Moving is stressful for both adults and children, whether you’re relocating across town or across the country. Young children might idealize their old house and get emotional about leaving it, and teenagers might become moody during the transition. Boston-based parenting coach Amy Brinn explains how to make the move easier for the whole family.
1. Be honest about the move.
“If you and your partner are talking about it, kids will pick up on it,” Brinn says. “If you don’t talk to them about it, their fantasies and imagination will be worse than the real thing.”
2. Time your talks.
Older elementary-school students and teenagers should be told about the move well in advance. Smaller children have different senses of time, and knowing too early might make them feel anxious. In general, begin discussing the move when there are visible signs that it’s happening—for instance, you begin packing up boxes or putting a for sale sign on the lawn.
3. Emphasize stability.
Some children might equate a move with a loss of security. “The most comforting thing for children is knowing that they will be with their parents,” Brinn says. Underscore that your family will remain together, even if the house changes. If a family is divorcing, underscore the new routine that emphasizes both parents’ living situations and availability.
4. Don’t dismiss sadness.
Kids crave routine. Instead of trying to fix their feelings, empathize. “Change can be hard. It’s better to acknowledge a child’s sadness and create a safe space to talk about it rather than sweeping it under the rug or trying to ‘solve’ the sadness,” Brinn says. This is a natural reaction and will dissipate once the child readjusts to their new house. In the meantime, keep a transitional object, like favorite toys, available during the move. Reassure your children that their bedrooms, toys, and other comforts from home will be at their new place, too.
“If at all possible, visit the area where you’re moving so kids have a picture in their mind,” Brinn says. Map out their new route to school, to the playground and other nearby attractions. Then, involve them in the process: let them pick out a color to paint their room, for instance. If possible, arrange play dates with children at their new school. Contact your town’s PTA for names, and join your town’s email list to stay in the know about nearby events, favorite family hangouts, and local news.
6. Preserve your memories.
This is a fun, comforting activity for younger kids. “Make a memory box about the house you’re leaving with photos, pictures drawn by the children, photos of their friends, school and neighborhood attractions,” Brinn advises. As parents of teens probably know, older kids typically derive more identity from friends than family. For them, throw a “house-cooling” party where they can say goodbye to their friends and make plans to stay in touch.
7. By all means, get a sitter on moving day.
No matter how organized you are, you’ll be distracted on moving day. Leave children with family or friends to cut down on stress or emotional outbursts on the big day.
Finally, Brinn recommends a few books to make the transition simpler:
- Buttoned Up Moving Kit by Alicia Rockmore and Sarah Welch. This great kit takes you through your move from start to finish, with a detailed timeline, change-of-address forms, checklists, and stress-relief tips.
- Big Ernie’s New Home by Teresa and Whitney Martin. This book acknowledges the sadness and anxiety a young child may feel about moving.
- Moving House by Anne Civardi. The simple pictures and text will help your kids open up about their concerns.
- Moving with Kids by Lori Collins Burgan. A parents’ guide that’s packed with tips to help make the move less stressful.