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How to Move with Children

Moving a household that includes children presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities. During this hectic period of change, it is important to consider the emotional needs of your children throughout the transition.

Informing Your Children About Your Move

  • How you approach telling your kids about the household move can determine how they react. You may choose to inform your children individually, so that one child’s negative reaction will not influence the feelings of another child. Otherwise, you may choose to have a family meeting where you gently break the news. If your children raise any concerns or ask you any questions, answer calmly, honestly and patiently. Respect and recognize their opinions about the move, and assure them you have listened to their comments. Provide them with as many details as are available to you. By keeping the line of communication open with your children, you can recognize and react to their needs.
  • Follow these guidelines for a successful family meeting:
    1. Set a few ground rules: No interruptions, no mumbled comments, and no making fun.
    2. Give everyone a turn: Go in a circle and let everyone read their list of concerns.
    3. Share the floor: Don’t let one person own the discussion. Anyone should be able to chime in, even the little ones.
    4. Stay positive: Don’t dismiss your kids’ worries, but try to keep the move in a positive light.
    5. Delegate tasks: Let your children know exactly how you expect them to help.
  • You can direct your children’s reactions to the moving news by setting a good example. Present the move as an exciting change that you will look forward to as a family. Indeed, moving is a time of new beginnings. Maintain your positive attitude toward the process, even if it is causing you stress or disrupting your daily life. Your children will mirror your attitude.

Preparing Your Children for Moving

  • Consider the age of your children; it will take different measures to help your teenagers prepare for a move than will be necessary for younger children. If you are moving with younger children, do your best to help your child understand where and why you are moving. Provide them the comfort of familiar things throughout the move, and be sure they are not surprised by any aspects of the move.
  • Older children have different needs. They often have greater difficulty letting go of social bonds they have established with friends. To make the move as comfortable as possible, look for social groups and sports teams to register your child for before the move. They will be reassured by an established opportunity to make new friends. Encourage them to stay in touch with old friends through periodic visits, video chatting, letters, emails and phone calls. The comfort of old friends will help older children acclimate to new places.
  • As you are packing your children for moving, be sure to respect the sentimental attachments. Take pictures of their old room and keep sentimental items. If they are capable, allow them the opportunity to pack their own belongings if they want. Help them organize but be sensitive to the way they want things, and which things they want to keep. If your child is willing to let go of old toys, clothes or books, donate the items to charity together. Your kids will be leaving behind their friends and the familiar places where they eat, play and learn. Take final trips to favorite restaurants, parks, the zoo and other special places in your town. Don’t forget to take lots of pictures!
  • Get your kids excited for the new location. Go online and research your new city. What are some special places or events that they can attend in the new city? Ask each child to pick out one thing they would like to do or see after they move. Also, enthusiastically describe the positive aspects of their new home. A great way to do this is to begin letting each child plan his or her new room. Ask how they would like to rearrange their furniture. Will they get to redecorate? If so, take them shopping for new comforters, paint colors, or rugs. Fueling positive anticipation will help making moving with kids easier.

Moving Day with Your Children

  • Babies and school age children are distracting during the moving process. Consider hiring a babysitter or letting a family friend watch them during the day.
  • On moving day, make sure you have a box handy with essential items for each member of your family. These include things they will need during the move and before unpacking at the new home. A box with personal toiletries and toothbrushes, towels, changes of clothes and valuables will need to be separate from the other boxes. If possible, prepare snacks and sandwiches the night before in case your children get hungry during the day. Delegate tasks so that your kids can stay busy with helping.
  • Be sure to take a moment to say goodbye to your house at the end of the loading process. Remember special events, like birthday parties, that took place in each room.
  • If you have a long drive or flight to your new home, don’t forget to pack lots of entertainment for the kids. Video games, DVDs, music, and toys will make moving with kids easier.

Acclimating After the Move

  • Don’t put pressure on your family to unpack immediately. Your “essentials” boxes should contain everything you need the first day or two. Your family will probably be tired of moving by the time you arrive, so take some time to relax. Unpack gradually to ease your children into their new home. While it might benefit your kids to move over a holiday and have some time to adjust, return to regular household routines as soon as possible. Meal times and bed times should stay the same, especially for younger kids. Make sure the whole family understands that you changed houses—not rules, routines or expectations.
  • Take your children for a walk around the neighborhood. Meet new neighbors, visit the park, or try out a local restaurant. This is as much about introduction as it is safety; let your kids know about boundaries—where they can and cannot go alone.
  • It is your responsibility to introduce your family to their new community after a move. Involve your kids in sports, lessons and after-school activities to keep them busy and happy in their new environments. Socialize with other parents and get to know new teachers. Show your children the fun things your new location has to offer. Most importantly, help them keep in touch with old friends during their transition period. Their new life in their new home will be jump-started in no time!