Moving With Your Family

Moving to a new place can be especially stressful for children. Younger children often become confused when their daily routine is disrupted and they don’t understand what is happening. Older kids and adolescents fear the loss of old friends and dread the prospect of having to make new ones in a strange school or neighborhood. The following steps will help you get them involved in the move and alleviate their fears or concerns.

First and foremost, it's important for parents to open the lines of communication by providing kids with as much information as possible and to allowing them to participate in decision-making discussions. This will give them a sense of control and help relieve anxiety. Always focus on the positive aspects of their new home, school and neighborhood. Try to communicate the idea that the new home, if given a fair chance, can be even better than the old one.

The following are some questions to consider and activities to do with your kids:
  • Make a list of questions with your child. How are you feeling? Excited, curious, sad at leaving good friends? What do you want to know about the new place where you'll live?

  • Who are you best pals—the ones you want to stay friends with after you move? How do you want to say good-bye to your best friends? With a party? With gifts you make, or things of yours that you give to special pals as keepsakes? Do you want to say good-bye to anyone else before you leave? Your babysitter? Your dentist? Your favorite neighbor down the road?

  • Ask your child to think of their favorite places (like the park, a friend’s house, or ice cream store) that they want to visit one more time before you move.

  • Ask your child to draw a plan for their bedroom in your new home. Talk about the colors they want and where to put their bed.

Prepare & Rehearse
If at all possible, time the move to coincide with the start of a new school year or term. Contact coaches and club advisors at the new school and ask them to assist your child with the transition.

Take children with you to look at the new neighborhood, schools, and home or apartment before the move. Although it may not be convenient, it’s worth the effort because it will ease the transition and help children begin to make the adjustment. If this is not possible, take a camera or video recorder with you when you go. Your children will appreciate the photos and/or video that you bring back, and it will help them begin the transition. You can also use a map to help them understand the new area and the route you will take to get there.

For younger children, you could make the move more fun by turning it into an exciting adventure. Try acting out moving day ahead of time and make it like a game. A conversation could go something like this: "On Friday when you wake up, there will be a big truck in the driveway. We will have breakfast, then go into your room and show the movers which things to put on the truck. Then, after the truck is filled we will get in our car and go to our new home. Then we will tell the movers exactly where to put your things in your new room...."

For older children, a move that involves leaving friends, sports teams and favorite hangouts behind can be extremely difficult. Help them say good-bye to friends by hosting a good-bye party. Give older children a disposable camera and ask them to document your move. Once you arrive and are settled in, make time together to create the "moving" chapter of your family photo album.

During the Move
A few things to keep in mind on moving day:
  • If you have infants, make sure that you have a sitter or a friend watch your kids during the moving process.

  • Plan some activity to keep your kids busy. Children in their excitement may disturb the moving process by running and doing things that may distract the moving company's professionals doing their job.

  • Let kids color or put stickers on their own boxes, so they will be immediately recognizable coming off the moving truck when you arrive at your new home.

  • Be sure to pack your kids’ favorite items, such as their toys or games, in a separate bag you plan to carry with you. This way, they will have something to do immediately when you arrive at your destination and will have activities to keep them occupied during the unloading.

Getting things back to normal
When you are settled in your new home, resume familiar routines as soon as possible. If at all possible, time the move to coincide with the start of a new school year or term. Plan to resume family activities you did together in your old home. For example, if every Friday is pizza night, or if you go to church every Sunday morning, you should continue the practice as soon as possible in your new home. Don't take it personally if your children blame you for the difficulty of a move. No matter how well you've prepared them, expect them to be a little upset and allow them some time to grieve. They will almost certainly grow to love their new home just as much as the old one.