“So. How are your kids handling all of this?”
It is an honest, direct question that I haven’t really stopped to question since we left Germany.
(Funny the things you talk about with random
yoopers people at da ice cream parlor eh?)
I think one of the key things that has helped our children understand and prepare for big changes, are making daily marks on our monthly calendars. When Seth redeployed from Afghanistan, we had a “We’re All DONE!” party to rip down all the days, weeks, and months representing our separation. The kids always enjoy ripping the pages and quite frankly, it’s a wonderful visual representation that Daddy isn’t going “far far away” again for a long time.
After a few weeks went by, we started having family dinner conversations about how we would be moving this summer and visiting Mum mum in Pennsylvania. Seth was put ‘on assignment’ sometime in February for Fort Bliss, so we started talking about how movers would come to our house and pack everything in boxes, put them on a truck and take them to our new house for us. Then we would camp in our house a few weeks, get on an airplane, visit with family, and then drive to our new house in Texas.
But then when I started overhearing conversations between them about “Tomorrow we’re going to Texas!”, I realized it might help to have a visual idea of when things were happening, as well as build some excitement for our destination. So I again went to free-printable-calendars.com to print calendars from the day Daddy came home until we would arrive in Texas.
The first big event we prepared for was our family yard sale. Our repetitive mantra was “We are going to sell some of our things to other families so we can earn some money to buy ‘Brand New Bikes’ for our new house in Texas!” So after selecting the perfect bike online and printing a picture for our calendar wall, they happily helped me purge through clothes, toys, and furniture. It also begins to lay the idea foundation for saving and spending rather than a seemingly impulse purchase when go buy them once we arrive.
To make sure our yard sale was within regulations, I called the on post housing office to confirm what we were allowed to do as far as location and advertising. Then we set a date for the last saturday of the month and I created a open public facebook event so I could invite all of my local friends. I think what really made it a success was I invited anyone else who also wanted to have a yard sale that day to write their address on the wall and invite their friends to the event as well. All in all, there were over 17 buildings that participated and many had multiple families! It was a huge success because it both invited and included everyone.
The next big events to plan for were the movers to pack up our house. Again, lots of daily Xs and referring to packing day helped them know that a big change was coming even if they couldn’t comprehend it all. I’m kinda glad the movers weren’t finished when we brought the kids home on the second day, because they got to meet our movers, see all of the boxes, and watch the big green truck drive away. (Note: We decided to have our children in daycare for the two days of packing and it was well worth the money! The second day ran into the evening, so a dear friend watched them through dinner as well!)
All in all, each milestone was met with a smile and excitement by our children, as it was one step closer to going to Mum mum’s house and eventually driving to Texas – and buying their Brand New Bikes! By opening the conversation weeks ahead of time and having a daily reminder how close we were to each event, they seem to have adapted very well to such dramatic changes.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said for my last precious moments with my coffee maker…
How do you help the small children in your life prepare for big changes?
Do you ever make count down marks on the calendar?