Look, we all know that moving can be tremendous stress, not only for you but your family.  There are so many things to take into consideration: neighborhoods, time of year, best schools, commute times, finances…. One of the most significant considerations you probably have is how to prepare your children for a move to ensure they easily adapt, integrate and blossom in their new community and home.  

Most kids thrive on routine and familiarity because it gives them a sense of security and helps them develop self-discipline.  Humans are afraid of many things and the fear of the unknown edges out everything except death and public speaking. Children’s fear of the unknown includes everything from a suspicious new vegetable to a major life change.  Children, like the rest of us, handle change best if it is expected and occurs in the context of a familiar routine. Unpredictable changes erode the sense of safety and mastery and leave the child feeling anxious and less able to cope with the changes.

With all of that being said, let’s discuss how to prepare your children for a move best.

Get Them Ready

Communicate early on to your children about the move and involve them in the planning as much as possible.  Try to give your children as much information as possible and be entirely truthful. Even if you feel that the move is an improvement to the quality of life for your family, your children may not see it as positive and may focus on the frightening aspect of the unknown.  

If you are moving across town, allow them to visit the home, walk the neighborhood and locate the closest park or the nearest ice cream spot.  Make it a game of scavenger hunt to keep them engaged and feel like they are aiding you in the process. If the move is a long distance away, have your REALTOR® take pictures of the house, the neighborhood, and the local school.  Access the internet to learn more about the area and allow the child to be active in the search by having them search for their favorite activities in the new community.

Allow Their Angst

Every mom’s heartstrings are tugged on when they witness their child crying or in the midst of a breakdown.  These are normal responses to what seems to your children as a seismic shift in their life. Even if your children are excited about the move, don’t misjudge how difficult some of the losses will be for them.  From the favorite swing at the park to their favorite babysitter, something that seems insignificant to you may significantly impact your child. Allow your children to grieve the losses from the move. Eventually, at their own pace, your child will begin to accept the new, and the old will lose its importance.  Most experts estimate that it takes roughly six months for children to acclimate to their new life.

Walk the Walk

Your kids look up to you, and your children can interpret everything – the smallest off-putting comment can come across as negative and depressing.  Your actions, tone, and attitude can entirely materialize in your child’s behavior. Remain confident and positive about the move. Don’t bad-mouth the new place or compare the new place to the old.  Try to highlight the positive aspects of your new home and community. Soon, your child will mimic your actions and tendencies and your child will remain optimistic and more agreeable to the change and adapt much more quickly to their new life.

Here are a few more ideas to help make the move easier on your child.

  • Have a going away party

  • Create a moving calendar with milestone dates

  • Have your child draw a picture of how they will decorate their new room

  • If older, allow children to pack their own boxes and supply them with stickers and markers to decorate their boxes

  • Continue fun family rituals

  • Start NEW fun family rituals

  • Get to know your neighbors

  • While packing, pack your children’s room last

  • When unpacking, unpack your child’s room first

  • Allow your children to pack their own bag for moving day

  • Help them get involved in school and community events

  • Make the new house look and feel familiar

Moving is difficult for everyone but if you remain positive, keep your kids in the loop, and be honest, the move will go much more smoothly for your children.  It is important to help your children prepare for the new home but also allow them to say goodbye to their old home.