- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 20, 2000

Moving is never easy especially when there are children. But experts say if parents involve their children in the transition to a new community and keep a positive attitude about the change, children will see the move as an adventure rather than a disaster.

"We find that some kids are pretty successful at establishing friendships," says Eric Vernberg, an associate professor of clinical child psychology at the University of Kansas. "The key is for parents to get actively involved in the social process."

That means initiating get-togethers with other families, encouraging children to invite new friends for dinner or a sleepover and attending community gatherings where children can meet peers.

Here are some tips from the experts on how to make a move easier for the whole family:

• Don't say anything to the children until the move is certain. Once it is, let them know what is going on as soon as possible.

• Do as much advance research as you can as soon as possible. The optimum scenario is a family visit to the new location. If this is not possible, an Internet-researched virtual visit can be the next best thing. Most communities have their own Web sites, and many real estate agents and moving companies have sites that connect to communities throughout the United States. Help your children locate the new community on a map.

• Generate enthusiasm for the move by involving the children in decisions that affect them. Allow them to choose their rooms, for example, or the paint color in the family room. Also let them label and pack boxes.

• Prepare files for each of your children with medical and dental records (which you will have to request from their pediatrician), school transcripts, birth certificates and Social Security numbers. This will make school registration and selection of new doctors and dentists much easier.

• If your children are involved in sports or other activities, such as music lessons, make an effort to locate those activities in your new community before the move. For example, registration for fall sports usually is done in the spring, so you will need to move fast not to be left out of the fall season.

• Reassure your children that they can stay connected to their old friends. Exchange phone numbers, addresses and e-mail addresses before you leave. For younger children, prepare stamped postcards with your new address that they can leave with their friends. Older children may enjoy having their own own e-mail address to give friends.

• Once you arrive in the new community, join as many activities as possible as soon as possible. Neighborhood pools are a great place to meet future schoolmates, and many churches and synagogues have new-member committees that can help integrate new families into the community.

• When packing, leave out a few special items for each child to take with you in the car. A special blanket, stuffed animal or picture can make an unfamiliar new room suddenly look like home.

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