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When my husband and I moved from the Midwest to the South, tops on my list of worries -- before finding a house and making my way in a new city -- was helping my young daughter adjust to her new school and make new friends. Seeing our kiddos fearful about starting a new school or feeling lonely is tough to take. So we asked a few experts for their best tips on how to help kids make friends after a move. Here’s their advice:
Be reassuring. “You’re never alone” is important for kids to hear, says Paul Hokemeyer, PhD, a licensed marriage and family therapist and clinical consult to the Dr. Oz show. “Children need to know that they can always find comfort and guidance in their families,” he says. Talking about the challenges that your kids may face, creating a plan for coping and checking in weekly about how things are going all can help unite a family during a big move.
Time the move right (if you can). If possible, plan your move in between school years, and sign your kids up for summer activities in their new hometown ahead of time, says Air Force wife Andi Wrenn, who's moved her family six times in 10 years. “Getting my kids to the local pool for swim lessons or lessons for things like gymnastics, soccer and art class helped tremendously.
Read a book. Read Emma’s Friendwich by Stuart J. Murphy. Ideal for 2- to 5-year-olds, Emma’s story shows kids how to make friends after moving to a new town. She's shy and nervous, but when she sees the girl who lives next door, she smiles, asks if she can play and shares her toys.
Get involved. Encourage your kids to participate in activities that involve parents, says Amy Kossoff Smith, a mom of three boys and founder of MomTini Lounge. Things like team sports and dance rehearsals help parents and kids meet up. (Added bonus: You might make new friends, too!)
Get guidance. Check in with the guidance counselor at your child's new school to see what kind of assistance she can offer. At Kossof Smith's kids' school, for example, the counselor hosts a weekly lunch to help kids connect.
Relax, mama. Finally, know that your kids won’t be scarred forever by making a move. “Moving has helped my children meet more people and learn more about our country,” says Wrenn. “Now the kids are in college and have no problem meeting people from diverse backgrounds.” And that's reassuring news for any mama on the move.