It can be tough to tell the kids that you’re moving. Whether you’ve moved often or never, your kids will have opinions on every aspect. They are likely to say it’s not fair, that they don’t want to go, and perhaps throw fits. Underlying their reaction will be a host of feelings and fears. But there are ways to tell your kids “we’re moving” that can minimize reactions and validate their feelings.
First, tell them early, and explain why you’re moving. Whether you’re moving for work, to be closer to family, or just because you want to live in a different city, be honest about why. And tell them why you’re excited about the move. Give your kids all the details you have, and keep them updated as you learn more.
Tell them in a way that doesn’t add stress. If your family doesn’t do family meetings, don’t call them in to a family meeting, and ideally, tell them when both parents are present, to forestall any fears about divorce. (If the move is happening concurrent with a divorce, then both parents should be present to reassure the kids.) Whenever you choose to tell them, be sure that they have time with you to react and question. It’s probably not a good idea to tell kids you’re moving as you’re driving them to school or other activities, but otherwise, when and where you tell them depends on your family.
Acknowledge their feelings: It sucks to move away from friends, and it can be scary to start over in a new place. Help them address their fears, especially around moving away from friends. At the same time, provide them with a few reasons why this move is the right decision for your family. It could be something as simple as, “We know it’s kind of scary right now, but once we’re there, you won’t have to share a room, we’ll have a house with a big backyard, and we’re going to be close to the beach.”
Let them ask questions about the move, even “Why do I have to come, too?” Answer as honestly and completely as you can, and admit it when you don’t know something for sure. Draw on times when you moved as a child to anticipate and prepare for questions. Younger kids will probably ask about their toys; older kids will have questions about school and their new room. Teens will have questions about school and the new house, but may also ask more detailed questions about why now is the right time to move, as well as things that impact them, like learning to drive or what this means about colleges.
Don’t make promises you have no intention of keeping, especially about acquiring pets. Children may use the move as a bargaining chip, so if you promise a puppy, kitten or other critter once you’re settled, be prepared to follow through.
Don’t make this a one-time conversation. Once the move is happening, keep talking about. Since all moves involve leaving places and people we love, let your kids know what you’ll miss from your current town. Talk about what you’re looking forward to about your new town. And be sure that they know the can tell you how they feel, even if they’re upset or angry. Your job is not to take away their feelings, but to help them manage them.
A big part of uncertainty about how to tell your kids you’re moving is probably related to your fears that somehow, they won’t be okay. They will be okay, because you will see that they’re okay.