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Helping Your Children Move

with Susan Miller | March 4, 2009

Children can feel like the silent victims of a family move. Today, Susan Miller, America’s Moving Coach, talks about her own moves and offers parents advice on making a relocation easier for their kids.

Children can feel like the silent victims of a family move. Today, Susan Miller, America’s Moving Coach, talks about her own moves and offers parents advice on making a relocation easier for their kids.

Helping Your Children Move

With Susan Miller
|
March 04, 2009
| Download Transcript PDF

Susan: When we moved, moving was all about me.  It was all about taking care of Susan, taking care of my needs, and I have to say that there were so many moves that I neglected my children and their needs of being nurtured and included and listening to them and pulling them in the loop.  And now I can minister through the things I didn't do and how to best help your children.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, March 4th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Today we're going to help you think through some strategies for how you can help others adjust to a move even if you're still struggling with some of your own stresses.  Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  I have to tell you about the day I took Amy out – this is my daughter, my oldest daughter – to tell her that we were going to move from San Antonio to Little Rock, okay?

Dennis: You might also tell our listeners how you viewed that move initially.  You use a certain terminology that a few Bible scholars will instantly identify.  In fact, let me just quickly introduce our guest on the program today.  Susan Miller joins us.  She is America's moving coach.  She gives leadership to a ministry called Just Moved and has written a number of books – one called "After the Boxes are Unpacked," and the one we want to talk about today, "But, Mom, I Don't Want to Move."  Susan, welcome to the broadcast.  This story is a good story.  I've heard it before, but listen to how Bob described moving here.

Susan: Well, I'm listening.

Bob: Well, and you'd probably be able to understand this and relate to this.

Dennis: She will identify with this.

Susan: Yes, I will.

Bob: We had lived for seven years in San Antonio, and, you know, San Antonio is a great town.  Have you ever been?

Susan: I have, and I love it.

Dennis: Bob loves Tex-Mex food.

Bob: It's a great town, and Dennis had called and said, "Hey, what about moving up here to Little Rock and helping us with this new radio program?"  And we just sensed – as much as we loved San Antonio, we sensed God was saying, "Move to Little Rock."  But I really wanted to stay in San Antonio, you know, but you just – you sense God says "This is what you're supposed to do."

Dennis: So you referred to Little Rock as …

Bob: So we moved to Nineveh, Arkansas, is what I tell people, you know?

Dennis: Nineveh.

Susan: Nineveh?

Bob: Because it's better to be in Nineveh, Arkansas, than the belly of the big fish is the way I work that out.  So I had to go break this news to my daughter.  You know, some families, when they're thinking about a move, they get the kids involved, and they ask them, "What do you think," and all – we hadn't done that.  Mary Ann and I had just talked about, "Is this what God wanted us to do?"  And we decided yeah, this was what we were going to do and now I had to break it to my then-11-year-old daughter.

Now, we also had an eight-year-old, and we had a five-year-old, and we had a two-year-old, but I really wasn't worried much about them because they're going to be fine, right?  But it was the 11-year-old that I was concerned about, so I took her out to TCBY for some yogurt, and we're getting yogurt, and I said, "I need to talk to you about something.  Mom and I have been praying about this, and we really think God wants us to move to Little Rock, Arkansas."  And she burst out in tears, just started crying.  My heart, as a dad, was breaking, and I remember I said, "Honey, I'm so sorry.  I know this is hard for you.  It's hard for us, too, but" …

Dennis: You blamed it on me, didn't you?

Bob: I said, "It's all Mr. Rainey's fault."

Dennis: It's taken me years to recover with Amy, too, by the way.

Bob: She said the sweetest thing.  I said, "I'm so sorry."  And she said, "Well, Dad, what can you do?  If this is what God wants, you've got to do it."  And I just – I mean, that just broke my heart even more because here is my daughter responding in a mature, godly way.  On the way home, I said to her, "Did you have any idea what I was bringing you out to talk to you about?"  She said, "I thought it was going to be the birds and the bees."

Susan: Oh, my goodness.

Bob: And I said, "What do you know about the birds and the bees?"

[laughter]

Now I was really …

Dennis: So you started crying.

Bob: But you had an experience with your son when you sat down to tell him about your move to Phoenix, right?

Susan: Absolutely, and he just got up and walked out of the room.  Children handle things in different ways.

Bob: He was, what, 13 years old?

Susan: Uh-huh, and he was at the age where, you know, he just immediately just cut us off.  You know, he was angry, he was upset, you know, he was into that peer pressure thing, and his friends were more important than anything and to leave all that behind, and he just got up and walked out.  And, I mean, we had a very difficult time, as most parents do, with junior high and teenagers when, you know, they're trying to develop their own identity, and you strip that away by taking them away.

But because we have a very close family unit, because we work hard in all of our moves maintaining that close relationship with our children, you know, we just – in fact, Bill said, "Son, come back in here and sit down.  We're going to talk about this."  And so he did.  He came back, and we talked it through, and based on that, you know, I learned a lot about how to help kids through their transition and dealing with all ages and how to pull them into the process, how to make them feel a part of what's happening – just keep them in the loop.  Spend extra time with them, give them extra attention, which, in my younger days as a mom, I didn't do.

And I will tell the listeners, I will tell women who probably are going through this same thing – when we moved, moving was all about me.  It was all about taking care of Susan, taking care of my needs, and I have to say that there were so many moves that I neglected my children and their needs of being nurtured and included and listening to them and pulling them in the loop.  And now I can minister through the things I didn't do and how to best help your children.

Bob: Does it matter that you're moving if a child is five or six years old or younger than that?  I mean, their world is so family-centered, and do they even understand space and dimension like that?

Susan: You know, at a young age, children are so resilient, and as long as they have that family unit, even if you're a single mom listening, you are the family unit.  And that presence, that's their familiar territory other than their room, and that's why I always encourage parents to set up their children's room first, to allow there to be order in a child's world, and that's what you want to create is the stability and order in their world no matter where you are.

And so to sit down and to explain the biblical principles of how much God loves them and no matter where they move, their family is going to be there with them.  These are key things a child needs to hear for that stability and for that encouragement, as well as the practical things you can do.

Dennis: You know, the Bible doesn't immediately start out with a move, but we find God calling Abraham to go and go establish a nation.  And I think perhaps there is a hint here for those of us who move and how we guide our children and how to respond to new assignments. 

Because if you think about it, Abraham had a choice of whether he could hear the command to go and assume his new responsibility and, by faith, step out and go, or gripe and complain and drag his feet and grouse and talk about this God who has uprooted him and his family and how He's asked him to go and live a nomadic life for a number of years and then finally arrive at a spot he had never been before and be in total unbelief.

Comment on the importance of a parent's faith and demonstrating that faith to new assignments in life.

Susan: Absolutely, to live it out, Dennis – to live out what you know to be true – to live out God's faithfulness.  You know, I love the story of Abraham and Sarah, because they are my moving mentors, I mean, they set the standard.  You know, Abraham responded, he didn't react, and Sarah set the mold for being obedient.  And Abraham trusted God for provision.  So for us, as parents, to say to your child, "You know what?  We don't know about the future.  We don't know if we're going to love Smalltown USA, but we trust God for provision, and not only that, we know God is faithful because we've got a track record with Him.  We've seen His faithfulness in our family and to cite some examples of when God was faithful that your child might understand.

Bob: How do you do that if you're in the middle of a move to a place like Raleigh, North Carolina, and the car is overheating, and Ginger – she got sick, right?

Susan: Oh, yes, and the dog threw up, and, oh, my gosh, it was just a catastrophe.  And the last thing I'm doing is – I mean, I'm being real here, guys – the last thing I'm going to do is say, you know, we're just going to trust God for His provision.  But you know what?  We stopped, and we prayed.  And I said, "You know what, kids?  We're going to have to pull ourselves up and over this," and the bottom line was they knew that Christ was the foundation.  I mean, they knew that Mama was real, and Mama was getting upset and, you know, what a catastrophe and what a story, but the bottom line is that we drove to Raleigh, North Carolina, on our faith, because we didn't know what was happening, and they knew I wasn't happy.

Bob: Let's say you've got a son or a daughter who is a junior or a senior in high school.  They've been in the same school now for three or four years.  Dad's getting transferred somewhere – some families – you know this – some families will say, "Well, Mom and the kids are going to stay so that this child can finish the senior year.  Other families make the move at what has got to be one of the most difficult times for a child to make a move.

Susan: It is.

Bob: What's your advice on that?  If you can stay, should you?  Do you stay together as a family?  And if you do stay together, how do you handle that young life's trauma, you know?

Susan: And the teenage years are the most difficult to move.  They are the hardest on any age to move.  And I have so many questions that say that same thing, Bob.  What do I do?  I've got a senior in high school, what do we do?

The feedback that I get from that not having been through the senior year is that parents will find a good, godly family to leave their child with in that last year.  Most of the families – I always encourage a family to stay together.  The worst thing you can do is to have your husband go off – I've lived that – to have your husband go off to the job, and you stay behind, and then the gap gets broader and broader between the two of you.

But if there is any way that you can help that child get through that last year …

Bob: And that's worked out well from the families you've talked to, right?

Susan: It has, because of who they leave them with.  It's not just anybody, but someone in the church, and it's …

Dennis: I'll tell you, though …

Susan: It's not the best scenario.

Dennis: I'm thinking about that, and I'm thinking about my kids …

Susan: No way.

Dennis: I'm sorry.  I've only got so many years.  There are about 18 of them where you get a chance to make an imprint on their lives.

Susan: You're right.

Dennis: To give up one of those 18 years, there is a bit of a value choice here of does the family revolve around the child?

Susan: Mm-hm.

Dennis: Or should the family learn to fit into a bigger universe?

Susan: That's right, that's so true.  And, you know, my heart tells me, "Hey, wait a year.  Keep the family together, that's what you need to do."

Dennis: Right.

Susan: And that's – the primary thing is either you all go together as a family, or you all stay behind as a family to keep that family unit together.

Dennis: I don't like the alternative, by the way, of the dad or the mom moving to another city while the family stays.

Susan: No, I don't, either.

Dennis: And have the separation.  I've seen a lot of bad things happen in those situations.  It's just not healthy.  Now, can you do it for a short period of time?  I mean, Bob, you moved to Little Rock.

Bob: Right, and it was two months before the family joined me, yeah.

Dennis: Sixty days is – yeah, there's a sacrifice, but you were able to get home for a few weekends in the midst of that.  But, I don't know, I just think …

Susan: It's a tough call, isn't it, Dennis?

Dennis: It really is a tough call, but we need to make sure the marriage and the family and, obviously, follow God's will be firmly in place.

Bob: And if you had a son or a daughter – I mean, let's put this in this kind of terms – he is in line to be the starting quarterback on the football team.  You move …

Dennis: You're just trying to make this more difficult, aren't you?

Bob: She could be – your daughter could be prom queen.  You move, and she's a nobody at this new school, and you can't delay – I'm just telling you, there are folks facing – you can't put off the move for a year, and that's what you're about to do to your son or daughter.  What would you do?

Dennis: What would you do?

Bob: I'd call Susan Miller and say, "Susan, I need you to pray for me."

Susan: Well, and, see, these are the hard questions I get, down to the details of the football team and that.  And, you know, my first response is always do what it takes to keep your family together.

Bob: Right.

Susan: But the same token, a teenager thinks their whole life is over, there will never be another boyfriend or girlfriend or another friend, and, you know, they don't have the big picture like adults do – to know that life comes back together.

Bob: And I have to tell you, this brings me kind of full circle, because I told you, as we started here, about breaking the new to Amy that we were moving to Little Rock.  When we got to Little Rock, one night I said to all of the kids, I said, "You know what?  There will be a day when you will say to me, 'Dad, I am so glad' – you don't feel it now, but there will be a day when you'll say, 'I am so glad we moved to Little Rock.  It's been wonderful here.'"  And my daughter, Katy, who was eight at the time, wrote that down – "I'm glad we live in Little Rock," and she put it in an envelope and licked the envelope, and on the outside she wrote, "Dad's bad prediction."  That's what she said.

And she put it in a drawer, and she said, "You open this" …

Dennis: You've got to know Katy at this point.  She's got a little spunk.

Bob: She does, and we found it years later, that envelope that had been tucked away in a drawer somewhere, and I said, "Look at this, 'Dad's Bad Prediction,' do you remember this?"  And she smiled with a little twinkle in her eye and said, "Okay, I'm glad we moved to Little Rock."  I mean, she met her husband here.

Dennis: I was getting ready to point that out if you didn't.  She did get a man out of the deal, didn't she?

You talk about ways we can say goodbye as a family, and put some closure on our emotions and have some meaningful – I don't know if you call them "ceremonies" or not, but they're symbolic of leaving a spot.  You did this when you left Georgia, right?

Susan: We did.  It was very hard.  We lived on a little stream, and we went down and picked a rock up, and I said, "This is our memorial marker for where we live."  And we went to the park, and we, you know, found a rock from the park, and I said, "You know, this is where you played soccer," and we took some things in a shoebox that were mementoes of memories, because you don't – you know, you learn to cherish the things you've left behind.  You cling to God and family and values and morals and each other.  But children have to go through that process of closure, or it's going to be twice as hard on them.

Bob: Even though it feels at the time like you're kind of visiting the grief every day when you go and say these goodbyes?

Susan: But moving is part of grief.  Grief is part of loss and, you know, through that loss, we're going to grieve, and our children are going to grieve.  Now, we may show it in different ways, but we're going to grieve that loss because it is a loss.  The place you loved to shop, it's a loss for you because it may sound corny, but it's a place you are used to going to, and you're accustomed, that's part of your life and with kids, you know, a practice field or the school or Sunday school or youth group – all those – it's important to say goodbye.

Bob: For me, it was the Alamo Café and Chris Madrid's hamburgers.  Those were the two that I grieved and still grieve, to a certain extent.

Dennis: And one more you left out.

Bob: Yeah?

Dennis: The Spurs.

Bob: Well, of course, yeah, the Spurs.  Go, Spurs, Go.

Dennis: Yeah, there you go.  You know, it occurs to me as we're talking here, I grew up in a home that my dad dug the basement for in 1932.  When I left home to go to college in 1966, I'd lived in that same home in that same bedroom.  I never moved.  For me, moving was a foreign language.

Bob: Until you married Barbara and took her six places in five years.

Dennis: That's exactly right.  But we really didn't – we only moved once, really, when our kids were of age here in Little Rock, and it was across town – kind of like you did in Atlanta the one time you said you didn't drag your heels.  But for those who have moved, and are in the process of moving, I think it demand three things – number one, they model life of faith; number two, that they lead their family and care for their children in the process and realize that as they get older, the issues get bigger; and, third, to comfort them in these losses and that grief can be something that God uses in their lives to grow.

And, you know, I fear sometimes that the type of Christianity that we're passing on here in America is too nice and neat and wrapped up and always perfect, and we don't teach our children how to handle pain.  And I'm not being callused or hard-hearted here, but I do think our children will have pain in their lifetimes numerous times, and they're going to have to face it, they're going to have to learn the words "commitment," they're going to have to learn the words "resolve," and they sure need to learn the words "faith," and knowing a God who is a good God and who didn't stop being good just because he called Mommy and Daddy to go to a town that they've never heard of that has new friends that they don't know.

Bob: Nineveh.

Dennis: Yeah, Nineveh, Arkansas, and, Susan, I just appreciate you and your ministry.  I can't think of a more strategic ministry in a community to touch lives at key points.  You know, we reach out to people when they get married, when they have a child, but I don't know that I've ever thought how vulnerable a time is when we could reach out to another family down the street or maybe the apartment complex next door who has just moved in who are facing all kinds of new issues where it's a great opportunity for us to connect with them spiritually, and I just want to encourage listeners to maybe put together their own little – shall I call it "Welcome Wagon?"

Susan: Welcome Basket.

Dennis: Welcome Basket, that's it.

Susan: We call it "Welcome to the Neighborhood."

Dennis: Welcome to the Neighborhood, and you've got two books – one for the kids and one for the parents here that will help them do that.  Thanks for being with us.

Susan: Thank you, thank you, and may I say to the listeners – always move closer to Christ.

Bob: That's a good word, and for listeners who are looking for copies of the books that you've written, let me encourage you to go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com.  We've got information about both of the books available there.  Again, the website, FamilyLifeToday.com.  You will also find a link to Susan's website, where there is a lot more information about moving and about how to find a Moving On group in a city where you are moving to or a place near where you're going to be living. 

And we've got a link to our Mom Blog on the website as well.  On the Mom Blog this week, you'll find some suggestions that have been shared by FamilyLife staff wives who have been through moves.  Some coaching that they would give you on adjusting to a new community or on what you can do to make your move the best possible experience.

Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com.  If it's easier to call 1-800-FLTODAY to request the books that Susan has written, you can do that – 1-800-358-6329.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.

I think most of our listeners are aware that FamilyLife Today is listener-supported.  I wonder if they realize just how many of our actual listeners ever call in and make a donation of any amount to support the ministry.  The best we can tell, it's fewer than 1 out of 10 listeners who ever get in touch with us to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today in any way, and we want to say thank you to those of you who not only listen but who have helped provide the financial support for this ministry.

If you are one of our regular listeners, and you have never called to make a donation to support FamilyLife Today, can we encourage you to consider doing that this month?  And if you are able to, we'd love to send you as a thank you gift, the Jesus film on DVD.  This is the most widely viewed movie of all time telling the story of the life of Jesus. 

In addition to the full feature-length motion picture, there is also a feature called the Story of Jesus for Children.  It's designed for younger children, elementary age and below, and it tells the story of Jesus through the eyes of children.

Both of these features come on a single DVD, and it's our gift to you, if you are able to make a donation this month of any amount to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.

You can make your donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com.  If you do that, as you fill out the donation form, type the word "JesusDVD" into the keycode box, and we'll know to send you a copy of the DVD.  Or if it's easier, just call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, ask for a copy of the Jesus DVD when you make your donation over the phone and, again, let me say thanks in advance for your support of the ministry.  We appreciate you listening, and we appreciate those of you who are able to help support the ministry financially.

Tomorrow we're going to talk about what moms and dads can do to do a better job of raising teenage girls.  Melissa Trevathan and Sissy Goff will be with us, and we hope you can be back with us as well.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow.  

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