Moving to a new home can be rough on the whole family. While it’s easy for adults to get caught up in the minutiae of planning and executing the move, it is important for us to take a step back and give some special care to ensuring that the move is a positive experience for our children.
Young children often have an especially difficult time experiencing a move and adjusting to change in an environment they aren’t used to. But older children also struggle with many of the same issues, such as leaving old friends behind, making new friends, and feeling included in a group or community.
Here are eight tips to help you help your kids transition during a move.
1. Express yourselves
Open dialogue with your children by openly expressing to them your feelings about the move. Ask them to share their feelings, fears, and excitements with you, and talk through everyone’s thoughts together. This will help make the move feel less like a “big scary unknown,” and it will allow family members to understand what each other are going through during the process of moving.
2. Say proper goodbyes
Host a going-away party for your children and invite over their friends, family members, and beloved neighbors. Allowing them to say goodbye to the important people in their lives will give them closure in having had the opportunity to spend some time with everyone before leaving.
3. Work together
Let the kids help in the moving process wherever possible. From packing up their own things and decorating the boxes to choosing some items for their rooms in the new home, involving the kids in the moving process makes them feel more a part of the transition and fewer subjects of a situation in which they have no control.
If the move involves a long drive or flight, kids can also be involved in picking where the family will make pit stops and which games the family plays while en route.
4. Keep up the routine
If your family always eats dinner at 6:30 p.m., then be sure to keep eating dinner at 6:30 p.m. each day during the move. While keeping routine apace can be challenging as you pack up your home and transition into the new one, it is important to maintain routine habits like meal times and other rituals so that your children feel anchored and secure.
5. Make it a “moving vacation”
If your move takes you to a new town, state, or region and involves a long drive or flight, you can break up the monotony of travel by planning some fun activities to help moving feel more like a vacation.
Plan rest stops in locations with interesting museums or attractions, look up trivia about each place you pass through, and play driving games like the A-Z license plate game, or play an A-Z game in which everyone has to find an object or word along the road that starts with each letter of the alphabet, in order. Keeping the kids looking at the world around them will help stave off boredom for at least a little while.
Get everyone moving during breaks by stopping at restaurants, rest stops, or parks with play areas. Bring a ball to toss or kick around during stops, and create mini-challenges for the whole family to compete in—such as who can do the most jumping jacks in two minutes, who can jump the farthest, etc. This will kill off some of the nervous energy the kids store up during long stretches of sitting and help them to become less bored or anxious as the trip winds on.
6. Showcase memories.
Prepare a photo album or memory book for each child with pictures of friends, family, the old home, and other memories they will be physically leaving behind. Children can be involved in choosing which photographs, trinkets, or memorabilia items go into their personal books.
Also collect phone numbers, email, and snail-mail addresses of important people so your children can stay in touch with their friends and loved ones after the move. Having this continuity with the old community will allow a smoother transition to your children being members of the new community.
If you can, take your children to visit the new home or community before you actually move there. Explore the neighborhood, walk around, and get excited about new things to see or do.
After the move, try not to focus right away on getting everything unpacked and put in its place. Instead, go out for dinner, take a walk or drive around town, see a movie, or go to the park. Do some activity to help lighten up the logistics of making your new house a home; this will help children to be more relaxed and comfortable in their new surroundings.
8. Get involved.
Sign your children up for group-oriented activities so that they can start making friends and feeling included in a group right away. A sports team, art, theater or music group, or a library activity program are great ways to integrate your child into a new community.