Moving is a life-changing event for anyone, but it can be particularly overwhelming for children. As a parent, you want your child to get through your family's move as easily as possible. Staying put may not be an option, but there's a lot that you can do to make the experience easier on your kid. Keep this advice in mind for before, during and after your upcoming move.
Things That You Can Do Leading Up to the Move
In the months, weeks and days leading up to your move, try these activities to ease the transition for your child.
• Break the News - According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one out of six Americans moves every year. Parents have to break the news to kids all the time, and now it's your turn. Wait until you have your child's undivided attention, and then calmly and matter-of-factly explain what is going on. Acknowledge that moving is a major upheaval and that a lot will change, but make sure your child understands that the family unit and its traditions will not change.
• Make a Book - Encourage your child to make a book about your old house. Depending on the child's age, you may have to assist to some degree. Fill it with photos and descriptions of the old place. Have family members share their favorite memories of the house too. The end result will be a keepsake that your child can cherish.
• Tour the New Home and Neighborhood - If possible, take your child to check out the new home at your earliest convenience. Tour the new neighborhood to locate important places like parks, schools, grocery stores and movie theaters.
• Enjoy Moving-themed Books and Movies - Visit the library to stock up on moving-themed books and movies. Age-appropriate options for both are easy to find because moving is such a big, important event in children's lives. After reading a book or watching a movie together, discuss how the characters coped with the experience.
• Let Your Child Make Some Decisions - As a parent, it's natural to want to take the reins when planning a move. However, when kids feel powerless, they are more likely to feel apprehensive and anxious about an impending move. Alleviate this by including your child in the decision-making process whenever it makes sense. For example, let them select their own room, and ask for their input regarding which items should be kept and which should be sold, donated or thrown away.
• Keep Some Old Stuff - One great benefit of moving is being able to shed a lot of unnecessary stuff. Don't do so at the expense of your child's comfort, however. Make a point of allowing your child to hold onto certain items, and keep at least a few old pieces of furniture to make the new place seem more like home.
• Visit the New School - As early as possible, bring your child to the new school that they will attend. Get them registered right away to avoid confusion on the first day. If possible, tour the new school so that your child can get the lay of the land. Make things easier by visiting the school before their first day so that they can meet their teacher or teachers as well as the principal. You might even ask if they can arrange for a buddy for your student to go around with on their first day.
• Throw a Farewell Party - Your child will process the move more effectively by officially saying goodbye to people from their old neighborhood and city. Throw an official farewell party to facilitate this. Invite friends, relatives, teachers and others from the community whom your child will miss.
Tips for Coping During the Move
Before you know it, moving day will arrive. Keep these tips in mind to make it as easy on your child as possible.
• Let the Movers Do the Work - It's easier to be there for your child when you aren't doing the heavy lifting. Hire a moving company and let the professional movers do the work while you focus on logistics and on keeping your child happy and occupied throughout the day.
• Get a Sitter - If your child is too young to help, arrange for a sitter. Simply having a responsible adult around to keep an eye on your child will make moving day much less stressful.
• Put Together a Moving Day Bag - Avoid the stress of hunting high and low for a specific item for your child by helping them pack a special moving day bag. Try to do this at least a week beforehand to ensure that everything they need is included. Stock it with their favorite books, toys, electronic devices and other familiar items. Set aside a change of clothes and a pillow and blanket for your child to use upon arriving at the new place.
• Play New House Hide and Seek - Upon arriving at the new house, take a break from unpacking to play hide and seek with your child. This is a great way to help your child familiarize themselves with their new home, and it helps to entertain them.
• Let Your Child Put Things Away - You probably have preferences about where and how things should be arranged in the new place, but be sure to include your child in the process too. This allows your child to take ownership of their new home and to feel like they have some sort of control over what is happening, which makes everything a lot less scary.
• Camp Indoors at the New Place - The first night in a new, unfamiliar place can be frightening. Turn it into an adventure by allowing your child to camp indoors during that first night. Bring an actual tent into the house, and let your child arrange it how they see fit. Tell "campfire stories" and do other camping-related activities to keep your kid happy and occupied.
• Keep a Moving Day Journal - Provide older kids with blank journals that they can use to chronicle the experience of moving into a new home. On moving day, it will help them express their feelings about everything that is happening. Later, they can enjoy looking back on their first impressions of the new place.
• Have Fun With Old Packing Materials - As eager as you may be to clear away those old packing materials, hold off for a day or two. Let your kid play with the old boxes, packing peanuts and other materials. Building forts and other creations will distract them from the chaos of the day.
What to Do After the Move
Your child will continue to adjust to the move in the days, weeks and months following moving day. Keep these pointers in mind for a smoother transition.
• Arrange Your Child's Room First - Make situating your kid's room the top priority. Once their bedroom is arranged how they want, they will have a private area filled with familiar things to escape to when the need arises.
• Meet the Neighbors - Don't wait for your neighbors to say hello. Instead, go for a walk with your child and introduce yourselves. Chances are that there are at least a few kids your child's age on the street, and this is the best way to find them.
• Visit the Old Neighborhood - Schedule trips to the old neighborhood after moving day. Your child will look forward to visiting their old street and friends again, and it will ease the transition.
• Stay in Touch - Encourage your child to stay in touch with friends from their old city. If they are old enough, social media can help significantly in this regard. If they are younger, stay in touch with their friends' parents and occasionally arrange for the kids to communicate over the phone or via a video app.
• Let Your Child Express Their Feelings - Moving will be stressful for you too, and you may be tempted to act as if everything is fine and expect others to follow suit. However, your child needs to process everything, and talking it over with parents and others is the best way to do so. Periodically ask your child how they are handling the move to ensure that they express their feelings effectively.
• Consider Therapy - Every child is different. Some go with the flow of a move fairly well while others struggle to adjust. If yours falls into the latter category, consider having them meet with a therapist for a while. Sometimes, children need a neutral party to express themselves to during times of upheaval.
Moving never goes exactly as anticipated, and there's no way to predict how your child will handle the experience. However, by using these tips, you can lay the groundwork for the smoothest, easiest moving experience possible with children.