Moving is Tough on Kids, Too
Moving can be tough on a child. It’s hard for anyone to say goodbye to their old home, but it can be particularly difficult for young children who don’t feel in control of the situation. So how can you prepare your kids for a move? This guide will walk you through how to prepare your kids emotionally, pack with little ones, have a successful moving day, and make their first few weeks in your new home totally awesome.
Breaking the News
Discuss the Move as Early as Possible
Kids love to feel involved, and the news of an impending move can make them feel left out. You may find them asking, “How long have you known?” They don’t want to think you’ve been keeping secrets from them, so avoid waiting until the last minute to break the news. It’s best to tell toddlers about the move about a month ahead of time, while older children can know a bit sooner. This shows consideration and gives them more time to emotionally prepare.
Remind Them About the Move Often
It’s easy for younger children to forget about moving plans, so say something to remind them about the move at least once a day. Talk about moving in an exciting, yet casual way. For example, you could point out something at the store and say, “This would look nice in your new room when we move!” This helps them normalize the concept of moving. With younger children, it’s also good to remind them what will stay the same. Reassure them that their favorite toys and the family pets will be coming along. If they are part of activities that they will continue in your new location (dance, sports, etc.), remind them that they get to keep doing these things, as well.
Let Them Be Upset
Moving to a new place can be a bittersweet experience. Even if you are staying in the same city, saying goodbye to your old home is an emotional experience. Allow your children to be sad or angry about the move — it’s okay for them to be upset, and it won’t last forever. Even if their agitation seems to linger, they will eventually come around. Some experts say it takes about six months for a child to completely acclimate to a new lifestyle, so don’t worry if they are having a hard time.
Throw a “See You Later” Party
Goodbyes are important, even for children. Consider throwing a “See You Later” get together for your kids and their friends. This ensures that they don’t miss out on a goodbye with anyone. Don’t plan your gathering too close to your departure date, however — a party the day before the move could become a very sad spectacle. Plan to get together a week or two before the move, so that no one believes they are seeing each other for the last time before moving day.
Make a Plan for Staying in Touch
Talk with your kids about how they can maintain their current relationships. Social media and technology make continued communication simpler than ever! Practice video calls with friends to encourage children who are worried about staying in touch. If you are planning to visit your old hometown, share this with your child as well. Perhaps you can even pick a day ahead of time and put it on a calendar where they can count down the days. But be sure that you don’t make promises you can’t keep — if you aren’t sure that you will be able to visit, don’t say that you will.
Anticipating Your New Home
Help Them Visualize Their New Life
Prepare your kids for their new lifestyle by helping them picture it. Show them photos of their new home, school, and city. Find places they would love to visit — an ice cream shop, a great playground — and talk about when you can go and how fun it will be. Be prepared to answer all of their questions, especially about their new school. If you can visit the school, city, or your new home ahead of time, do! This will make the actual day of the move feel less unknown and frightening.
Let Them Make Some Decisions
Kids love feeling in charge! Find ways to give them some decision-making power. This will help your kids feel a bit more in control of a situation where they don’t have a say. Planning their new room is a great way to do this. Let them pick out new bedding, a new rug, or a paint color for the walls. They’ll love getting to make their own choices and it will get them excited about the home! Older children can give some input on other home decor as well (“Can I get your opinion on this rug for the living room?”), or even go with you to check out some houses with your realtor. Just be sure they are mature enough to deal with the possibility if the house you choose wasn’t their favorite one.
Sign Up for Activities in Advance
Research clubs and extracurriculars around your new residence and sign up ahead of time. If your child can immediately jump into ballet class or basketball practice, they’ll start making new friends faster and keep their mind off any homesickness. This can also get them excited as they anticipate trying a new activity or joining a new team. Plus, signing up in advance means that if they are upset about the move once they get there, they can’t refuse to join any activities in protest!
Moving Tips and Moving Day
Pack and Donate While They are Asleep
You can imagine the scene: Your child notices you boxing up a toy that they rarely play with, but upon seeing it THEY NEED TO PLAY WITH IT RIGHT NOW. Kids tend to want something the moment they believe it’s out of reach, so if you are packing in front of them, you may find them unpacking everything right behind you! Try packing at night while they are sleeping, and they probably won’t notice if a few toys are missing. This goes for donations, too. You can expect a fit if your kids find out you’re ditching any of their stuff — even if you know that it’s only things they never use. Take donations to a drop-off at night after bedtime.
Ask for Help from Family and Friends
Enlist family and friends to babysit when you’re packing, visiting potential homes, or even for moving day. Your kids will love getting to spend time with the babysitter, and you’ll be able to get things done without running around after little ones!
Have a Moving Day Plan
If no one can watch your kids on moving day, create a simplified moving day plan to explain to them. Kids like to know what’s coming, so talk through the details of the day so they know what to expect. It’s also a good idea to pack up a moving day kit for each child with some of their favorite toys, some coloring books, or even a tablet loaded up with movies they can watch. Make sure they know what is happening and what is expected of them during the move.
The First Few Weeks
Maintain as Much Continuity as Possible
Do you always go out for ice cream on Fridays? Do you sit in the same spots for dinner each night? Try to find as many things as possible that can stay the same, including things like their bedroom set up, family dinners, bedtime rituals, and any traditions and common activities. Show them that even though they’re in a new place, their family is still the same.
Particularly with your younger children, try to maintain a positive attitude. Children look to their parents for emotional cues, so if you seem stressed or upset, they will likely feel that way, too. Remain optimistic about your new home and encourage them to see the good in it. Of course, it’s okay to bond over missing your old home — being sad is okay! But try to avoid having a consistently negative or somber demeanor. And remember, it can take some time for your kids to get used to being in a new place. Eventually, they will learn to love it!