Of all the difficult aspects of moving, perhaps one of the most frustrating to deal with for parents is the process of explaining that the purpose of the move is not to rip your child apart from her friends and home in order to ruin her life. Kids traditionally don’t take well to sudden changes in routine, and they’re rarely thrilled about the process of changing schools and relocating away from their childhood neighborhood. Psychologists agree that moving is tough on children, and the negative effects - fewer friendships, lower levels of life satisfaction - can be long-lasting if they respond poorly.
But starting a new life in a new community doesn’t have to be a disastrous process if you accommodate your children’s emotional reactions and take steps to make the adjustment easier for them. With patience, understanding and careful planning, you can gently ease them into your new home and life with minimal trauma.
Talk to them about everything
In order to help your kids through the process of moving, include them in every step of the process as much as you can. For younger children, you can simplify information or give them snippets they can understand. Begin by holding a family meeting at least a month before the move to explain why you’re moving, when you’re moving, where you’re moving and where you are in the process.
If you haven’t selected a house yet, try to include older children in the process of selecting one. Ask them what kind of bedroom they’d like, show them houses in person or online and talk about ways you can decorate and personalize the house in advance. By involving them in the process of selecting the house and getting them excited about ways to make it feel homey, you can spur feelings of anticipation instead of dread for the move.
Help them go through their things
For a child already nervous or upset about moving in the first place, the process of packing her things can feel unbearable. Don’t be surprised when she throws tantrums or lags in her packing. One easy way of getting your child packed is going through their things with them and helping them pack. Plan a day for the two of you to pack together, make sure she has all the supplies she needs and go through the room systematically. Begin with items used less often and work your way up to things that would go in a suitcase the day of the move.
An important step in the packing process is decluttering, and children who are worried about their lives being upended may be reluctant to let go of items, even if they’re junk. You can help your child get rid of things by putting together a family yard sale that everyone participates in. Help her select items to put on sale and get her excited about the prospect of earning money. You can even use it as an opportunity to teach her about business and how sales work. By giving her an incentive to get rid of her things, she may become more excited about the packing process overall.
Maintain routines after the move
As mentioned earlier, kids thrive on routine and don’t like seeing it shaken up. One crucial step you can take after the move is attempting to re-establish your old routine as soon as possible. If your child is used to waking up at 7 a.m. and eating waffles for breakfast, try to make sure the ingredients and tools to make waffles are one of the first unpacked. If you always read her a bedtime story by lamp light before bed, make sure you, the books, the lamp and the bed are all prepared by the first night. Prioritize unpacking the items that can help restore a sense of day to day normalcy for your children, and stick to routine as much as possible. The consistency will remind your child that moving hasn’t completely changed her life.
Find them a new social system early
One of the biggest problems children have with moving is the interruption to their social network. Kids who move frequently are more likely to have difficulty maintaining relationships, which means you should prioritize finding a new social system for your child as soon as possible. This can be a local children’s club during the summer, or it can mean enrolling them in school and after-school clubs as soon as possible. Arrange playmates with local mothers, bring your children to local parks and libraries as soon as you can.
Moving can bring a lot of emotional upheaval to a family with children, but it doesn’t have to be a miserable process for everyone. By easing your child into the concept, giving her room to mourn the change and encouraging her to see the new opportunities facing the family, you can make the move easier for her and for you.