Moving can be stressful for everyone. For young children, it can be downright traumatic. Here’s what to do to prepare your child for the move.
Just about every kid is freaked out by moving and with good reason. What if they have to change schools? What if they don’t make new friends? It’s understandable that they might be worried, distraught, or plain unhappy about an upcoming move. However, with enough attention, thought, and support, you can help them get through this difficult time. We’ve got five easy steps to make everything go as smoothly as possible.
Before we dig in though, here’s an overarching tip that touches on the entire experience: Avoid sugar-coating the experience. Children aren’t dumb. They know that meeting new friends can be challenging, especially if they’re moving in the middle of the school year. By being real, honest, and authentic, you’ll be showing them that even though change is hard, new and exciting experiences come from it.
Talk About It
Aim to be as open and communicative as possible. You don’t want to spring any sudden plans on your kids, even if you think you’re sparing them extra time to worry. Let them have time for it to sink in, allowing them to mentally prepare for the big change that lays ahead.
The more kids know about the move, the less scared of the unknown they’ll be.
Go over the specifics, such as if they’re switching schools, what day you’ll be packing up, how long it’ll take to unpack, and so on. The less mystery, the more they can come to terms with it all.
Create opportunities for them to open up about it. This can be hard, especially if you’re rushing around packing. Perhaps carve out a little time at bedtime to sit down and go over their worries and concerns.
Respect Their Feelings
Knowing how to express their feelings and emotions–especially the negative ones—can be difficult for young children. Let them have space to feel whatever they might be feeling.
If they seem super unhappy about the upcoming move, you can acknowledge that by saying, “I know it’s hard to leave behind all your friends. You have some really great friends. I’m sad, too.” Give them time to feel their grief before going on about all the new friends they will make.
Also, be prepared that their feelings may bounce all over the place. At first they might be excited, and then scared, and then sad. It’s totally normal to feel a whole array of emotions when a big life change is approaching. Be a soundboard for them, but avoid telling them to feel this way or that.
Let Them Make Decisions
Kids don’t get to make any major decisions here, such as which town, what kind of house, or what time of year to move. That’s the parent’s job. This can leave kids feeling powerless.
Try involving them in little decisions, to let them have some “control” wherever possible. This will also make them feel more involved, and hopefully stir up some excitement in the process.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Pick out new paint colors together: Show them a few samples you have in mind, letting them cast their vote.
- Decide where things will go: Show them pictures or have them walk around with you, deciding where the couch should go, the kitchen table, even the garden outside.
- Bedroom selection: If you have multiple siblings, you can let the older one pick a room first.
- Shopping time: Is it time to upgrade the couch? Get new plates? Let them help you with the shopping adventures.
Scout Out Fun Activities
If you’re moving to a new town, start searching for fun things to do there. If you’re able to visit the town, great! Go and hang out at the playgrounds, museums, and other kid-friendly places. Also walk around your new neighborhood, introducing yourself to neighbors. It’ll make the place seem more familiar and friendly to your kids.
There’s nothing better to take a kid’s mind off the move than to have fun activities ready to go in their new home town.
Check out which lessons are available, such as dance, music, martial arts, and art. Scope out their new schools as well.
If you can’t physically visit your new town ahead of time, that’s okay. You can do a lot by searching online. If there’s a fun amusement park nearby, point that out. Anything to get your kids ramped up and excited.
Make a Scrapbook
You don’t want the memories of the current house to disappear. Making the transition smooth is important, and cutting out one home in favor of another won’t work.
We suggest getting a scrapbook and putting in some pictures of the current house. Write down what you’ve loved most about it. Add pictures of friends, neighbors, nearby attractions, your favorite restaurants, anything that makes you feel sentimental about the place.
Then leave the rest of the book blank. You can start adding in pictures of the new house if you have them. Or write a list about what everyone is most excited about in regards to moving there. Anything goes, such as “The backyard is amazing! We can actually climb trees back there!”
The scrapbook is a way of honoring the present, while opening the door for the future. And then as you’re getting closer to departure day, you can pull out the book and look at what cool things are awaiting everyone at the new house.
Remind your children it’s okay to feel sad about change, but they can also feel excited at the same time.
Moving is a big challenge, no matter how prepared you are. Take the time to talk through it all with your child, listening to whatever fears and anxieties they may have. Point out the positives that lay ahead, while also acknowledging the things you’ll be leaving behind. Finding your groove in a new life can be hard, but over time everyone will get there, your kids included.