10 Tips For Making Moving With Kids Easier
If you’re a parent, you already know what studies tell us — that moving with kids is hard. Unlike adults, kids rarely have the social, emotional or cognitive skills to make moving easy, so it’s up to the parent(s) to help. Making a move easier for your child or children will also help make the move easier for you.
Expect Behavioral Changes
“Expect behavioral changes in your child, and be patient and understanding, not punitive as they go through this processing,” says Pat Cheeks, RN, MS, Cheeks is a board certified Psychiatric/Clinical Nurse Specialist with more than 30 years experience in inpatient, intensive outpatient and private practice settings. She now specializes in coaching, helping families and individuals transition through life’s stressors — including moving.
“Expect crying, tantrums, and anger as well as silence and even depression,” Cheeks says. “Kids don’t process or communicate their emotions like adults. They tend to act out more, so be as patient and understanding as possible. Not all children will respond the same. Just be prepared for changes of all kinds.”
Even if they’re excited about the move, they’re also going to be apprehensive.
“Expect some regression. Potty-trained toddlers may start wetting the bed, or backslide on toilet skills they’ve had for years. Regression is a normal way many children deal with stress. They may want to sleep in your bed, become clingy and shy when they were once independent and outgoing. Children often find it hard to process the wide range of emotions they’re feeling. They may be sad, happy, excited, scared, angry or resentful, but expectant too.”
Encourage Your Child to Express Their Feelings
Listening to your teens say, “This sucks,” for a solid month will get on anyone’s nerves. Encourage your teens to tell you why they think moving sucks. Help them express what they’re experiencing: “Moving sucks because I have to leave my friends. Moving sucks because I won’t graduate with all my friends, or I’ll be a senior at a school where I don’t know anyone. Moving sucks because I’ll have to leave my boy/girl friend, or the job, club, sports team or thing I love most in the whole world.” Understanding why they’re upset will help you both figure out a plan to make the best of the loss and create more positive options.
Read About Other People’s Moves
Preparing your child for the move will help reduce their stress and the accompanying disruption, Cheeks says. “When children can’t process their emotions they can often find it easier to do it at a distance — either through books or movies about someone else’s experience. There are books about moving you can read to toddlers and preschoolers, including My Best Friend Moved Away by Nancy Carlson; Big Ernie’s New Home by Teresa and Whitney Martin; Alexander, Who’s Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move by Judith Viorst Louis (author of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
Give them Choices In Decorating Their New Space
Nothing helps a child settle into a new home more than having a space to call their own. “Let them hang a new poster, or decorate their new room or pick out new paint or furniture if possible. Something as simple as having a say in where their bed, desk or toys go will help them feel better about the move,” Cheeks says.
Emphasize the Positive
Children tend to see the negative side, what they’re losing, not what they’re gaining with the move. Point out the good aspects of the move — maybe they’re getting their room or new opportunities. It’s okay to grieve what they’re losing, but encourage them to feel grateful for what they’re leaving and excited about what is to come.
Create New Memories and Special Places
It’s never too soon to find “your” favorite new hangout. It can be a cozy little diner or restaurant where you can go as a family for breakfast or dessert, or a local park, nature trail or dog park. Your new community may have a beach, a zoo or skate park. Find something that appeals to your child and start building family memories there.
Start or Continue a New Activity
If your child was active in Girl/Boy Scouts, martial arts, music or other extracurricular activities before the move, enroll them in the same activities after you move. If they weren’t active before, encourage them to try a new sport, activity or club after you move. It will help them make new friends.
Visit the New House and School
Visiting the new house and touring their new school to take pictures and to get a feel for the community often relieves the stress of the unknown.
Involve Them in the Moving Plans
Even young children can help make lists, or pack their toys or clothes. Older children will often do well with a moving party where they can also collect the email addresses and phone numbers of their friends and share photos of their new school and house if possible.
Show Gratitude for the Old
“Part of any transition, whether you’re an adult, a child or a teenager, is learning to say goodbye. Help your child show gratitude for their old house and memories. Taking photos of their favorite things, like places in their home, neighborhood or community can be very soothing. This can be a park, a favorite hiking trail, or the dog park where you walk your dog. It can be as simple as their favorite tree or flowers.
“Transitions are hard for everyone, but they’re a part of life,” Cheeks says. “Learning and practicing these skills can make the transition less stressful, less difficult and much shorter.”
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