Moving is a major life change, and children may face challenges as they leave behind friends and familiar places and activities.
There are several steps you can take to make the process more manageable for children and to help them become more positive and self-reliant. We also offer a range of support for children, including assistance with changing schools and special programs for young children and teenagers.
For more information about guiding children through relocations, contact the all-hours Defence Family Helpline on 1800 624 608.
Tips on moving with children
Communicating truthfully and openly with children about relocations is important to help them understand and cope with the change. Talk about the relocation early and often to give them time to become accustomed to the idea and think through what it means to them. Explain clearly why it is important for the family to move.
Letting children help with the move - e.g. helping to pack or unpack, or decide where things will go in the new home – and involving older children in discussions and preparations for the move, can help them to feel empowered, valued and that they have a say.
Encourage children to express their emotions, their hopes and fears, and respond with understanding. Expressing your own feelings in healthy ways can help them recognise they are not alone. If they resist opening up to you as a parent, try to provide some opportunities for them to talk with family or friends they may feel more comfortable confiding in. They might also want to express their feelings through other avenues like stories or poetry, art, music or physical activities.
Guide children to think about the positive things about the change - e.g. the chance to make new friends, new interesting subjects to take at school, or a fun activity to do in the new location - and healthy ways to respond to the challenges - e.g. keeping in contact with friends from the last location, or creating a scrapbook or photo album of their former community, school, home and friends.
Children, particularly younger children, are often unable to articulate their feelings and thoughts as adults do. If they are having trouble dealing with stress and changes during deployment, it will often present in their behaviour or in health complaints. Observe children for signs of stress, as they can be easy to miss when you are tied up with all the preparations and practical things to do for a move.
An important aspect of settling children into any environment is to make them feel secure. This security may just be a feeling that the family is together, or that someone will be there when they need to talk. Be available for your children, both by being there and by taking a genuine interest in what they feel, say and do. After the move, resume normal family routines as soon as possible (e.g. bedtime, chores, discipline, story time or traditions).
Congratulate children on positive ways they find to manage the challenges of the move. Celebrate milestones and achievements in the move, such as finishing packing up a room, or arriving in your new location. Make sure to take time out to relax and spend time together as a family.
Support for children
You can contact the Defence Family Helpline on 1800 624 608 for 24-7 support, advice or referral if you or your children are experiencing difficulties with the move.
We have specialist aides and mentors placed in primary and secondary schools across Australia to smooth the transition of Defence children into the new school and community and to provide them with support as needed.
Education Liaison Officers, or EDLOs, are specialists who can advise you about local education systems, schools, education issues and support available for Defence students.
To assist children with moving between schools, we have resources to help them capture and scrapbook their experiences, achievements, friends and memories from each school and take them on to the next. The School Posting Passport gives a quick snapshot of all the schools the student has been part of, while the Digital Portfolio Builder is a more detailed electronic record of their information. You can order these resources for free from the Defence Family Helpline on 1800 624 608.
Related: Kids' education support
We also run fun and interactive resilience-building programs for children, called KidSMART and TeenSMART. These programs target challenging aspects of Defence life such as relocation.
Children learn how to manage change and stresses in their lives, and gain practical tips for dealing with the moving to a new location and school.
KidSMART guides primary aged children through handling emotions with the help of mascots Tyler Turtle and Sam Super. Older children attend a one-day TeenSMART session, where they can meet like-minded Defence teens and share their stories about being part of a military family.
Contact the Defence Family Helpline on 1800 624 608 for more information or to sign up for a program.
There are often local events held for Defence families, such as regional welcome or farewell events, craft sessions, picnics or seasonal activities like Easter egg hunts. These events are an opportunity for Defence children to meet kids in the same situation as themselves, have a lot of fun and feel part of and proud of the Defence community.
Getting involved in community activities like drama, sports, art or music can help children to make friends and feel more comfortable and at home in their new location. There are also various youth groups and services available to support young people.
We have a range of services to help you source and access the community resources that best suit your child’s needs. Contact the Defence Family Helpline on 1800 624 608 to access our community directory or to obtain personalised advice.