Moving from one house or apartment to the other is a big stressor for families, especially for kids. Adults have the ability to “make the best of it” or focus on the positive changes or employment that will come from their moves, but kids don’t have the ability to do that yet.
Kids need some extra care to make sure that their move experience is as stress free as possible, which will then make the move more enjoyable for your entire family.
1. Plan ahead
Things happen, but the more you can plan your move ahead of time, with plenty of time to pack, hire a moving truck or a company, and get settled in your new home before big events like the start of school, the happier your family will be.
This is partially because it will reduce your stress levels, but also because your kids will get time to adjust to the idea of their move. They can talk to their friends, exchange contact information, and make sure that they feel like they are both heading to a new adventure even as they’re leaving something behind.
Rushing around at the last minute trying to find packing boxes makes a move miserable for everyone.
2. Visit the new neighborhood
Kids often have trouble visualizing the new home and neighborhood, which can increase their stress and worry. Instead of asking them to guess what everything is going to look like, show them. If you’re just moving across town or city lines, drive over and look around. Find the nearest park, comic book store, ice cream shop, or whatever the child’s favorite thing might be. Show them their new room in the online house listing.
If you’re moving across state lines and can’t reasonably visit with your kid, spend some time on Google with the street level view, creating a map of interesting places to visit once you’re there. Creating some anticipation for the new things is key to making the move stress free for everyone.
3. Organize special items
When you pack, there are certain items you know you’ll need right away – that book on your nightstand, a couple nights of dishes, and toiletry items, for example. There are other things that you need, but it’ll be a while; out of season clothing, the sports items in the very back of the hall closet, and so forth.
“While responsible movers will take good care of your possessions, there are occasionally accidents and problems along the way”, says Art Petosyan, CEO of EZ Moving Company. “Packing your most essential items in your car (if driving) or your bags (if flying) can help you make sure that you’re not spending the first night in a new house without your child’s favorite bedtime toy.”
4. Delegate when possible
Your instinct might be to keep your kid from worrying about the move by taking care of everything. In fact, having an age-appropriate amount of control can help your child feel safer and calmer about the entire move.
Even a very young child can place their favored bedtime toys and most important items for a car or plane trip into a backpack; a teen might be responsible for packing up the items in their room and easy items in the rest of the house. The child might also help in planning the travel route, picking places to stop for the night, or finding attractions to visit along the way.
No one feels good when they have to do something over which they have no control at all; kids are no different.
5. Acknowledge feelings
As a parent, you want your child to be happy; if your spouse is moving with you because you have a new job, it’s easy to want to see them delighted by the opportunity. Emotions, however, are rarely so simple. Families can experience very conflicted feelings around moves, especially in situations where the entire family is not moving together.
The urge to brush off feelings of sadness or worry by focusing on the positive is understandable and misguided. Negative emotions are valid and present for good reasons, and listening to them helps family members feel heard and calmer. Which isn’t to say that problem solving isn’t a good idea, or that if a family member seems to be descending into depression, people shouldn’t try to intervene.
Start with the idea that some apprehension and worry is normal and to be expected. Hear feelings out, and ask if people want help finding solutions; they may just want to express their feelings and move on.
Moves can be big and stressful and frustrating. Using these tips can help you make sure that your move is as peaceful and family-friendly as possible.