How to Make a Big Move Easier on Your Kids

Some tips to ease the stress your children feel when you're packing up and moving on. Staying positive and transparent are tops on the list.

Recently, our family moved up the street. It sounds so innocuous: “up the street.” How hard can it be?

As it turns out, moving out of your home and into another, no matter how close, is never, ever a small event. There is no such thing as a little move … and don’t even get me started about the misnomer, moving “day!”

Of course one of my biggest concerns has been how this move will affect my daughters, ages 2 and 5. Our first morning in the new place my 2-year-old ran into her new playroom and screamed, “I love my new house!” My heart soared.

A day later she asked plaintively to “go home” and I thought I’d done her irreparable damage.

But that was the only time I’ve heard anything that disheartening so far, and mostly there has been much excitement around decorating and nesting in the new space.

In reality, I think the kids are coming through all of the change very well. Everyone is sleeping just fine and our days are pretty much business as usual, which is to say shockingly chaotic, yet remarkably the same day in and day out, just like always.

Those who have gone through this fire before me have passed on some tips via forums and friendly advice. After trial and error, I have culled some things to consider if you are moving your family any time soon:

• Don’t wait to inform your children about moving. Tell your kids about the move as soon as possible.

I thought the less time kids have to think about moving, the easier it would be. However, everything I read said it is actually the opposite. Kids need time to get used to the idea. I explained about the move as soon as I knew it would happen and it gave them lots of time to formulate questions and process answers, which leads me to:

• Welcome your children's questions about moving.

Even if you can't answer all of them right now, your kid's questions can give you an idea of how they're feeling about moving. Some may also offer an ideal way to get them involved in the moving process, such as suggesting they get online to locate nearby libraries or parks.

• Be positive and upbeat about the move.

Your attitude about the move will influence your children's attitudes as well. If you dread moving, then the move will seem dreadful to them. As much as you can, be enthusiastic, upbeat and positive about the new experiences and opportunities in store, and your children will be more likely to feel the same way. This may not always possible, so don’t beat yourself up if they see you sweat, just do your best and it will go a long way.

• Let your children know they can help.

This is a good time to emphasize that the move is a family event and everyone will be part of planning, packing and perhaps even choosing the new home. I especially found that letting the kids pack certain things went a long way towards minimizing their discomfort at all those strange boxes piling up around the old house. Also, involving them in decorating their new room is a huge way to keep them focused on the positive.

• Use maps and pictures as illustrations to make the move more concrete.

If your children can understand maps, have one that shows your new community. Together, locate where you will be living and places of interest around your new home. If you are moving far, have a map that shows where you are now and where you're moving. Help them trace the distance and even plot out a route you might take when moving from here to there. If possible, have photographs of the community and your new home that your kids can appreciate. 

• Reassure them that their life won't change dramatically.

Point out the things that you know will be basically the same in their new home and community, such as having a backyard to play in and going to school. Explain that pets and favorite toys or belongings will go with them. If there are lessons or other activities your kids enjoy now, assure them that you'll find new instructors or similar programs for them in your new community.

Tell us in comments.

What has worked for you?


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