at home in their home. In advance, you can send emails with pictures of “their” new rooms. If they have pets, talk about the yard and other places to play. Take them to the property and give them plenty of time to explore and ask questions.
- Create a “care” package. Put together an age-appropriate box of goodies to deliver on move-in day. Gift certificates to the local pizza place that delivers, some movies, books, or video games to keep them amused until theirs get unpacked, in short—anything that will help them feel comfortable during their first few days in a new and unfamiliar place.
- Follow up. Once the family has moved in, don’t forget about the kids. Check back in a week or two to see if everything is going smoothly, if they’ve made the connections and found the resources they need.
Whether they are toddlers or teens, moving is stressful for children. Not to mention their parents. As a professional Realtor, the small things you do can make a huge difference. You can help to break that cycle of stress and make the move a positive experience for the whole family.