As summer vacation gets closer, many families are busy sorting out the stuff in their basements, donating their old clothes and toys to charities, and gathering as many clean, dry cardboard boxes as they can find.
No, they're not getting ready for a big vacation trip. These families are getting organized to move to another neighborhood, another city or even another country. Summer is the busiest season for moving. Almost half of all household moves happen between May and Labor Day, when schools and colleges aren't in session.
How common is moving? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one-sixth of all Americans, or about 43 million people, move each year. Of those people, about 13 million are under age 19.
Moving to a new house or a new town can be exciting--but it can be stressful, too. The Employee Relocation Council says moving is the third most stressful event in life, behind only death and divorce. Moving can make people feel grief, anger, even depression.
Why is moving so difficult? People who move have to leave places where they feel comfortable and safe. They have to find their way around a new place, and meet and establish relationships with lots of new people. They have to do practical things such as finding a new dentist, a new place of worship, a new place to go grocery shopping. But the hardest part of all is saying goodbye to family and friends.
Are neighbors, friends or family members you care about moving away this summer? If so, the move will be hard on you, too. Even though you get to stay in your familiar house, neighborhood and school, you're losing someone you feel connected to. Even though you will keep in touch, it's not the same as seeing your friend every day just by walking down the hallway of your apartment building or scooting under the backyard fence.
Before your friend leaves town, spend time learning about the new place his or her family is heading for. Look at maps and check out books about the area. To help you remember each other, have someone take some photographs of you together. When you get the photos developed, make two sets so you and your friend can each keep one.
Whether you are moving or staying behind, actually saying goodbye is important. You will feel sad. You may even start crying. But it's important to let your friend know that you care. Don't just hide out and pretend nothing unusual is happening. And once that moving van rounds the corner, sit down and write a postcard or an e-mail to your friend right away.
Ellen Carlisle, author of a new book, "Smooth Moves: The Relocation Guide for Families on the Move" (Teacup Press; $12.95), says moving can be fun as well as exhausting and stressful. Carlisle and her family have moved eight times in seven years, and they have lived in seven different states. She says her three children have stayed "happy and well-adjusted" throughout.
"The best thing about moving is that it strengthens you as a family," she says. "You learn to rely on each other. You also learn how to develop new relationships. Moving forces you to grow."
Tips for Parents
Do your kids think you are dragging them away by moving? Ellen Carlisle, author of "Smooth Moves," suggests involving kids in the move. "Put markers in their hands and let them label their own boxes. Let them pack their own overnight bag for the trip so the things most important to them are with them." Once you arrive, Carlisle suggests, make getting acclimated a higher priority than getting unpacked. "Attack boxes for a couple of hours in the morning, and then get out of there and explore the new neighborhood," she says. "Find a small-group activity for your child--a band, a club, a sports group--so they'll already have allies by the time they start school in the fall."
For You to Do
Ellen Carlisle, the author of "Smooth Moves," has a great idea for kids who are relocating. (This idea could also be adapted as a way to keep in touch with bunk mates you connect with at summer camp, cousins at a family reunion or kids you meet on a vacation trip.) You'll need to buy a plain white oversized T-shirt. At a hobby store, get a set of colored markers designed for writing on fabric. Then ask all your friends to write their names, addresses and phone numbers (and e-mail addresses) on the shirt. You'll have a wearable address book that will remind you of your friends every time you put it on. "My children did this when we moved to Charlotte, N.C., four years ago, and they still wear them," Carlisle says.