Marshmallow Mondays


A Little Reflection

It has been well over a year since we took the plunge and decided to move south.  Not a day has gone by since we arrived in Kentucky that I haven’t reflected on our transition.  Today I  am sharing an article that I recently wrote for StepMom Magazine about our relocation from Pennsylvania to Kentucky.  Rydan, particularly, has exceeded my expectations as far as how he would adapt to a new town in a new state.  Below you will find my article, which was published in the January 2013 issue of StepMom Magazine.

Relocating or Moving Into A New Home?  

A Little Planning and Creativity Can Make the Transition Easier on Your Stepkids.

It’s been 10 months since my family relocated to Kentucky from Pennsylvania. With a 7-year-old and a 1-year-old, the decision to relocate came as quite a shock to my husband and me, let alone our families. Yes, we had the option of turning down my husband’s job offer, but we viewed the offer as an opportunity that we couldn’t pass up. Looking back, I know we made the right decision.

While I’m no expert on how to properly adapt one’s family to a new state, our transition has been much easier than I imagined.  Here are a few tips to help everyone adapt:

Refer to your custody agreement. This is most important before making any decision about relocating. My stepson’s mother has not been involved in his life since he was two years old, so we never had to compromise our holidays, birthdays or other significant dates. Regardless of your stepchild’s relationship with his or her mother, always refer to your custody agreement or seek the advice of a lawyer before making a decision. Most custody agreements state that one parent may not move within a certain number of miles from the other parent. Always make sure that you are not violating your agreement before relocating to a new home.

Talk positively about the move in front of your children. It’s no secret that the relocation process can be frustrating. Between coordinating with moving companies, searching for a new home, packing, changing your address and all of the other headaches to deal with, it’s natural to feel stressed. It is important not to let children see  or hear those frustrations. They might already be dealing with a bit of anxiety, and seeing a parent’s frustration will likely elevate their worried feelings.

Encourage your stepchild’s mother to be supportive. Regardless of your relationship with her, remember that your stepchild’s mother can be very influential over how your stepchild feels about the move. Ask for her help and support in reassuring your stepchild that moving to a new home can be exciting. At the same time, offer reassurance to her that her visitation with her child will not be compromised because of the move. Realize that she may need some time to digest the relocation, just like your stepchild. Remember that, by working together, parents can ensure a smoother transition for the children involved.

Prepare children for the move in small, fun ways. I bought my stepson a place mat of the United States, and pointed out where Kentucky was on the map. That way he could see how far he was moving and what states we would drive through on our way to our new home.  Plus, it was a great educational tool. Buy a photo album that your child can fill with pictures of his or her family members and friends. Help your child add photos after each visit home. Allow your child to pick out stationery of his or her choice to write letters to friends and family. All of these things offer a sense of comfort to your child.

Respond positively when children express sadness over leaving friends and family. I still remember my stepson’s response to the news that we would be moving. His eyes welled up a bit, and he said “But, that means I won’t see my best friend, Ryder, anymore.” As much as this broke my heart, I didn’t want him to view our move as a bad thing. My response to him was, “I know how you feel.  I am really going to miss my friends too, but I am so excited to have the chance to make new friends.” Remind children of all the fun ways that they can now communicate with friends and family, such as letters, email, and Skype. Help your child set up a special Skype date with his or her mother each week. This gives both of them something to look forward as they adjust to the change.  My kids absolutely love to talk with our friends and family members on Skype. In fact, because of Skype, we now communicate and “see” our family members just as often as we did back in Pennsylvania.

Do your research. Before we chose a neighborhood to live in, we researched the schools in Kentucky to find one that was well-suited for Rydan. After that, we found a neighborhood within the school district. You want your child to transition well, and finding a school that is similar in class size to the one your child is leaving, will help him or her feel more comfortable. Rydan’s new school and teacher were great at making him feel welcome when he first arrived. His teacher had made a big deal about his arrival to the rest of the students, so they were very anxious to meet him and learn about where he had moved from. This is also an area where, depending on your relationship with your stepchild’s mother, you can get her involved. Invite her to help you do the research or visit schools and teachers.

Ask your child’s current teacher to help make the relocation a positive experience. Rydan’s Pennsylvania teacher did a fantastic job at helping him transition to his new school, while also showing him that he would be missed by his old friends. A few weeks after we had arrived in Kentucky, a package had arrived from his Pennsylvania teacher and his old classmates. They had each written a letter to Rydan, asking him about Kentucky and his new school. Rydan was so excited to receive the letters, and he quickly wrote a letter back to his classmates telling them all about his new home and school.

Take advantage of attractions in your new state and do some exploring together as a family on weekends. Visit local museums, festivals, amusement parks, etc. so that your children can see how much fun it is to learn about and experience new things in a new place. It will also make you feel more at home in your new environment, and you’ll learn your way around faster by driving to various points of interest.

Try to keep your old routines, but also be flexible in making new ones. If you and your children went to library story times back home, continue to do that in your new town. If you had a Friday night pizza ritual, continue it. It’s important for your children to see that with all of the change going on around them, there are things that don’t have to change.

Encourage your child to get involved in extracurricular activities. Moving somewhere new is a great opportunity to try a new sport or activity. Rydan began Taekwondo lessons within a month of us moving to Kentucky, and it was a really helpful way for him to meet even more new friends, as well as have a positive association with his new home. It was also a great way for me to meet other moms. I ended up playing horse polo one Saturday night with a mom who I had met at Taekwondo. It was a such a wonderful and much needed night out for me, and I never would have had the opportunity to play this type of sport in Pennsylvania. By getting your child involved, you open up the opportunity for yourself to meet new friends too. This can also help your stepchild’s mother see how well her son or daughter is adjusting. Invite her to come watch her child at his or her new class or sporting event.

I can’t think of a better word than “opportunity” to describe my family’s relocation to Kentucky. It’s been an opportunity for my husband and me to teach our children to not be afraid of change, to try new things, and to find ways to adapt together, all the while strengthening our bond as a family even more.

This article originally appeared in the JANUARY, 2013 issue of StepMom Magazine.

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