By Heather McCarron
Wicked Local - Wrentham
WRENTHAM -- When Wrentham realtor Julie Etter was working as a middle school teacher, she came to know a family that was preparing to move from a small condo to a bigger house in the same town.
“They had a 4-year-old little girl who, every day after school, her mom would drive her around their new neighborhood,” Etter shared.
She developed a rapport with the girl, who seemed to be taking the prospect of moving very well. But, Etter said, “a couple of days before the move, the little girl broke down. She said, ‘I don’t want to move, there’s monsters in the neighborhood.’”
At first the adults were confused by this turn of events. “The ‘ah ha’ moment was that it was around Halloween and there were in fact monsters all over the neighborhood,” Etter said.
The incident was enough to push her toward realizing an idea that had been brewing in her mind for a couple of years: A children’s book about moving and all the preparations that go into it. Shortly thereafter, “Lily and Andrew Are Moving” was finally written. Etter’s husband, Tim, an art and graphic design teacher at Bellingham High, did the illustrations. And soon the book was ready for publication.
Etter recently re-released the title, first published in 2013. The interactive book aims to help guide families with young children through the steps of moving, and includes stickers for labeling moving boxes, as well as emoticon stickers for kids to put into the book each time they’re reading it to help express their feelings about moving.
“Think about it from a kid’s perspective,” explained Etter, who has been a realtor for 12 years. “Strangers coming into the house. Boxes. Saying goodbye to friends. It can be scary and overwhelming. I wrote this book because there is nothing out there that breaks down the process for kids and tells them what to expect.”
The story is about a brother and sister getting ready to move, and the book serves as an engagement device to “help kids better ‘process’ each stage of moving.”
It’s noteworthy that “much of the emotional journey for children in the moving process is akin to the stages identified by Kubler-Ross in the grieving process,” Etter pointed out.
In creating the book, Etter collaborated with a licensed social worker and a children’s author, and was guided by her professional coach, who is also an author. With her father as a publisher, the two characters named for a niece and nephew and her husband’s involvement as illustrator, the book is a family project.
The book itself comes with instructions for optimal use, a collection of colorful stickers for active child engagement, and ideas for activities before and after the move.
“Last year more than 35 million Americans packed up their belongings and moved their lives from one structure to another,” said Etter, who as a teacher worked with children dealing with transitions. “Moving children is a little like transplanting plants. They’ll thrive with the proper nurturing -- wherever you end up putting down roots.”
The whole premise, said Etter, “is that we don’t always know what the kids are feeling. And sometimes they’re worrying about things we didn’t know there was an issue,” such as the color of a wall in the new house, the lack of a treeehouse in the back yard, or scary Halloween characters on people’s lawns.
“The point is the kids are feeling something, but they’re left out of the process. It’s a big unknown stress of stripping them from their comfort,” Etter said.
From her experience as a realtor, she said not including kids in the moving process is one of the biggest mistakes people make.
“I guess the suggestion is involve your kids if you can,” she said. “It makes them feel important. It makes them feel informed.”
Etter will be at An Unlikely Story Bookstore and Cafe, 111 South St., Plainville on Saturday, April 7 at 12 p.m. to read from and talk about her book, and sign copies. A similar event is planned on May 10 at Bellingham Public Library, 100 Blackstone St., Bellingham at 4:30 p.m.
For more information, visit treehousebuddies.com or email Etter at firstname.lastname@example.org