It’s hard for anyone to say goodbye to their old home, but it can be particularly difficult for young children who don’t feel in control of the situation. Here’s some helpful tips for any family.
Inform Them as Early as Possible
The news of an imminent move can make them feel left out – and kids will feel more connected if you keep them in the loop sooner. Avoid waiting until the last minute to share the news. It’s best to tell toddlers about the move about a month ahead of time, while older children can know sooner. This shows consideration and allows them more time to prepare for any changes. This effects them more than you might think!
Remind Them About the Move
It’s natural for younger children to be forgetful, especially about moving plans. Say something to remind them about the move a few times a week. Any mentions of moving should be exciting, yet casual. With younger children, it’s also good to remind them what will stay the same. They may be concerned about their favorite toys, their neighborhood friends or the family pets. If they take part in activities (sports, dance, etc.) that will continue in your new location, remind them they get to keep doing these things.
Let Them Feel Sad
Moving to a new place can be bittersweet. Allow your children to be sad or angry about the move — it’s okay for them to be upset, and it won’t last forever. Even if their agitation seems to linger, they will eventually come around. Some studies say it takes about six months for a child to acclimate to a new lifestyle, so don’t worry if they are have a hard time.
Throw a “See You Later” Party
Plan to get together a week or two AFTER the move, so that no one believes they are seeing each other for the last time on or before moving day. Housewarming parties come in handy for this, as well.
Make a Plan for Staying in Touch
Talk with your kids about how they can maintain their current relationships. Social media and technology make continued communication simpler than ever! Practice video calls with friends to encourage children who are worried about staying in touch. Put it on a calendar where they can count down the days. Be sure that you DON’T make promises you can’t keep — if you aren’t sure that you will visit, don’t say that you will.
Help Them Visualize Their New Home
Prepare your kids for their surroundings by helping them picture it. Show them photos of their new home, school, and city. Find places they would love to visit — an ice cream shop, a great playground — and talk excitedly about when/where you can go and how fun it will be. If you can visit the school, city, or your new home ahead of time, do! This will make the actual day of the move feel less unknown and frightening.
Let Them Make Decisions
Give them some decision-making power. Plan their new room; let them pick out new bedding, a new rug, or a paint color for the walls. They’ll love getting to make their own choices! Older children can give some input on other home decor for other areas or invite them to go with you when checking out houses. Making packing an activity, make a moving buddy system by packing their favorite toys in a backpack or stored in an easy accessible area.
Pack and Donate While They are Asleep
You can imagine the scene: Your child notices you boxing up a toy that they rarely play with, but upon seeing it THEY NEED TO PLAY WITH IT RIGHT NOW. Kids tend to want something the moment they believe it’s out of reach, so if you are packing in front of them, you may find them unpacking everything right behind you! This goes for donations, too. You can expect a fit if your kids find out you’re ditching any of their stuff — even if you know that it’s only things they never use. Take donations to a drop-off at night after bedtime.
Ask for Help from Family and Friends
Enlist family and friends to babysit when you’re packing, visiting potential homes, or even for moving day. Your kids will love getting to spend time with the babysitter, and you’ll be able to get things done without running around after little ones!
Have a Moving Day Plan
If no one can watch your kids on moving day, create a simplified moving day plan to explain to them. Kids like to know what’s coming, so talk through the details of the day so they know what to expect. It’s also a good idea to pack up a moving day kit for each child with some of their favorite toys, some coloring books, or even a tablet loaded up with movies they can watch. Make sure they know what is happening and what is expected of them during the move.
Maintain as Much Routine as Possible
Do you always go out for ice cream on Fridays? Do you sit in the same spots for dinner each night? Try to find as many things as possible that can stay the same, including things like their bedroom set up, family dinners, bedtime rituals, and any traditions and common activities. Show them that even though they’re in a new place, their family is still the same.
Even if you’re stressed, try to maintain a positive attitude. Children look to their parents for emotional cues, so if you seem stressed or upset, they will likely feel that way, too. And remember, it can take some time for your kids to get used to being in a new place. Eventually, they will learn to love it!