Question of the week: How do I help a child whose single parent moves a lot?


Moving is hard any way you label it. Recently we moved into a new home. Now I’m an adult and I understand in my mind the logistics of moving.

  • I know things must be packed up and carted to the other home
  • I know about packing and unpacking so things don’t get broke
  • I know to be organized so things don’t get out of control and we won’t lose items that we use every day
  • I understand things will be different at the new house
    1.  Tooth brushes and hair brushes will be in a different place in the bathroom
    2.  The new bedroom is going to feel different and the light switches will be in a different location
    3.  I’ll have to remember where different rooms are located in different places
    4.  Cereal bowls will be in a low cabinet where they were in a high cabinet before
    5.  I understand that with time this new house will feel like home and life will move forward

You get the picture – things are going to be different. No matter how much I envision everything in my mind things are just going to be different.

From the eyes of a child

Now imagine being a little kid form a divorced home and not having the brainpower to figure these things out. Also imagine the adults in the home not talking to you about the move.

I have worked with and ministered to many little kids who simply didn’t know what was happening.

“What? We’re moving this weekend? Nobody told me anything” to which a single divorcing parent might laugh nervously and say, “I guess I just forgot to tell you. It will be okay. You’ll see. We’ll have fun.”

Or this scenario, “Yes, while you are at your mom’s place this weekend I’m going to moving to a new place. Don’t worry cause my girlfriend and I will get the room your going to share with her son all set up.”

I’ve seen the look of confusion; of sadness and even of anger as reality sets in that the child is going to have to move yet again. It might be the fifth of sixth time in a couple of years. And remember some of these children who live in two homes with co-parenting parents will have to move each time either parent decides to move.

How do you help the single parent help the child?

  • Set up a time to meet with the single parent. Even a phone call will help
  • Explain how important it is for him/her to “warn” the child of the up and coming move
  • If the move is not immediate, encourage the single parent to take the child to the new neighborhood and home to look around, see the school and ask the child where to place things like the cereal bowls in the kitchen (Cereal bowls are very important to a kid!)
  • Show the child where their room will be; where the parent’s room will be and if possible where they might be placing the furniture in each room
  • If a decision hasn’t been made about where they are moving, tell the single parent to pick out two of their favorite locations and take their child with them to look over possible new homes. While the adult needs to be the one making the final decision, many times the child will feel part of the process if his or her help is requested
  • Encourage the parent to have the child pack up their own room and their own toys
  • Even encourage the parent on moving day or the day before to allow the child to take their things to the new house and place them in their new room 
  • Explain that surprises– such as the addition of a boyfriend or girlfriend into the new home is unwise and will likely be very disruptive to the child.

In other words, encourage the single parent to make the child part of the process. You might give the child scriptures or stories about people in the Bible who had to move. Some of these little kids feel like nomads wondering around or like the children of Israel having to wander the desert.

In my DC4K group, I was explaining the story of Moses and how the children of Israel wandered around the desert not knowing where they might sleep that night. One little boy said,

“Hey that’s kind of like me. We move so much I never know how long we are going to live there. I feel like those kids in the Moses story.”

How can you make life a wee bit easier for some of the children in your program when they have to move?

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