Whether you are moving across town or across the country (like we are…eek!) moving can be a stressful experience for your family. Children thrive on routine and stability, so it’s important to pay special attention to your child (ren) during this time. Although I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself an expert, I do have a degree in Early Childhood Education and spent countless hours as a nanny and a teacher before I became a mom, so there’s got to be some sort of wisdom in here for you, right? Here are 10 tips to help prepare your child for a move.
1) Talk, talk, and talk some more! Our son is four and the possibility of a move has been tossed around for us since the fall. We talked to our son throughout the whole process and kept him very involved with what was happening. He’s had plenty of time to process this transition and ask questions, giving my husband and I opportunities to validate his feelings and share some of our own emotions with him as well. My son has been involved in (almost) all of our conversations about the move and has helped with every step of sorting, packing and cleaning. Giving him an active role in this process has allowed him to be a participant in this transition, not just a bystander feeling out of control.
2) Take your child house hunting! Once my husband secured a job and our move was imminent, we spent a weekend house hunting. Our son was with us every step of the way, so now when we reference our new home, he has a vision of where we are going.
3) Get excited about where you are moving to! Talk about the exciting things you can do in your new home or new town. Does your new house have an awesome new play room? Are you moving closer to family? In our case, we are doing a long distance move and ultimately decided to rent an apartment for a few months, but oh my goodness is my son excited to have a fun filled summer at the apartment pool!
4) Make a “bucket list.” My son and I sat down one afternoon and made a list of all the things we would like to do around Richmond before we move. We included our favorite places to play, our favorite restaurants, and lots of play dates with friends. To be honest, this was just as much of a cathartic activity for me as it was for him.
5) Take a memento from your current home. In our downstairs bathroom, the light over the mirror has a string with a small silver seahorse pull. One day, completely unprompted, my son asked, “Mommy? Can I take the seahorse with us to our new home? That way I will always have a way to remember our first house.” This prompted some waterworks and an “of course you can” from me, so together we cut the string and my son put the sea horse on the front table to take with us when we leave. Having a tangible object to take with them will help your child connect back to the memories of your old home when they are feeling a bit sad.
6) Plan to stay in touch with friends. Moving might be harder and more emotional if your children are older and leaving close friendship ties. Even for my preschooler, this move means leaving behind some close friendships. Make sure your child gets time to say good bye to their friends and has a plan to keep in touch through letters, sending cards, or phone calls.
7) Put together a memory book. This may include pictures of your home, your children’s friends, your child’s school, or your favorite places around the city.
8) Make a countdown! Find a tangible way for your child to get ready for the move and know what to expect. You can use a calendar, a paper chain, or an advent style countdown. Let your child know what to expect as you countdown the days. After you put your belongings in boxes will there be movers? Are family members coming to help? Build up positive excitement about moving day.
9) Make a “moving day kit.” Help your child pack a back pack with their favorite toys or activities to have during travel and to play with while you are packing, loading, and unpacking. This allows them to always have access to familiar and treasured objects in the midst of transition.
10) Forgive yourself for being human. It’s easy to say that your priority during this time of transition should be making it easier for your child, but the truth is moving is hard and stressful for you, too, and that’s ok. Let yourself be a parent and an emotional being. Remind yourself (and your child) that feeling sad, excited, scared, anxious (or even a little of all of these emotions) is perfectly normal.
Even though this is a difficult process, especially with a little one, remember that this state of flux is only temporary and in just a few months you will be perfectly settled into a “new normal.” Children are very resilient creatures, and in all honesty, my son is handling this move with far more grace than I am.
Have you ever survived a move with children? We would love to hear what helped your family through your move!