Any parent who’s moved with children knows it can be a trying experience. Moves can be a lot harder on kids than adults. They’re leaving behind everything that’s familiar – their home, school, friends, neighborhood, and sometimes, family. A move can be a traumatic experience for a child of any age.
You probably have plenty of good reasons for your move, but those may not matter to your children. While children are resilient, they’re more sensitive than adults to changes in their environment and routines. The discomfort of moving will pass, but there are things you can do to make the transition easier for the entire family.
Here are ten tips for helping your child get acclimated to their new home:
Before You Move
- A few weeks before you leave, take some time to read books with your children about the move. After you read with them, ask them questions about how they feel, and give them time to tell you what they might be afraid of or might be looking forward to. Here are some suggestions for books to start the conversation:
– I’m Not Moving, Mama, by Nancy White Carlstrom– We’re Moving, by Heather Maisner– The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day, by Stan and Jan Berenstain– Big Ernie’s New Home, by Teresa Martin– Bruce’s Big Move, by Ryan T. Higgins
- If possible, before you move take your child to their new environment. Drive them around their new neighborhood, show them their new school, and of course, their new home. If your realtor (or landlord) allows it, show them the inside, including their new bedroom. Park your car and take a walk around your new neighborhood and point out simple things. Ask them questions about what they notice.
By helping them get to know and name their new environment you can help to ease their transition. If you can’t take them there in person, look up resources online that show pictures of their neighborhood. One tool you may find useful is Google Earth (available as an app on the Apple and Google app stores and for the Chrome browser), but keep in mind that some of the images may be a few years old. If your child or teen is tech-savvy, let them navigate Google Earth so they can get to see what their new neighborhood looks like.
- Before leaving, have a goodbye party for their friends. Invite their closest friends, teachers, and neighbors over to your home to wish them well. One great idea is to have each person attending their goodbye party bring a special memento of their friendship.
- Make a memory book. Children, even more than adults, need to have a sense of continuity, and filling a scrapbook can be helpful during those times they feel uncomfortable in their new home.
If you don’t have a scrapbook or don’t know where to start, try a local craft or hobby store (check on Yelp), or even Amazon. For tech-savvy parents, an eScrapbook is a great alternative. The folks at SmileBox have perfected the art of electronic scrapbooks.
- For younger children, use toy trucks, toy cars, or even building blocks to act out the move. Legos are one way to help your child make the transition. Help them build a model of your new home and neighborhood, and act out your life together in your child’s creation.
- Visit special places in your new neighborhood – parks, museums, etc. Take some time to play on playgrounds, or even to picnic in a park. The more you get your child excited about the impending move, the easier the transition will be.
After You Move
- It’s essential to keep your child involved in setting up their new environment. A child will have a better sense of ownership of their bedroom, for instance, if you let them make some choices about where to put their toys, books, clothes, and other belongings. Keeping their new room arranged the same as their old room may help them feel more comfortable with the move as well.
- Keep your family routines intact as much as possible. Remember that children crave stability and predictability, and keeping the family routines such as bedtimes, wake-up times, television and game times, and so on, will help them feel that things are more like they used to be.
- Hold off on getting rid of your child’s furniture. While a move might seem like a perfect time to get a new bedroom set, waiting a month or two may help your child make the transition easier. If you’re set on getting new furniture for your child, take him or her with you and let them participate in the decision. The more your child feels empowered, the easier they will settle into their new surroundings.
- Give lots of hugs. It’s bound to be an emotional time for your child, so all the nurturing and support you can give will help them ease into their new life. Spend some extra time with them, so they know that even though their environment has changed, your love for them hasn’t.
No move is 100% free from stress, and the stress is bound to show up in how your children behave. But by following these simple steps as a family you can help your child ease into their new life and surroundings, and to make the move a positive, enriching experience for them and you.