This is a three-part story about transferring the whole family to a new environment, written by The Parenting Emporium co-founder Beng Feliciano and her husband, Jim. Part 1 is all about preparing the family psychologically and emotionally.
In 2014, we visited the south and witnessed several ongoing developments. There was no denying it. The surrounding environment was spacious and beautiful. We saw wide and open roads, and we breathed in fresh, clean air. The trees, the lake, and the great outdoors were all breathtaking. It was probably one of those things that belonged on a billboard.
So we found ourselves asking this question: Could we see our family in this place?
The answer: Yes and no.
Yes, why not? It seemed like the promised land! No, it was too far from our extended families, our friends, all of whom we would surely miss. It was too far from our place of work and we just couldn’t imagine enduring countless hours being stuck in traffic. And it was simply too far from everything that we had grown accustomed to by living right smack in the middle of Metro Manila.
Well, to cut a long story short, we realized that overall it would be good for the family to transfer to the south. It’s a great environment for the kids to grow up in and good schools were located just minutes from where we would live. Never mind the distance to the city where we would still have regular activities for work, everything we found in and around our new home was worth the sacrifice.
Of course now that we’re finally settled, everything seems nice and dandy but the entire process of transferring was nothing like a walk in the park. We realized that we had to deal with many painful realities, particularly for our children, and addressing these realities was the only way we could make things work.
Distance truly comes at a cost
Despite living in the digital age, the reality was that we would no longer live one block away (literally) from our extended family. What used to be a casual walk next door to visit grandparents and cousins would now have to be a scheduled trip over the weekend.
Our children’s friends – from the community, school, and from their extracurricular activities like our son’s football club – would no longer be that accessible. Sheer proximity is a great enabler of interaction and we would no longer have that luxury. This was in fact one of the biggest concerns raised by our kids and one of the root causes of their resistance. They were able to develop all these relationships over the years and these were understandably difficult to let go.
Daily lives would change
There was no escaping the fact that uprooting would change everyone’s daily lives. And that’s something that we realized we should never belittle. New school. New classmates. New community. For children, this can all be very daunting and, to a certain extent, terrifying.
It was a very delicate time for our kids and we had to handle them with utmost care, understanding, patience, respect and love. So how did we manage them?
Early seeding of the idea
In 2015, we started discussing with them the idea that we might transfer to the south. As expected, they voiced their vehement objection to any notion that they would be separated from their friends. At that time we weren’t certain whether we would be able to transfer but we wanted them to know that it was a possibility that could happen. By doing so, we were able to plant the idea early on but, more importantly, we were able to listen to how they felt about it.
Validation of feelings
Over the span of two years, conversations with their friends ranged from, “Oh no, you’re moving? Why??? to “We will keep in touch! We will visit you, ok?” It was a long and hard process. During tough times, we listened to our children talk about their sadness, fear, anger and frustration. We let them shed tears. We listened patiently and held their hands. We allowed them to feel what they felt. We validated and respected all their feelings. We also tried our best to arrange special time with their friends, especially over the summer prior to the move.
Seeing their raw emotions allowed to draw up a list of things that would make the move easier for the family. We did our best to provide solutions and options.
Witnessing and experiencing life in the new place prior to the move
Through the months that followed, we did nature trips where the kids fed the fish, strolled along the lagoon, swam in pools and ran on the vast grounds. There were father and son biking adventures, which included discovering bird sanctuaries and paths that led to breathtaking views.
On separate occasions, we brought some friends in the area to enjoy with the family. We also attended the Halloween event to see what it’s like and who the neighbors would be. There were also trips to the supermarket, wet market, specialty shops, hospital and malls. The children were brought to the site of their future school. We played out in our heads what life in this new place would be like. Our family conversations revolved around the possibility of living in a place that was more than 40 kilometers away from home.
Relating similar experiences
“Even Mom and Dad transferred to a new home, far away from the old one!” That was a recurring line to our children. We shared experiences of being uprooted from a place where we established friendships and eventually replanted to a new place, which turned out to be better. We talked about hope, treasuring memories, new beginnings and being who you are wherever you go.
Finally, the children were able to say their goodbyes.
A new chapter
During our first time in our new home, we heard nothing but peeps and squeals and excitement from the children. Both of us were so relieved. We’ve spent a full month here already and we have been reaping the benefits of having prepared the family psychologically and emotionally. The family is in good spirits and adjusting well.
While it’s true that there are still talks of missing friends and the old school, we’re glad that the children like their new school and find many things interesting and unique about the place. We assured the family that, no matter what, we will be honest and open with one another about how we feel in this new environment.
Thankfully, there are families who have welcomed us into their homes and those who were helpful enough to give us tips on where to find this and that and how to get by in general. Joining Viber groups, whether school-based or community-based, was also such an incredible way to get information while we were all finding our bearings. The kindness of people, despite some being complete strangers, has been both comforting, reassuring and just simply amazing.
Since we harped on having a bigger space in our new home, the children asked if finally (after years of asking), they could have a dog (in addition to the two bunnies they already have). We said yes prior to the move.
As soon as we were able to settle down, we welcomed the latest member of the family, Cooper – a three-month-old Golden Retriever which all of us now spoil to the hilt! Apart from Cooper, we made other promises to the kids in the hope that they would realize that our new home would be much better than the old one, and we are still fulfilling those promises till this day. It’s a work-in-progress.
In most cases, change is met with much resistance, especially if existing arrangements seem to work fine. Special considerations should be made when young family members who have grown roots in a place are involved. What worked for our family were early seeding of ideas and giving ourselves and those around us ample time to process the transition.
In addition, going to the new place to witness and experience bits of life made things more real for us. And when fears set in, we assured the children that we know how they felt because we went through the same transition when we were young.
Finally, we nurture the trust that our children put in us by delivering the promises we made, both big and small. With all of those things we’ve gone through, uprooting from our old home is now a thing of the past as we look forward to this replanted new life that we’re facing in the years to come.
For families who are considering transferring to a new place, especially under circumstances where it’s about turning a dream into a reality, DO IT. It may be challenging in the beginning but we guarantee that it will be one of the best decisions you will make.