18 Sep Coping With Relocation As A Single Parent
Coping With Relocation As A Single Parent
As parents, we want the absolute best for our children, no matter the cost. It frequently happens though—without intention—whatever our plans, dreams and aspirations for our children, life can get in the way. And by life, we mean divorce, relocation and adjusting to dramatic changes.
Being a single parent is a tumultuous task on its own, combine this with relocating to another country—away from family and friends—and you have one stress-fuelled vortex on your hands. Having to relocate, or even just move house, is one of the most taxing events one can ever experience and to do this without a partner while the best interests of your child top-of-mind can send you tumbling off the edge.
Let’s take a look at imperative points to consider before taking on the task of packing up and starting a new life abroad as a single parent.
Uprooting a child is not ideal as children thrive on routine; this provides them with some form of security. You will have to plan each step of your big move methodically and meticulously to ensure that this move is more traumatising than it needs to be.
Give yourself enough time for things to go wrong too. Many little things can go pear-shaped and you need to take these little snags in your plans into consideration. If you run out of time due to incremental blunders and hold-ups, bad planning is unfortunately the principal culprit. Ensuring your move runs seamlessly will boost your confidence to take on this gargantuan challenge and this confidence will rub off on your child; maintaining your superhero status in their minds and ensuring they also have the confidence to face life’s challenges head-on.
Involve your child
No child wants to hear that their life will be uprooted, but it’s even worse when they hear about these plans from someone other than you. It is therefore best to make them an integral part of your plans by involving them in each step of the journey to your new life from the get-go.
Study maps, ask their opinions about what to pack and what to leave, get to know your new home together by learning all about it from books and the internet and communicate as much as possible about the new venture you’re about to undertake. Let them choose new décor or trinkets they will only get to enjoy or use once you’re there. In fact, it’s a win-win situation for everyone—you get those extra pairs of helping hands that you need while your children get to do something useful that will keep them involved in the moving process.
Even though you’ll be leaving friends and family behind, you’re not alone.
Use your support system as much as possible prior to leaving by getting your friends to help you pack or assist with last minute chores. You may not see them again for a while (unforeseen pandemics are no fun) so make the hours count. Drink wine, laugh and enjoy being in each other’s company even though your days will be filled with things to do. Good friends will last forever and no matter the distance, spending your last days with you will be a highlight for yourself and your children.
Do enough research
Take enough time to research exactly where you will be staying and working. Familiarise yourself with what will be in your vicinity—why not use Google maps or earth to take a walk-through?
Consider schools, distances from schools, activities and safety. Make sure you don’t find yourself in an unhappy neighbourhood, far away from hospitals and shopping centres, or areas which pose a threat to your wellbeing and safety. Depending on where you’re moving to, find out if there are recreational parks around you where kids can play, or quiet streets where they can learn to ride bikes or skateboard.
Allow your kids to say their goodbyes
You cannot guarantee anything in the future, and no matter your intentions seeing your loved ones again is one of those things. People get caught up in their own lives trying to survive from day to day. Being far away from everything you know and love can become overwhelming, especially when visits cannot be pulled from a hat—so make a big deal of those farewells.
Allow your children to say goodbye to their friends through final playdates and spending time with their grandparents: who knows what can happen while you’re settling into your new home.
You have made the decision to uproot and move. All that is left are the logistics of doing so and it’s no use allowing all the tension from your decision get in the way of it transpiring. Children are resilient and adapt to change more than adults, as long as we as parents remain calm, focused and positive.
Your positivity will rub off on your children and keep them focused on the silver lining.
And what may that silver lining be? Well, it’s different for each of us. Perhaps they will get to see animals, monuments or sporting events they never had access to before. Perhaps they can live without fear of crime. Perhaps you’ll earn a higher salary which will allow you a higher quality of life. Whatever reason you’re moving, be sure to reiterate this throughout the journey.
Keep the fun alive
While packing, kids can help by drawing pictures on boxes or decorating them to easily keep track of which boxes belong to whom. This will keep them busy and out of your hair as you’re trying to tie up the last of what used to be your refuge. Communicate with them about their new bedroom and the garden they will be playing in. Build this new dream with verve and vigour. Instil in them the idea of a new beginning which brings forth a positive change in their lives. Always keep them excited and let this excitement help them cope with the change. Assure them that this change will be for the better and that good things lie ahead and new adventure awaits.
Make new friends before you arrive
Join social media groups that will connect you with people in the new environment you’re moving into. You will be surprised at how many others have done what you’re about to do and a single parent can never have enough support, so be brave and mingle! Establish connections which will serve as your new support structure once you’ve arrived. This will not only make you feel right at home in this strange new world you’re facing—and by a stroke of luck you and your children could have lifelong friends.
Keep a checklist
There are many things to remember once the decision to move is in the bag. Make sure you keep a checklist of these things. Break your list up in three parts with things to remember before you leave, while you’re leaving and once you’ve arrived.
It is impossible to remember all the small things that apply, especially those things that may not be according to local rules or regulations which used to be par for the course. Being a single parent you are used to juggling a hundred and one tasks every day, but adding a home move to your already full workload drastically increases the chances of skipping over an important task.
Recharge your batteries
Try to remove yourself and your kids from the ‘moving’ situation whenever time allows. In fact—make time for it!
Schedule regular breaks and escapes and allow your kids to hold you to these promises else you will try to push through and ignore them (as well as yourself). Create an emergency ‘stop’ which allows your children to tell you that things have gone too far and make this a non-negotiable in your family-life. Create intermittent pauses along your journey which have a pre-existing deploy button. Sure, you don’t want your kids to expect an easy escape the whole time, but this will allow you to honour each other’s boundaries and systematically build resilience. A walk in the park, a few hours at the local playground, or a visit to friends or family will give you the opportunity to recharge your batteries.
Moving day can be particularly stressful and dangerous for children. So if possible arrange to have someone look after the kids on moving day, even if it is in a room of the house you’ve cleared out. Make sure to leave some activities, games or other entertainment in this room so these don’t accidentally end up in the moving truck. You will have enough occupying your mind on moving day and knowing that the children are safe and being well looked after will considerably reduce your stress levels.
Donate all unwanted items
By donating unwanted items (or those which you simply cannot take with) you will not only be helping those less fortunate, but you will also teach your kids to be charitable. It’s easier to part with things if you know they’ll add value to someone else’s life.
Decluttering your home is a perfect opportunity for teaching your kids about the importance of donating and will also make life far easier when you arrive at your new home. Have your children go through all their items and, if there is time, discuss their reasons for wanting to keep it. Help them through this debate and allow them to hold the same debate with you about your possessions—this also helps them understand the difference between sentimental and monetary value. Let your kids understand that when they donate their things they are helping other less fortunate children.
Share your feelings
You will undoubtedly have mixed emotions about your upcoming move. You might feel good one day, frustrated the next, and incredibly sad various points throughout the course of just one day. The best thing to do is to feel your feelings and let your children feel theirs. Many parents try to show their child that they’re completely together and not at all concerned, but this could confuse children. It’s important to let them know that one can be apprehensive and sad about a move, even if this move is for the best.
Instead of trying to present a perfect facade to your children, let them see your emotions, and see how you cope. Show your kids how you manage aspects of your move which make you anxious: make lists, plan for contingencies, contact someone who can help, or weigh up different options. Modelling healthy ways to handle stress will be good for all of you.
Good luck with the big move!
Moving with your child is never going to be easy when you are a single parent, but it also does not have to be so stressful that you want to give up. By planning ahead as much as possible, you can mitigate many of the concerns that single parents have coming into a big move with their child.
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