My Very Exciting, Sorta Scary, Big Move: A Workbook for Children Moving to a New Home by Greenwich-based child and family psychologist Lori Attanasio Woodring aims to help children and their parents through the emotional upheaval and stress of moving.
A licensed psychologist in Connecticut and New York, Dr. Woodring received a B.S. in human development and family from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in school psychology from Fordham University, where she was also an adjunct professor. She was inspired to write the workbook by her family’s move to London and back to the U.S. five years later.
“More than 40 million people, many of them children, move every year, but that doesn’t mean moving is easy,” Dr. Woodring said.
According to the Employee Relations Council, moving is among the top three stressors for kids. Concern for their well-being and a desire to aid parents in helping their kids feel more secure inspired Dr. Woodring to create an interactive workbook that helps children process their emotions so they can be more excited about moving.
“The interactive portion is crucial. Kids can read a book and passively hear about the move, but unless parents help them, they can’t personalize the story,” Dr. Woodring said.
She conceived of the workbook because her four daughters — all under age seven during the family’s international moves — had very different reactions throughout. “I wanted to create a workbook that would help diverse groups of kids, and provide the missing interactive piece that would help parents get kids to externalize their feelings.”
To highlight the interactive qualities of the workbook, she selected British-based illustrator Timm Joy. “I loved his illustrations. He had a feel for the book and how to reach the different age groups. It leaves room for kids’ depictions of their feelings and emotions, and walks them step by step through the moving process, including understanding change, managing emotions using different strategies, and taking part in a new adventure.”
Dr. Woodring has worked with children and parents in various settings, and has researched the impact of such stressors as terminal illness on children and families, and the psychological impact of parental HIV/AIDS on adolescents. In working with young kids in therapy, she found separation anxiety to be a stress that parents sometimes mistakenly shield their children from.
“Parents tend to think, ‘I don’t want kids to worry about it, so I’ll just pretend it’s okay.’”
Kids, however, have their own feelings. “You can’t make a child feel a certain way. My kids knew I was sad when I was leaving my friends. One daughter was very emotional about moving and each day came up with an idea of how to stay. Yet, in the end, she was the easiest to move,” Dr. Woodring said.
As with many adults, the biggest problem for kids is the unknown. “They often have questions adults take for granted. My children wondered how we were going to move the closet — what we were going to take and leave,” Dr. Woodring said. To help bring clarity to the process, Big Move discusses the difference between a house and a home, and lets kids write, draw, think, feel and share. It also provides tips on saying goodbye and making new friends, and includes a certificate of completion.
Workbook enthusiast Ann Magalhaes, who met Dr. Woodring at a parenting class in London, found the workbook a “catalyst” for effective conversations that helped her daughter overcome the sadness of moving. Maria Manos, whose two sons have moved more than most, found the book helped them realize it was normal to feel happy about the move one week and like they “disliked everyone and everything” the next.
Dr. Woodring, who consults with schools, parents, children and families, is now getting certification in specialized treatment of trauma and post-traumatic stress. “After Hurricane Sandy and Sandy Hook, I wanted to get more training and more tools,” she said. Her guidance for parents whose children are dealing with a move is to, “Be open to [your] children’s feelings and to validate those feelings no matter what they are.”
My Very Exciting, Sorta Scary, Big Move: A Workbook for Children Moving to a New Home, for kids ages five through 11, is available on Amazon and CreateSpace. Also visit www.movingwithchildren.com.
(Adele Annesi is co-author and co-editor of Now What? The Creative Writer’s Guide to Success After the MFA, the first multi-genre writer’s guide authored, edited and published exclusively by and for writers.)