Moving a Family: Helping Kids Prepare to Move

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For all of your grown up concerns, which can be mostly alleviated with careful planning, moving can be even more stressful for kids because it’s unfamiliar and out of their control. And if your children have only known one home their whole lives, a move can be especially jarring. Like you, your children may worry about their stuff, as well as making friends in their new school and community.

Children may wonder:
– Do I have to pack my favorite toy?
– Will I like my new room? Will it be as nice as the one I have now?
– Will my teacher be nice?
– Will I make new friends in my school? What if nobody likes me?

As with so many things in life, a smooth moving experience begins with the proper prep work.

The Talk: “We’re Moving”
Experts recommend telling your child about the move as early as possible. This way, she won’t overhear you talking about it and not understand or, even worse, hear it from someone else first. Children often fear the unknown, like the monster under the bed, but by talking about the move with them, you can help alleviate some of those fears.

Very young children may not understand the reasons behind a move – and they may not need to. Whether your children are toddlers, tweens, or teens, follow their cues on how much information to provide. Don’t plant ideas in their head that may lead to worries. Wait for them to ask questions.

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Photo by Yoshiyasu Nitikawa/Flickr

For instance, you wouldn’t want to tell a first grader, “You’ll have no problems making friends in your new school,” because that thought may not have been on his mind. Wait for him to ask rather than giving him information he isn’t ready to handle. Your child may not want to talk about the move at all at first and that’s fine. By moving day, he’s sure to have plenty of questions, and you’ll have had time to prepare answers.

If your children are old enough to understand, you might explain the reason behind the move. Try to find the positive aspects in any move. For instance, even a worst-case scenario like a short sale or foreclosure may have a silver lining. You may tell them you’re moving to an apartment that costs less money, which means you won’t have to be on such a strict budget. If you or your spouse is getting a new job, mention the exciting opportunity that will mean a better lifestyle for your family, a bigger house, or a nicer school and community.

Involve the Kids as Much as Possible
Try to bring the children with you while house-hunting and ask for their feedback. Once you’ve bought the house, or built it, let your kids choose out their paint colors or help you decide where to place their furniture. This helps them feel like the new house is theirs too.

Help your children become familiar with their new community by showing them around. Walk the streets or ride bikes, if they’ll be spending a lot of time doing that. Have a picnic in the nearby park, get a library card at the new library, and tour the YMCA or community center. Ask if your children can take a tour of their new school in advance of the first day, or, if they are moving in the middle of the school year, see if they can visit their classrooms for a few minutes.

Make the transition easier by giving children plenty of time to say goodbye to their friends, if possible. In today’s digital age, older children may have no problem keeping in touch with their friends through text messaging or Facebook. Let younger children exchange addresses and phone numbers in order to become pen pals or set up a playdate.

As time goes on, your children will make new friends and gradually stop asking for playdates with their old friends. Teenagers, too, may drift apart, or discover they’ve made a few friends for life even as they join a new social circle in their new town.

Stress-Free Packing
When it comes to packing, it’s infinitely easier to complete the task without young children underfoot, but that’s not always practical. To reduce your pre-move stress, try to pack up non-essentials weeks in advance of the move. This way, you may be able to get a lot done while the kids are at school or otherwise occupied. When it gets down to the nitty-gritty, let the children help you by packing their own items and even labeling their boxes.

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Photo by Jessica Lucia/Flickr

The Big Day: Making the Move
On moving day, encourage each child to pack a box or suitcase that will not go on the moving truck but, instead, in the car with the family on moving day. This box should include:

– Pajamas, slippers, and bathrobe
– Toothbrush, toothpaste, and hairbrush
– A change of clothes (or two, depending on the child’s age)
– Pillow, sheets, and their special blanket
– A special toy
– A special stuffed animal

Bring lots of items to keep the kids busy in the car, which may include electronic devices like a portable DVD player or tablet. These are definitely a sanity-saver for parents during long trips. But don’t neglect the old-fashioned games, the opportunity to watch the scenery, and, of course, time to talk about the move itself. Sing songs, see how many license plates you can spot from different states, or count cars of different colors on the road. Moving memories aren’t made on the screen of a tablet, but on the journey itself and, eventually, in your new home.

Featured image by Mark T/Flickr

About the author

Dawn Allcot has moved six times and has written hundreds of articles about moving, including how to move on a budget, with kids, with pets, and without losing your mind. In her spare time, Dawn enjoys bicycling, shopping, and building memories with her husband and two children.

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