What are parent's looking for in a new home? Here’s how to find calm in the storm and maintain your parental mental health during the homebuying process.
Prioritize and maintain your mental health
Everyone wants the experience of moving to be positive for their family. But the truth is, the whole process can be more than a little crazy making. Things move and change quickly, and are often beyond your control—no matter how perfectly straight your row of little duckies is.
While grown-ups expect to experience some anxiety around the homebuying process, children can feel it, too—although unfortunately, they’re less emotionally well equipped to handle it. Here are some strategies to help you reduce stress and maintain your parental mental health, while helping them cope in the process.
Invite them in
Perhaps the single most important thing you can do to get ahead of questions and potential conflicts with your children during the homebuying process, is to include them in it—especially the aspects that directly affect them. If your kids are getting older and they need individual or bigger bedrooms, or you want them to be able to go to a bigger/better school in an area that has more community resources they may enjoy—tell them! Emphasize the things they have to look forward to. Showing them pictures of the new home, viewing maps of the area and looking at the town’s website are fun things you can do together, and great ways to make your kids feel involved.
Keep the lines of communication open
Start at the start of it all—by letting your kids know what’s going on. Be selective about what you share, package the information in child-friendly, bite-sized pieces, and focus on high-level messages that are easy to grasp. And then keep talking.
“As much as it’s important for parents to stay in touch with and communicate their feelings, especially during high-stakes times like when planning a move, our kids are going to mirror how we handle these things,” says Juliet Kuehnle, National Board Certified Counselor, mental health therapist, and founder and owner of Sun Counseling & Wellness. “By demonstrating good communication skills that include things like active listening, respectfully sharing our own feelings, and advocating for ourselves in a positive way, we’re essentially teaching our kids how to do it, too.”
Expect the unexpected
The homebuying process can be unpredictable. Before reacting when something unexpected happens, think about whether it’s something you have control over. Practice detaching from things you can’t control (like how many people look at the same house you’re interested in, or what other offers are being made), and focus on the things you can control—like how you respond to these situations, and how you deal with and express your thoughts and emotions. As with everything else, your kids will follow your lead.
Try these breathing and grounding techniques
We all know the phrase, “Just breathe.” It sounds straightforward enough, but Kuehnle suggests using specific breathing techniques that help engage our bodies in a state of deep relaxation, along with grounding skills that help us separate from distressing emotions or situations and reconnect to the present moment. “I recommend that people practice these techniques when they’re feeling calm,” Kuehnle says, “so they’ll be easier to do and more helpful when they’re needed.”
Normalize talking about mental health
Moving a family—especially one with children—to a new home can take a toll on the mental health of everyone involved. You can head a potentially bigger problem off at the pass by talking openly with your kids about mental health, at a time when everything’s okay. When the mood is right, ask when they’d be most open to talking (like in the car when they don’t have to make eye contact with you), and try to find other ways to give them a sense of control over these more serious conversations.
“These are conversations every parent should have with their children, to help remove the taboo and stigma around mental health,” Kuehnle says. “It paves the way to a healthier and happier home for everyone, parents and their children.”
Acknowledge that grief can be a part of the process, too
It’s not something we give a lot of thought to, but disappointment is often a part of the homebuying process. “Humans develop emotional attachments quickly,” Kuehnle says. “You start to envision how you’d decorate a room or landscape a property, or you can ‘just see’ your family playing together in the back yard. If the sale falls through, it can be a big letdown for everyone, so it’s good to help your kids understand that things don’t always go as planned in the homebuying process, which helps build resiliency.”
Other, situational causes of grief can be more serious. If the move is linked to divorce, job loss or financial instability, medical issues or death, the stress and sadness you and your children experience may increase dramatically. In some cases, making a memory book about the home, town and people you’re moving away from can make you and your kids feel better. Since children may see a move across town as a move to another planet, parents can encourage kids to stay in touch with friends they’re leaving, and help them understand how easy it is to do.
Sometimes you may need a little help
Experts agree that moving can be a traumatic experience for children if it’s not handled properly—so if you feel completely overwhelmed, or just aren’t sure how to do what’s best for everyone, don’t hesitate to call on a mental health professional. Therapists can offer parental guidance specific to your situation, including meeting with your child to provide a valuable objective perspective, as well as coaching to ensure you are creating a healthy home for your whole family.
Parenting and buying a new home are two of the most meaningful experiences in life, both with many ins and outs. At Woodside, we know the ins and outs of new-home building. Leave that to us, and we’ll leave you more time to focus on taking care of your family. Contact us today. Let’s get you home.
Contributor Bio: Juliet Kuehnle, MS, NCC, LCMHCS, Owner and Founder of Sun Counseling & Wellness
A nationally Board Certified Counselor, mental health therapist and owner/founder of Sun Counseling & Wellness, with two private practice locations in Charlotte, North Carolina and telehealth throughout North Carolina and New York. She is also a mental health/wellness consultant, speaker, and writer with two magazine bylines. Juliet hosts a podcast called, "Who You Callin' Crazy," which features practical therapy tips and conversations with interesting people you (want to) know. She has been featured on WBTV, WCNC, and in publications including Shondaland, Cosmopolitan, Parade, and PsychCentral. Juliet just published her first book, entitled Who You Callin' Crazy?! The Journey From Stigma To Therapy. You can follow Juliet on social media @YepIGoToTherapy, and access free resources and shop her therapy swag at yepigototherapy.com. Outside of work, Juliet and her husband, Edward, have two daughters and a pup named Parmesan.