Expert backs Redrow's approach to helping children move home
Moving house is often listed as one of the most stressful experiences we can go through in our adult life, so what impact does it have on our children?
With its core target market of family buyers, Redrow Homes has been working hard to ensure children feel part of the moving experience, developing the ‘Moving House scrapbook’ to give children a tangible tool to express their feelings.
The company has also called on the expertise of an educational psychologist for further evidence of how moving house can affect children and whether the housebuilder is getting it right in its attempts to support parents.
Professor Neil Humphrey, a psychologist at the School of Education at The University of Manchester, believes that to understand the effects of moving, we must first appreciate what ‘home’ means to children.
“At a basic level, it's the place they live and spend time with their family and friends,” said Prof Humphrey. “However, it’s also a place they will often associate with warmth and feelings of security and love. It’s a place they can feel safe. A child's home and the community in which it sits play a part in the development of their sense of self and identity - it becomes part of who they are.”
Realising that ‘home’ plays such an intrinsic role in a child’s life, parents can begin to understand how moving to a new home can impact on their child’s thoughts and emotions.
Prof Humphrey continued: “Moving home is fundamentally about change and transition. On the one hand this can be very exciting for children. They may look forward to the event itself and the 'discovery' element of going to a new house, choosing their room, etc. The move may also mean a new school, new friends, a new neighbourhood and so on. So it can be a really happy, positive experience. But it may also provoke anxiety. Routines are changed; there are lots of unknowns and feelings of uncertainty. There may also be sadness with having to say good bye to friends and favourite places.
“Children may take more time to adjust to the social changes and transitions such as friends and school, than the physical ones such as getting used to their new house, room etc. But of course a lot depends on the age of the child in question.”
Prof Humphrey’s personal experience has given him further cause to look at the subject in detail: “When we moved house in 2010 my daughter was only three. Therefore the transition was easy because she hadn’t started school and didn’t have established friendships with children in the neighbourhood in the same way that older children do.
“As children grow older their social lives become more embedded in the local neighbourhood and their school and so that aspect of moving may be more difficult for them. Also the way children think changes as they grow and develop, so their understanding of what 'home' means and the implications of moving home will also change.”
For slightly older children, particularly school age, the onus is often on parents to ensure any negative impact is minimised. According to Prof Humphrey, preparation is key: “It’s helpful for parents to talk to children about the impending move as far in advance as possible, and get them involved in the process so that they feel part of what is going on, for example; helping to choose the new house and/or their room, perhaps letting them decide what colour their room will be painted, maybe giving them little jobs to do like packing their toys etc. As far as possible adults can reduce any anxieties by explaining what is going to happen and when, e.g. when is moving day? What happens on moving day? Who is involved?”
On this basis, Redrow’s ‘Moving House Scrapbook’ could be the perfect tool. It was specially created following a survey among children aged five to 12, has space for them to add photos, draw pictures, write notes and keep a record of their old friends’ contact details so they don’t lose touch after the move.
Prof Humphrey believes the scrapbook is a useful tool for parents. “It provides a very clear, tangible resource that will help children to make sense of what is happening and to deal with the variety of emotions they are experiencing. It’s nice and simple and has the feel of a 'project', which most kids will love. It can also keep them occupied when the grown-ups are busy. Finally, it can serve as a lasting memento of the whole process.”
The scrap book is available in two versions, one with a female lead character, Issy, and the other with a male lead character, Issy’s brother Jake.
Reading about a character such as Issy or Jake, who is also going through a move, helps children and, according to Prof Humphrey, is a commonly employed tactic. By doing so, the child can identify with the character and can 'project' thoughts and feelings about themselves that they may not be able or feel comfortable to articulate through other means.
The two versions mean parents have the option to give children a same sex example to relate to. “Gender socialisation starts very early in life and even by early primary school so it’s likely that boys and girls will relate better to a same sex example,” said Prof Humphrey. “It’s about their ability to 'identify' with the character, and the closer the character is to them in terms of basic characteristics like gender, the easier that identification process will be.”
The scrapbook closes with a suggested list of further books for children to read on the topic, which can also help them to understand the process and all the feelings associated with it.
Issy and Jakes’ Moving House scrapbooks are free of charge to Redrow customers with young children. They will soon be made available online as an interactive module.
For more details of Redrow’s range of high quality family homes across England and Wales visit the website www.redrow.co.uk.
Redrow Homes is one of the UK’s leading house builders, operating across England and Wales, with a strong emphasis on high quality family housing in prime locations. Its New Heritage Collection of family homes combines traditional looking, ‘Arts & Crafts’ influenced exteriors with bright, modern, high specification interiors. Established more than 35 years, the company has won numerous awards over the years. Redrow received a 5* Award in the Home Builder Federation (HBF) annual customer satisfaction survey in 2011 and 2012; collected the Gold award in the Large Housebuilder category of the 2011 What House? awards; and its ‘Our Pride ~ Your Joy’ campaign was named best marketing initiative at the 2011Housebuilder Awards for innovation and excellence. Web: www.redrow.co.uk.