Including kids in big changes
When Jared and I considered uprooting our family and moving across country, the main concern I had was for our kids. I was worried about taking them out of their schools, away from their friends and family and just completely mixing up the scenery of their lives. At that time, I drew courage from the fact that I moved a lot as a kid and it seemed to work out well for me; I developed a resilience and love for change that has carried me through my whole life. In fact, my mom had uprooted me when I was exactly my middle daughter's age, to move to the very place we just moved. We lived in Florida for two years and it was the best two years of my childhood. That being said, my kids are not me, and I knew we really had to tread carefully and think this through so that if we moved, they could have the best opportunity to thrive.
Here are a few things we did to build unity and encourage our kids during the decision-making process. We weren't perfect but I think these things have helped us to all adjust, and at the very least, it helped me to know we were listening to them and hearing their needs.
Ask kids their thoughts and feelings about the big decision
This goes for any big decision with kids. Involve them in the process, ask them what they think and feel. Of course, they won't be making the decision for you but it's also very important to get their take on it so they feel validated and not blind-sided by a big change.
For us, this looked like frequent small conversations throughout the entire 9 months we were chewing on our future. It started out with, "What would you think if we moved to Florida?". We chatted about it often and made sure to emphasize that it wouldn't always feel like the Florida vacation they were used to.
As the time approached to really make a final decision, the discussions became more in-depth and serious, which leads me to the next thing.
Make a pro and con list together
A couple weeks before we fully decided we were going to try to move to Florida, we sat down with our kids on vacation and made a pro and con list. We made it fun and did it while at lunch on vacation one day. We all took turns sharing what we thought the best and worst things about moving here would be. For me, the beach, golf-carting, grilling all-year-round and working side-by-side with my husband were my pros. Leaving our family, friends and church were my cons. The kids were very excited to be near Disney and Winter the dolphin but were also nervous about starting in a new school. It was good to hear exactly what they were thinking and to talk through it with them. It also helped us determine how serious their fears were and how grounded their excitement was. In general, by the time we made the full decision, I think we all had a very balanced perspective on what this big move would really entail.
One thing I tried to do regularly was share my real emotions about it with the kids. Of course I was excited and talked frequently of that but I was also super scared to be giving up so much for such an unknown. We talked through these real fears together, we prayed together, and they probably even saw me crying a bit. The kids knew we were nervous, but also that we were looking forward to the move and were depending on God to help us though. We had some great opportunities to talk about making wise decisions and how leaps of faith are often good AND hard. We wanted to be transparent (without scaring them or making them feel like we were unreliable) so that they could share their emotions too. Big changes, even the fun ones, are still hard on everyone.
It really is true that kids are resilient. Some have a harder time with change than others, but if you are paying attention you can help them through those moments and use it as an opportunity for growth in their lives. We have had our growing pains with this move but overall, it has been a very sweet time for our family that we will always cherish.