Moving with kids
Moving is hard—and it can be even harder as a child. Children tend to be more sensitive to relocation, because it means moving away from friends and the comfort of a place they feel familiar.
Here, we’ll help you prepare your child or children for the move with suggestions for adjustment, including books and games to say goodbye properly. Hopefully, you’ll have some fun along the way as well!
Before the move
Involving your children in the process will make them feel included in the decision, and like they have a choice in the matter. They may respond better, or even get excited about the process!
Make a family wish list
Sit down as a family and come up with a wish list for what your new house includes. It may be a bigger backyard, larger basement, or separate rooms for each of the children.
House hunt as a family
If possible, take your children with you to look at houses. This will make them feel included, and because kids are usually honest about their feelings, may help you make a decision if you can’t decide between two houses or are on the fence.
Let your child decide how to decorate their personal space. Bring home paint samples to see what color they’d like their room to be, and then turn this into an art project by pasting or drawing a picture onto a colored piece of paper and let them decorate their room.
Pack a treasure box
When preparing to move, give your child their own box to fill up, decorate and use for favorite items. Let the child keep it close by in the car.
Throw a goodbye party
Give your kids (and yourself) a chance to say goodbye to your home with one last hurrah. Invite friends and neighbors over to say goodbye to your home, and celebrate new beginnings.
Visit favorite neighborhood spots
If you’re moving a significant distance, be sure to take your children to their favorite neighborhood locations one last time. Let them visit their favorite restaurants or stores, and say goodbye to people most important to them, like friends, family, or babysitters.
Create a memory book
Pictures speak a thousand words. Gather up your favorite photos taken in the house, as well as their aforementioned important people, including contact info so they can keep in touch.
Say goodbye properly
Have dinner as a family in the house a few last times, and ask your children to recall their favorite memory in the house.
Answer questions honestly
Your kids are going to have questions—and that’s okay. Be sure to answer their questions with detail, patience and honesty so that they don’t feel confused or resentful.
Common questions include
- Why are we moving?
- Is the dog/pet coming with us?
- What’s my new school/neighborhood/bedroom like?
- Will I make new friends?
During the move
Turn the process of moving into a game! If you and your children have fun while moving, it may take some of the stress away (for both of you). Here are some tips.
Make a playlist
Make a playlist of songs that the whole family loves, and turn up the jams while you pack.
Stick to your routine
To ensure your children don’t feel too shaken up by the move, try to stick to your normal schedule as best you can. If you normally watch football together on Sunday nights or have Taco Tuesdays during the week, and then stop because of the move, then your child will associate the move with sadness (and also, no more tacos). Children don’t think as far as what will go back to normal after the move, and only think about what they’re missing in the present, so continue your regularly programmed Taco Tuesdays (and Pizza Fridays, of course).
Turn the move into a mini vacation
If you’re moving a great distance, take an extra day or two to stop at some exciting places along the way. If you’re only moving a few blocks away, then set up a tent in your yard and take your kids on an adventure. This also gives you an opportunity for paint to dry if you’re painting their bedrooms.
Moving can be a difficult time in a child’s life—even the most well-adjusted child, and one way to look out for them is to make sure they’re not having too difficult of a time.
Be cautious of warning signs that your child is having a hard time with the move, and address them as quickly as possible:
- Withdrawn behavior
- Loss of appetite
- Sleeping problems (ex: nightmares)
- Outbursts of anger or crying
- Reluctance to be too far away from the house or family
- Difficulty making new friends
So you’ve moved in—now what? Once you’ve moved in, your child still may need reassurance and help getting used to their new surroundings. Understand that this may be a grieving period of sorts for your child as they may miss their old home, friends, or family. Follow these tips to settle in.
Explore your new neighborhood
Make the move an adventure. Associate the new neighborhood with fun for your child and take them to new, exciting places like a park, ice cream shop, or pottery painting place.
Visit the new school
Make sure you’re there with your child when they visit the school for the first time. They’ll feel more comfortable with you there, and you can get a sense of how they’re going to adjust.
Encourage them to get involved
Encourage your child to participate in after-school or neighborhood activities. This will help them make new friends, and feel more comfortable in their environment.
When reading to your child, consider throwing a book about moving in the selection. This may ease your child’s mind and help them to understand the concept of moving. The following list is a great start, and we’ve even added some books for parents too. The links will take you to Amazon.com.
Books for kids:
- The Berenstain Bears: Moving Day, Stan and Jane Berenstain
- Alexander, Who’s Not (Do you hear me? I mean it!) Going to Move, Judith Viorst
- My Very Exciting, Sorta Scary, Big Move, Lori Attanasio Woodring, PhD
- Henry and Mudge and Annie’s Good Move, Cynthia Rylant
- The Moving Book: A Kids’ Survival Guide, Gabriel Davis
- Goodbye House, Frank Asch
Books for parents
- Moving With Kids: 25 Ways to Ease Your Family’s Transition to a New Home, Lori Collins Burgan
- Moving, Children, and Stress: Reducing Family Anxiety Throughout the Moving Process, Dr. Thomas T. Olkowski and Lynn Parker