1. Communicate early and involve your child
2. Be patient with their coping process
3. Plan in advance
4. Consider what your child needs
5. Give them control over their rooms
6. Keep important belongings in a “no pack” box
7. Utilize nighttime for packing
8. Move after the school year
9. Give them an opportunity to say goodbye
10. Plan visits
11. Help them meet new friends
12. Keep a routine
13. Prioritize their spaces
14. Model behavior
15. Pack a bag of essentials
Moving into a new home, especially when moving to a new city or to a new state, is already a stressful process filled with change and excitement. If you’re moving with kids, there is an added layer of pressure.
Many children have difficulty coping with change and won’t understand why they’re leaving their school and friends behind. However, if you communicate with them early on about the move and give them ownership over certain tasks, they will be able to cope better and feel like they have some control over the process.
Communicate openly and involve your child in the decision-making process as much and as early as possible. If they have input in the family’s decisions, it will help them feel prepared and even excited about the change.
If you’re moving locally, ask what area they’d like to live in or what they’d love in a new house. If you don’t feel comfortable asking for their opinions, still make sure to let them know what’s going on and why. For example, if you’re moving to an area with better school options, tell them upfront instead of surprising them when you’ve already bought a house.
Regardless of where you’re moving, consider bringing your kids on a trip to their new neighborhood to help them feel comfortable with the area before moving there.
Children are extremely resilient, but they may need time to process their feelings. Telling them they have to leave behind their childhood home, school, and friends is a lot of information and they may feel overwhelmed at first. It’s likely they won’t know how to express their emotions properly. The child coping process often includes anger, sadness, and emotional outbursts. Try not to take their emotional reaction personally, and instead give them time and space to adjust.
Give yourself as much time as possible to pack and plan the move. As you plan, give your children regular updates so they know what to expect. If you have a packing schedule (or packing instructions), let them know, and consider posting them on the fridge or in a central space. The more they know about how and when their environment will change before the move, the better they can mentally prepare.
Moving affects every child differently, so when you’re considering how to tell them, there are no tips that will help more than your own parental instincts. You know better than anyone how your child feels and how they cope with change. If they’re social, plan visits to see their friends after the move and sign them up for activities in your new neighborhood. If they love school, talk to them about their new school so they know what to expect. If you’re not sure what they need, it’s okay to ask them. They will let you know how to make them feel more comfortable.
The transition of moving will leave some kids feeling out of control. Give them back a sense of control by putting them in charge of certain tasks. Older children can handle packing their own belongings into boxes. Younger kids may be able to handle smaller tasks (with your help), like packing the clothes from their dresser or the toys in the playroom.
In addition, give them control over their space in the new house. Let them choose the paint color for their new room or let them pick out new bedding and decor. If they’re in charge of their own space, they may feel comfortable faster.
It’s important to keep your children’s favorite items from getting lost in the move (like beloved stuffed animals, blankets, or games). When packing up, designate a “no pack” box, bag, or bin for those items. You can also put important family papers and heirlooms in the box. These items will travel with your family via car or suitcase, so there’s no chance they’ll be damaged or delayed in the moving truck.
Take time while the kids are away from the house or sleeping to do the majority of the packing (especially if you are packing their belongings). This will allow you to spend time with them when they’re home, and they won’t have to see you packing their belongings.
If you have school-aged children, it is ideal to move after the school year has finished. While in the eyes of your children, there will never be a perfect time to move, allowing them to wrap up their year will help them close one chapter before opening a new one. It will also help them adjust to their new school without having to jump into classes mid-term.
When they are able to properly say goodbye to people, places, and things in their life (even though it’s hard), they’ll be able to process the change fully. Depending on the age of your child, set up playdates with friends, help them write emails to teachers (if you’re moving after the school year), and take them to their favorite spots to wave goodbye.
Make sure to plan visits back to your current city before you move. This will help your kids feel like the “goodbye” is a little less final. It will also help them keep their relationships with close friends and neighbors until (and after) they make friends in their new home.
Leaving friends behind is often one of the most difficult things for children to cope with. To help them adjust to their new environment, look for ways to help them make new friends. Sign them up for classes or clubs they might enjoy, and take them to the neighborhood park or library.
Keep as much of their life stable as possible after the move. Stick to any morning or bedtime routines and keep any plans you would normally have. For example, go on the family vacation you have every year and sign them up for the same sports. If your family has a weekly tradition (like going to a bagel shop or the park on the weekends), keep doing those things. Seeing that they can do their favorite things (even though they’re in a new place) will bring comfort.
On moving day, unpack the kids’ rooms first. Set up their beds, toys, clothes, and playroom so they feel comfortable as quickly as possible.
Whether you realize it or not, your children will be looking to you as an example during the family moving process. Find reasons to be excited about the move, stay positive, and remain as calm as you can. This will show them there is nothing to worry about, and that the whole family can be excited about this process. Once you move, do your best to meet friends, get connected with other parents, and get involved in the community.
Depending on how far you’re moving, it may take more than one day to get to your new home. Pack essentials, pajamas, and extra clothes for each member of the family so they have everything they need during the process of getting settled.
This is also a great way to include a small, thoughtful surprise. Consider adding a favorite treat, small toy, or stuffed animal to the kids’ bags. If you’re driving cross-country for a long distance move, having their favorite clothes and a small surprise will help the kids feel comfortable and even like they’re on a fun adventure.
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