Thursday, January 14, 2010


Renae has not been herself this week. I think I know why . . .

"When your family moves, your preschooler may feel as if his comfortable, predictable world has turned upside down, as if someone had jerked the rug out from under him, and he has been thrown off balance. Nothing is familiar anymore; nothing is comfortable; a bewildering time for a preschooler.

Claudia Jewett Jarratt states in Helping Children Cope with Separation and Loss, "When a child moves..., everything changes: the way the light comes through the window as the child goes to sleep or wakes up, the smells and sounds of the house, the colors and furniture the child sees, the food the child eats, parental expectations, routine, and tempo of daily living. It is much like being in an unfamiliar country. Nothing is the same. Remember that for children, the loss of their familiar home can seem like the loss of a family member, because they tend to identify themselves with specific spaces, repeated events, and familiar people. Moving can cause disorientation."
A preschooler's response to a family move is usually similar to grieving. To a child, a move is a loss, and the human response to loss is grief. Preschoolers don't have the emotional vocabulary to put into words how they feel. Even a highly verbal preschooler may not know the specific feeling words to use. Behaviors may take the place of words. Here are some transition symptoms you may see:

  • Attempts to control parents and other adults. Check.
  • Grieving for previous house, friends, etc.
  • Defiance, tantrums, crying. Check.
  • Clinginess.
  • Sleep disturbances. Check.
  • Easily distracted, hyperactive OR unusually lethargic, shy and quiet.
  • Prefers the familiar and comfortable. Doesn't want to try new foods. Resists potty training. May regress. Check.
  • Nervous habits such as thumb sucking, twisting hair, chewing on clothes, stuttering.
  • Arguing and not getting along with siblings and friends.

Preschoolers grieve off and on. They don't get it all over with once and for all. Grieving is too intense for them, so they have to intersperse it with playing and other aspects of life. A preschooler can grieve and play at the same time. She may be very sad for an hour about a friend left behind, then not even mention the friend for a week, and then go through a day or two of sadness about the same friend. "

Just what I needed to hear as I began to fear my daughter had all of a sudden forgotten all of our rules and expectations for her. Whew. This is normal. And as Jesse so kindly reminded me, this is just a season of life.

So, I decided I needed a list for myself too as my behavior this week hasn't been normal either!

Transition symptoms you may see in a 27 year old:

  • May cry a lot.
  • May cry while on a walk in her neighborhood for the last time.
  • Tantrums.
  • Nervous habits such as checking airline requirments for luggage over and over.
  • May cry when dealing with a 2 year old's crying fit.
  • May cry when she overeacts to her 2 year olds mess.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • May cry a lot.
  • Grieving for previous friends, city and food.
  • Meals may become premade, frozen and made in less than 10 minutes.
  • Grieving for chocolate. (This one is unrelated to transition but I'm still grieving it.)
  • Arguing with spouse.
  • May cry a lot.
  • Sleep disturbances.

So if you think of it, be praying for our family these next few weeks. I'm older so I can handle the transition better than Renae can. For her, we'll be letting her watch and listen to the Spanish vidoes and audio CD's that she enjoys here. It will be interesting to see how she handles only English from everyone she meets. I think I'm grieving her lack of Spanish friends more than she will!


Anonymous said...

Oh, Julie...I hear ya...not only from the viewpoint of the adult but also as an MK child who moved a lot in my younger days. It does seem like a lot to ask of yourself and your little ones but change is part of life and life goes on and I count myself all the more "well-rounded" and blessed because of the moves we made over the years! Praying for you all!

Paula's sister, Jan!

kpjordan said...

Julie and Jesse,
am so very thankful that you recognize all the little things that Renae is experiencing and how that "grieving" is manifesting itself. It makes it easier to extend grace to her. I will read Hop on Pop to her LOTS!
Love and prs for you.

Jenny said...

It must be so sad to have to leave, Julie! I'm praying for all of you guys. We love you and you can cry on my shoulder when you get back if you need to. I'll also take you to Target. :)

Beatriz said...

I´m afraid the crying symptom is affecting the friends you are leaving here too...
Poor Renae. I know she will be just fine but it breaks my heart that she´s having a bad time. But it´s life... we can´t protect our children against feelings we have to teach them how to deal with them.