You’ve found the dream home, the perfect school district, the new job… everything is all set for the big move. Now it is time to tackle the beast–moving with young children.
Relocating to a new home can be deeply overwhelming for children of any age group. If they are particularly young, they may not understand what is happening. They are forced to say goodbye to friends, teachers, and the familiar comfort of their community. For children of families that must move frequently, such as military families, this can come up multiple times throughout their lives and will need to be tackled with care and understanding each time.
Though this transition can be difficult and can try the patience of any parent or guardian, there are some concrete steps you can take to smooth out this journey for yourself and your family. Here are our best tips for moving with kids!
- Tell them as soon as possible.
It’s important to stay patient with your kids when you tell them you are moving. From their perspective, their whole world is going to be uprooted by the relocation. You can help them with this by giving them lots of time to process and tell them way in advance of the move.
- Help them understand their feelings.
Kids of all ages will experience big, scary emotions that they might not know how to deal with or understand in the face of a move. Guide your kids through their emotions so they feel supported and heard throughout the process. There are countless books, tv shows, games, youtube clips, and more out there that can help kids wrap their minds around moving. We love the classic “The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day” by Stan and Jan Berenstain, or try something more interactive like “My Very Exciting, Sorta Scary, Big Move: A Workbook for Children Moving to a New Home” by Lori Attanasio Woodring.
However, you prepare your kids, focus on open communication, and allow them to ask lots of questions about their new home.
- Help them find reasons to be excited.
When you talk about your move with your children, focus on the exciting parts! Will their room be bigger in the new home? Is there a yard for them to play in? Will their new school have more extracurricular opportunities? Is there a park nearby? Many kids will be excited about picking out new things for their new room, or the chance to get a special gift in the new place. Involve them in the exciting aspects, and be careful not to pass your stress onto them.
- Involve them as much as possible.
Giving your kids a role in the move and allowing them to have a say in the process will help them feel involved and give them a greater sense of control and stability in their environment. Creating to-do lists and recruiting your kids to handle simple tasks is a great way to include and empower them. If they’re struggling to assist in physical ways like packing or organizing, ask them for opinions and let them help with decisions they really care about (or at least give their input).
- Start Early. Not weeks early, months early.
When packing with kids, you want to start packing long before you think is reasonable. Think about how much longer it takes you to get out the door now than before you had kids–amplify that by the scale of packing an entire house, and give yourself more than enough time to get everything packed away.
- Get it all sorted.
Depending on the child’s age, they will need varying degrees of help with this. Preteens may be able to sort with simply some guidance from you, but younger kids will need you to step in to do the sorting. If you’re able to get everything into three sections–keep, discard, sell/donate–most age groups will be able to pack all of the “keep” items into boxes once you show them how.
For very young kids, it’s a good idea to pack while they’re asleep and tuck the boxes out of sight, but be sure to leave one box of toys out until the end so they always have something to play with.
One of our favorite tips: instead of just using a sharpie to label what each box contains, try taping boxes with a different color duct tape for each room. It’s easier to see and sort, and can make labeling boxes more fun for younger kids.
- A little bribery goes a long way.
A great way to motivate your kids to get involved with packing is by offering incentives for manageable tasks. Maybe they can keep any money earned from selling their old things, or pick out an item for their new room once they get everything packed. Or, try turning packing into a friendly competition between siblings. Set a timer for each packing “round,” and award a prize for the kid who is able to neatly pack the most before the time is up. The goal at the end of the day is to keep moving as fun and stress-free for kids as possible, so utilizing rewards and turning packing into a game can help them feel more involved in an entertaining way.
- Donate Old Toys and Clothing.
Some kids may have trouble parting with their things in a move, which provides a great opportunity to teach kids about giving and charity for less fortunate kids. Some great places to donate toys, clothing and other children’s items in our area are The Giving Closet, and The Northwest Children’s Outreach.
- Have a babysitter on deck.
The last couple of nights of packing always bring up unexpected extra to-dos. Have a babysitter you trust ready to go so you can get the kids out of the house when needed. Young children may need a babysitter on the day of the move as well. It’s a good idea to rely on someone that is familiar to them like a grandparent or close friend so that they feel comfortable and secure when being brought into the new home.
- Make a memory book of your old home.
A good way to help with hesitation or fear of leaving your old home can be to make sure kids feel like they’ve been able to say a proper goodbye. Involve kids by making a craft out of taking pictures of the house and putting them in a memory scrapbook. That way, they know they have something to look back on, and the old home will not be forgotten about.
- Be patient as they adjust.
Being comfortable in a new home takes time. Even older kids can take the better part of a year to fully adjust to their new surroundings. Moving is psychologically disorienting and emotionally exhausting and it’s important not to rush kids with this journey. Help them find new communities, new places to go, and new attachments. Try encouraging kids to get to know the neighborhood by baking or making cards for them. This can help kids feel more familiar and safe within their surroundings and keep them busy (giving you more time to unpack all the boxes).
- Make new friends, but keep the old.
When possible, have old friends visit, or go to visit them. In the early days of a move, kids may feel displaced and disconnected. If you are close enough, make a point to connect with old friends so they don’t feel stranded in a strange new place.
How To Tell Your Kids You’re Moving
Time To Get Packing
Helping With The “I Miss Our Old Home” Blues
After spending all that time to smooth out the journey for your kids, it’s time to give yourself a break as well. Moving is an incredibly stressful time–make sure you take a moment to check in with yourself, take a break and ask for help when you need it. In the same way, we offer rewards to our kids for tackling difficult to-do items, find a way to treat yourself after managing a big move. Call up that babysitter one more time and have a night to enjoy a moment of peace in your new place (or perhaps a trip to the spa!).