When do you tell kids that you are moving? How do you walk through the moving process with children? This is the first time I had to deal with this question in my life. Last time we moved we had a 10 month old and he really didn't care. Now with a 5 (almost 6) year old and a 3 year old this question is extremely relevant. As we walked through this process those questions came up a lot between my wife and I.
Here are some of the things that we are dealing with.
1. We wanted them to hear it from us. As rumors start to fly (and they always do during the spring) we did not want them to hear it from an off handed comment that someone let slip out. We wanted them to hear it from our mouths and not like we were keeping a secret from them. So when we learned people were talking, we told them.
2. We wanted it to be a positive conversation and experience. Yes, it will be sad to leave the only house they have ever known. This is the house where they learned to walk, celebrated birthdays, and the place where they made friends. This is the only congregation they remember and is full of people who consider them as one of their own kids or grandchildren. But there is positives about moving too. We will be closer to family and some close friends. We will be in walking distance of our son's new school and in a community, that I am sure, will be as welcoming and loving as my present one. One of the major reasons we asked to move was because my son is starting school and if we moved now we may only move once during their school career but we never wanted to let them think we are moving BECAUSE of them.
3. We want to involve them in the process. We are having them pick out things to sell during our yard sale. We will have them pack up their boxes of their toys and get their rooms ready to move (or as much as they can do). We will also let them cry and be angry about it, just like we are at times. To be a healthy move we have to go through all those emotions and especially for my 5 year old, we have to allow him to do that as well. We have showed them pictures and the outside of the church and parsonage. (They didn't do the walk-through with us because they are a little too young and our attention needed be on soaking up the new place and listening, not parenting). We have showed them on a map where we will be moving and a floor plan of the house. This seems to get them excited and connect with the process.
4. We try to answer all questions. As things disappear from their regular place and move into boxes there are lots of questions. We are trying to do our best to answer them. We are finding that we are answering the same questions too. Over and over again they are asking the same things, which is understandable. Moving is a weird concept that a 5 and 3 year old have to wrap their minds around. And there are some questions though that we don't have answers to and we simply say "I don't know."
5. We are removing them from some of the process. The plan for the actual day of the move is that they hang out with grandparents. This way they are, for lack of a better phrase, out of the way. Movers moving boxes onto trucks is just too inviting to curious minds and exploratory natures. I am quite certain my 3 year old would be packed along with all the boxes in the back of the truck if she was around.
What we realize is that there are no real rules for this. You take that, the knowledge you have of your kids and all the advice that other clergy parents who have gone through this process freely give you and mix it all with lots of prayer. I know our kids will grow up hating to move. Hating the fact that my calling has dictated they move and are yanked out of the places they call home, but...such is the clergy life.
My hope is that with patience, planning, prayer and honesty the therapy won't be too expensive in the future.