By guest blogger, Deborah Hackett
My almost 12-year-old is preparing for her fourth move, and it’ll be number three for my 10-year-old. My girls are lucky. We are a military family and have friends who’ve relocated twice that many times in the same number of years.
When we moved to the East Coast, we added further uncertainty because the length of our stay was adjusted twice. On top of that, my children are used to knowing there’s a move coming up, but in this area, they’ve also had the experience of being left behind as both adult friends and schoolmates leave for pastures new.
Something we focus on is making them feel as though the ground beneath their feet isn’t permanently shifting. Here are five ways we accomplish this.
Brick and Mortar. Home is very important. We make a big effort to have our house feel familiar as soon as possible. Pictures go up on the walls and soft furnishings are unpacked as a priority. Books and toys follow shortly thereafter. The family room is the first to be fully “normal” with the girl’s bedrooms coming next.
Playdates. I hadn’t ever anticipated how hard it would be on my children to make new friends. Our first year in Virginia, my then six-year-old actually wrote to her best friend in England. I was amazed at her dedication. There’s a new BFF now but she still goes to a different school and they FaceTime more than have face-to-face encounters. As I watch the girls make new buddies, cementing those relationships is key. We playdate and sleepover as much as our schedules (and my sanity) permit.
Substitute Family. With all the moving, the closest we have ever lived to blood relatives is about 90 minutes, but most of our parenting life has been spent on another continent. My husband and I both make friend choices carefully ourselves and are delighted when those special people love on our children too. Our girls have a lot of “Uncle So and So” and “Aunt Such and Such,” and those are the people we spend holidays with, cook out with and invite to recitals and birthday parties. It gives us girls people to watch out for us when my husband is travelling, and our children a sense of belonging.Spiritual Foundation. In all of the crazy, we never fully settle until we have a church to call home and a faith community to press in to. We research ahead of a move, and if there’s an obvious church to attend, we visit there first. If that doesn’t feel right, we pick the next contender and on until we find the one that works for all of us. Then we dig in and get involved.
Family Traditions. This is one of the biggest keys to having children that feel settled and secure. We have holiday traditions we enjoy regardless of where we are. Then there are other things we try to do regularly. Our two favorites are Family Game Night and Popcorn Friday (movie night). These cement our sense of belonging together. Then we try to add one seasonal things like visiting a farm in the fall to get a pumpkin, or a particular venue for Christmas lights. It’s amazing how quickly these become traditions, and they all build into that sense of solidity.
If you aren’t surrounded by family and haven’t lived in your neighborhood forever, I hope one of these ideas will help you feel more rooted and connected. That’s one of the biggest gifts we can give our children and ourselves.
Deborah Hackett is a career journalist turned writer. With more than two decades of news reporting in Christian, commercial and BBC Radio, she knows how to ask good questions and what makes a great answer. Additionally, Deborah has numerous articles in print and is a professional speaking coach and ghostwriter. She has written a Bible study for military wives and is midway through writing a four-book fiction series. In her spare time, Deborah plays on her church worship team, skis and bakes. She is married to Willy, a Royal Air Force pilot, and is mom to two little girls. Learn more at www.deborahhackett.com.