Moving With Kids

Moving to a new home, whether it is across town or to a new state, is a disruptive event.  As stressful as it for parents, the experience can often be traumatic for kids, especially since it is unlikely they were part of the decision to move in the first place and they might not understand it.  As you consider a move, think about how much the benefits of the move weigh up against taking your child or children out of their comfort zone - familiar surroundings and a regular routine are what kids thrive on.

Many times the decision to move is due to a job transfer or financial issues adding more stress as a parent.  Even if you're not happy about the move, try to maintain a positive attitude about it. During times of transition, a parent's moods and attitudes can greatly affect kids, who may be looking for reassurance.  If your family has recently dealt with a major life change, such as divorce or death, you may want to postpone a move, if possible, to give kids time to adjust.

Preparation is Key

No matter what the circumstances surrounding your decision, the best way to prepare your children for a move is to include them from the start.  Provide them with as much information as possible and be completely up-front. Involve them in the house hunting process and show them the schools, parks, recreation areas, and other fun venues so they get a feel for the new town.  This will make the change feel less forced and may get them excited. If you are moving locally this is easier, but if you are moving out of state or out of the country, access the internet together to learn about their new location.  But be receptive to their emotions: even if the move means an improvement for the whole family, the enormity of the change may still be frightening.

Tips for Each Age Group

Children under 5:

Younger children (under 5) may be the easiest to move, as they don’t have the capacity to understand all the changes involved.  

  • Try to explain the move clearly and simply.  Use a story to explain the move - there are many books available that illustrate the moving process for younger kids.

  • Avoid making big changes during the move, like toilet training or advancing a toddler to from a bed to a crib or getting new furniture for your child. It might even be a good idea to arrange furniture in a similar way in the new bedroom.

  • When you pack your child’s things in boxes, make sure to explain that you aren't throwing them away.

  • Arrange for your toddler or preschooler to stay with a babysitter on moving day.

Moving With School-Age Kids

Kids in elementary school may be relatively open to a move, but still a watchful eye and your help throughout the transition.  Timing the move around the start of school is what many parents try to do since it doesn’t disrupt the school year. Try and meet or talk with as many people as possible at the new school to get all the information necessary to make this first day seamless.

Moving With Teens

This is a trickier age group to move since your teen has probably invested considerable energy in a particular social group or might be involved in a romantic relationship. It's particularly important to let teens know that you want to hear their concerns and that you respect them.   After the move, consider planning a visit back to the old neighborhood, if it's feasible. Also, see if if the teen can return for key events like prom or homecoming.

Post-Move

After the move, try to get your child's room in order before turning your attention to the rest of the house. Also, try to maintain your regular schedule for meals and bedtime to give kids a sense of familiarity.

Set realistic expectations about the transition:  some kids need less time; others might need more. Encourage your child or teen to keep up with old friends through phone calls, video chats, approved social media, etc.  If they are struggling, a family therapist can often provide very helpful guidance.

A move can present many challenges, but good things can also come from this kind of change. Your family might grow closer and you may learn more about each other by going through it together.  


AdviceAnna Tselevichmoving