Moving is a major life event for adults, so you can imagine how disruptive it can be for kids. Even the most sociable, easy-going kids will worry about attending new schools and making new friends. If they don’t have the opportunity or are too young to verbalize these concerns, they’ll become sad and anxious. Most kids are resilient, and they will get through this; but they need lots of time and special attention, along with an abundance of patience.
In some cases, moving is a family decision. Maybe you’re building a home or moving to a larger home in the same neighborhood. Or, perhaps you’re moving to a neighborhood that is better suited to the needs of your family. Sometimes the decision to move is based on a job transfer or financial issues. Even if you’re unhappy about the move, try to maintain a positive attitude when talking to your children. Be the adult in the room.
Below are a few guidelines to help you give your children an easier, less stressful moving experience. You know your child better than anyone; the suggestions that follow are just that…suggestions. As for you, there is no way to keep this stress free; well, maybe lots of wine and a long vacation in the tropics when this is over!
Discuss the Move With Your Kids
The most important way to prepare kids for the move is to talk about it with them. Don’t talk at them; talk with them. Let them know that you’re interested in their opinions and feelings, and answer questions thoroughly and truthfully. Even if the move means an improvement in family circumstances, kids don’t perceive this through the same lens as adults. Some will focus only on what to them are the frightening, negative aspects of change.
Involve Them as Much as Possible
Make them feel like participants in the process. If they are old enough, involve them in the house-hunting, and take them to explore the new neighborhood. If this is a distant or out-of-state move, try to make at least one trip with them so that they can calm their fears and visualize themselves in the new area. Make this an adventure. Ask them questions, and, when possible, give them simple choices. For example, ask which bedroom they prefer (other than the master suite, which they will surely covet) and what color to paint the walls in their room.
Moving with Toddlers and Preschoolers
It is assumed that kids under six can be easier to move than school age or teenage kids. It really depends on the child’s personality. Most kids this age have a limited capacity for understanding, but, as stated earlier, you know your child better than anyone. These suggestions are meant purely as guidance.
- Explanations should be clear and simple.
- Use a moving story to explain the move, or use toys to act it out.
- When you pack your toddler’s toys in boxes, be sure to explain that you aren’t throwing them away.
- Don’t buy your child new bedroom furniture right away. To provide a sense of comfort and familiarity, use the same furniture for several months. If possible, arrange the furniture in the same manner as it was previously.
- This is not the time for toilet training or moving from a crib to a bed. Too many changes at once will frustrate your child and put you in therapy.
- Arrange for baby sitting on moving day. Having little ones running wild can be distracting for you and dangerous for them. This suggestion, however, comes with a caveat. Your toddler needs to view the moving process, at least for a short time. Even though you’ve spent time prepping your toddler for the move, his or her memory can be spotty. To leave the current home for the day and return to an unfamiliar home the next day can be bewildering to a little one.
Moving with School-Age Kids
- These kids may be relatively agreeable to a move, but, if they’re adolescents, they’ll find some way to make your life miserable for a while. (Maybe your wine store can make regular deliveries.)
- Make sure they are familiar with their new school, and be aware of any programs in place for new students.
- To prevent glitches that may cause your child discomfort or embarrassment (this could be anything from lost grades to the wrong lunch period), make sure that all necessary records and documents have been transferred to the new school.
- There are two schools of thought when it comes to moving a school-aged child. Some of the “experts” (the people that have no children but think they know what’s best for kids) feel that summer is best so that the school year isn’t interrupted. Others feel that midyear is optimal because your child will meet other kids right away. Either way, you can be sure that you’ve done the wrong thing, and that you’re a terrible parent. You should be used to that by now.
Moving with Teens
- It’s common for teens to rebel. They’ve invested a lot of time and effort into their social lives (unlike their school work), and they don’t want to start over with new friends.
- Don’t dismiss their concerns. They really do need to be taken seriously. You can discuss the benefits of change and how it will help them to grow and prepare for the changes that will materialize later in their lives. They probably won’t listen, but it’s worth a try.
- If your moving during the school year, especially during senior year, consider letting them stay with a friend or relative so that they can finish with their classmates. This is an important time in their lives. Don’t diminish it. They may not remember to take out the trash, but they will always remember how you handled this situation.
Keep in mind that most kids are resilient, and before long they’ll be sharing information (maybe too much) about their new friends, new activities, and new teachers. A positive, encouraging, and caring outlook on your part will go a long way in giving your kids the security they need to navigate this change and maybe even enjoy it.
Be on the lookout for more helpful information in our next “Make Moving Bearable” installment and catch up on our previous moving articles to help your next move go as smooth as possible.