Helping Children Adjust to Big Changes

By Allison Amy Wedell

Helping Children Adjust to Big ChangesIn late summer 2015, I lost a job I thought I would retire from. I had been there 11 years and was the primary breadwinner for our family—no small feat in an expensive city like Seattle. So losing our primary source of income was . . . disconcerting, to say the least.

We decided that, to increase my chances of finding a new job, I should expand my search to include not just the Seattle area but the Twin Cities area too. A 1,600-mile difference, to be sure, but also an area filled with support in the form of my brother and my closest college buddies. I promised myself that I would take whatever job was offered to me first, no matter which of the two areas it was in.

As fortune would have it, the State of Minnesota ended up offering me my dream job (write all day and get paid for it? Okay!), so suddenly we had to drop everything and move halfway across the country in about six weeks.

If this was a huge change for her dad and me, I could only imagine what it would be like for our daughter, who had been born in Seattle and had lived in the same house and gone to the same school all of her eight-year life. Neither her dad nor I had ever moved before the age of 18, so neither of us could relate from experience to her plight. Which meant we had to do some improvising to help her through it.


Some friends threw us a going-away party at a local café, which was attended by some of our daughter’s friends as well. I also took her on a sort of “farewell tour” of the city, visiting some of our favorite haunts (like the Space Needle and the International District) and eating at favorite restaurants. We hoped this would give her a sense of closure.


Part of this involved helping our daughter have a sense of control. For example, we told her that, once we bought a house in our new city, she could paint her room any color she wanted. I took her to the hardware store to choose the paint color, and we did the actual painting together. (I have a fantastic photo of her rolling lavender paint onto the ceiling.)


We also tried to balance hanging onto old friendships and making new ones. This involved a lot of Skype calls with her Seattle friends, and we still go back to visit once in a while. But I knew I would be doing her no favors if we didn’t encourage her to move forward with connections in Minnesota. So once she was enrolled in her new school, we made a point of going to as many school activities as we could, making connections with her new friends’ parents so that the kids could get to know each other outside of the school environment.


We wanted our daughter to get to know her new environment, so we did a lot of exploring in those first few months. Museums, the state fair, beaches, a corn maze, hikes, and a healthy sampling of local playgrounds all made the list (I know I’m forgetting some as well). The idea was to help her appreciate the unique things her new home had to offer and feel more like a resident than a visitor.

Accepting Help

The cool thing about being a parent is that you’re not the only person who loves your kid. In this case, love came in the form of offers to help. My sister-in-law and I would trade off caring for our girls on school breaks, which meant my daughter could be with her cousins. Her third-grade teacher in Seattle, who was originally from Minnesota, lent her a book about her new state. A dear friend with nieces similar in age would contrive ways for us all to get together so that our daughter could expand her circle of friends. Whenever someone reached out with an offer of help, we almost always accepted. This helped her understand that we already had a safety net of friends and family in our new city and that with a little effort, we could expand on it to feel safe, welcome, and accepted.

Moving isn’t easy for anyone, but her dad and I did our best to help her adjust to the huge change it threw into her life. By being intentional about closure, giving her some control, finding a balance between her old world and her new one, exploring together, and accepting help when it was offered, we managed to help her adjust to this change and grow into the happy 12-year-old she is now.

Allison Amy WedellAllison Amy Wedell is a writer, editor, and mom whose diverse work focuses on sexual abuse prevention, bullying prevention, social and emotional learning, public safety, and theater/acting. She is the author of Shaking Hands with Shakespeare: A Teenager’s Guide to Reading and Performing the Bard (Simon & Schuster, 2004), and her work has been featured here and at,, and Committee for Children. You can find her on LinkedIn.

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