Moving With Children
Helping your family cope
Children like adventure, but they also need stability. Moving even just a short distance can mean a great deal of change. However, it is often necessary, and while it is exciting, it can also be stressful. You might think it best to put off telling your child until you are ready to move. However, keeping your child informed of the process will prevent his overhearing and interpreting something out of context. Talking to your child ahead of time will allow him time to adjust to the idea and overcome some of his anxiety.
Before the move
Acknowledge their feelings. Your child will likely be upset and maybe even anxious about the move. Talk to her and ask her how she feels, and let her know how you feel and what you will miss. It may take time, possibly even until well after you move, for your child to adjust and feel ok. Do validate your child’s feelings but don’t feel too guilty, because children tend to think about how events like this affect them rather than what is best for the family.
Keep them in the loop. Share every aspect of moving with your child. If he is too young to understand where you are moving to, show him on a map so he can visualize it. Involve your child in choosing and then visiting the new place and figuring out where things will go. If the new place is far, take pictures when you go and show them to him. Make a list of all the positive things about the new place.
Allow a proper goodbye. It is natural for children to be sad to leave their familiar surroundings. Have a goodbye party for your child. Encourage her to collect her friends’ addresses so she can keep in touch, and suggest that she take pictures of them to help her remember them and look at when she misses them. If it is possible, set a date to come back and visit.
Be prepared. While it is best to move during a break in the school year, this is not always possible. Let your child’s current teacher know about the move and to anticipate him acting out or feeling sad. Find out your child’s new school and teacher and try to meet them to make the academic transition a smooth one. If possible, take him to meet the teacher and visit the class.
During the move
Avoid other big changes. Try not to use this opportunity to make other changes, such as buying and transitioning your child to a bed from a crib. Even though the latter might seem like a small change, combined with the move, it can be traumatic for her and make things more difficult for you.
Get them set up first. As soon as you choose a new place, let your child know where his room will be. He may like to set things up differently, or he may want things to be exactly like they were in his old room. Let him pack up some of his own things, and unpack them once he gets to his new room.
Give them control. Although it may be tempting to have your child out of the way during the move, try to think of some ways to involve her. For example, you can assign her certain things to pack and unpack.
Take care of yourself. Moving is a stressful event by itself even if you don’t have kids to worry about. Make sure you get the help you need to reduce your own stress so that you have the ability to handle your child’s anxiety.
After the move
Get them excited. If you have not done so already, take a break from unpacking to get to know the new neighborhood. Make a list together of all the nice, new things. Get to know your neighbors. Try to meet one-on-one with your child’s teacher and get the names of some children in his class who you can help him get to know before school starts. Do something special to celebrate your new surroundings.
Maintain the routine. Try to maintain regular schedules for mealtimes and bedtime. It is especially important to make sure you get some family time throughout the whole moving process, so that your child will constantly be reassured that you are still there for her and that will not change.
Give them time. Change is hard for everyone, and regardless of how much you do before and during the move, it is natural for your child to feel sad for a while, or even act out.
This information was compiled by Sunindia Bhalla, and reviewed by the Program Staff of the Massachusetts Children’s Trust Fund.
Changes & Transitions