One thing that's guaranteed when you work for God? Moving regularly! On top of spiritual tasks like praying about your move; and practical tasks like sorting, packing, and finding a house; there’s also the relational job of caring for the family’s emotions. Moving can be almost as stressful as getting a divorce or being seriously ill!
In our last move, our teenager was reluctant to move to a new culture, new school, and completely different study program. My chances of finding new employment were about as good as building an igloo in the Sahara.
If you’re facing a move, give every family member a sheet of paper with four headings that will help them express their emotions:
- My fears and concerns
- What I’ll miss the most
- What I may need help with
- What I’m looking forward to
1. Soothe fears: 1 John 4:18
Invite each person to share what they’re afraid of. What answers will calm anxieties about new schools, work, friends, cultures?
Accept their fears as real, stop what you’re doing, make eye contact, explore what helps them feel hopeful, and then do what you can to reduce their fears. Pray together and encourage each other to trust in God’s loving care.
2. Comfort losses: Rom. 12:15
Be honest about what you’ll miss. Comfort each other: “I’m sorry you’re feeling sad. What can I do to help you feel better?” Listen to their sadness and validate their feelings before trying to cheer them up.
3. Offer help: Gal. 6:2
Ask each other how stressful the day has been. “How could I help lower your stress level?” Leaving each other (especially young children) alone to struggle with difficult tasks can bring sadness, fear, stress, and resentment (of you, the move, and sometimes even of God).
4. Celebrate the new place: Jer. 29:11
Balance feelings of loss with the fun of moving. What do you like most about your new home? What is fun about exploring a new area or making new friends? What opportunities does your new place have for skills, education, interests, and hobbies?
PRIORITIZE PEOPLE OVER PACKING
Strive to be understanding, especially when someone is feeling overwhelmed. Everyone has different emotions, and it’s okay to talk about them. Make time to listen to each other even though you’re busy.
The teen years are an extra hard time to move. Teens are so tightly linked to their social network, and making new friends can be intimidating. When educational goals are disrupted, teens may feel frustrations very deeply. They need to know you’ve heard their concerns and validated their feelings. Planning a future trip to visit old friends may be helpful.
Let teens feel somewhat in control of their lives by giving them choices and a limited budget for decorating their new bedrooms. Find out what your new city offers for young people with their skills, hobbies, and interests, and help them to access these opportunities.
When moving leaves you overwhelmed and exhausted, church members are often glad to help. Make a list of things other people can do, so you know which jobs to assign when they come. Or allow them to make meals for you while you clean and pack.
Divide packing into smaller steps and tick off each task as you complete it. Pack boxes tightly to use minimum space, wrap fragile things carefully, and label boxes clearly on every side to make unpacking easier.
We once found a restaurant giving away large, square plastic ice-cream boxes. They were perfect for packing fragile items and for sorting toys, sewing things, tools, packets of food, and so on. We took two hundred boxes and filled, labeled, and packed them into bigger boxes—and it was much easier to find our things once we arrived! We didn’t have to unpack every little thing from every plastic box since they fitted nicely onto our shelves. Hopefully our ice-cream box organization system will make our next move much easier.
HOME SWEET HOME
It’s comforting to have familiar things you can set up quickly to make a new house feel more like home. I collect old candlesticks and vintage quilts, which I arrange as soon as the big furniture is in place. Then we light the candles every evening to make it cozy.
Once everything is unpacked, hide treats in drawers and closets and send the family on a treasure hunt. Everyone will discover where things are kept, and you won’t have to spend the next year finding things for everyone!
You’ve moved! You’ve survived! Now be kind to yourself.
Unpack the most important things immediately and leave the rest for later. Take a break together and have a short vacation or spend a few days exploring your new city. Happy activities can help soothe the emotional stress of moving.
Have a thanksgiving worship to celebrate a safe move and a new home. Thank God for taking caring of you every step of the way.