Moving With Kids: Helping Your Children Adjust to Change
Moving into a new home can be an exciting time. And while some may be filled with eager anticipation to make the new home feel warm and welcoming, for others — especially children — the news of moving may be met with anxiety regarding their new environment, routine, and community.
While some anxiety and questioning are completely normal, parents should anticipate the complex feelings that kids may experience and be proactive about offering support. Here’s how to get on the same page with children, promote well-being within your family, and remain present when they need you the most.
1. Stay safe while moving
Your children’s wellness is about more than emotions, and recognizing common moving hazards can help you prevent accidents or injury. While you’re busy packing, organizing, and moving, it’s easy to take your eyes off your kids in an otherwise well-supervised home. Consider enlisting the help of another adult to provide child care during the moving prep. You might even have them take your children to a park or other location during the most labor-intensive stages.
2. Anticipate their questions
Depending on your children’s ages and personalities, they may be concerned about how they’ll fit into their new surroundings. How will they make friends? What will the new house be like? Will the school be fun? Make a list of questions you think they’ll have, and sit down to answer them the best you can well in advance of the move. It’s also OK to let them know when you don’t have an answer. Remind them that uncertainty is normal and that you’ll get through any difficulties together as a family.
3. Find support in the new community
It can be helpful to develop support systems for your children in the new community. An ongoing ally, such as a teacher, neighbor, or coach, can help them adjust to the new school and neighborhood. Reach out to the school or community organizations you’ll be a part of and ask who your kids can contact with questions. Creating a partnership with a trusted adult can be key to making your children feel supported in your absence, and it can give them another person to turn to when they want to talk about how they’re feeling.
4. Learn about the new location together
Consider doing some research by going through the school and community’s social media pages to see what fun activities take place there each year and how your children may be better prepared for their first few weeks. Select a few photos or videos to share with your children, and make a list of things you can do before the move to help them meet any reasonable trends or traditions when they get there. Something as simple as buying a team sweatshirt or learning the school song may be enough to help your children feel a sense of belonging.
5. Take care of each other — and yourself
Moving can feel like an Olympic event — exercising your body and your mind. Between moving boxes, scheduling services, and staying up late with “what ifs,” you and your children may be at your limits well before the move happens. If you can, keep your kids on a set schedule for sleeping, eating, and playing, and make sure they get enough rest. Address nutrition, screen time habits, and other areas that are important to your children’s health. If you suspect they may be coming down with illness, bring them to a doctor before you move. When your children feel their best, it will be easier for them to accept change.
6. Give them an outlet
How do your children currently deal with stress? Kids (and adults) need an outlet for expression, whether it be creating artwork, playing music, or practicing a sport. If they don’t have an outlet, try getting them into new hobbies or pastimes now. Look for something that is simple, easy to do right away, and can be done anywhere. This may become increasingly important as they adjust to their new home.
7. Listen to their concerns
Children often vent about their worries and frustrations for two reasons: First, they may want you to solve their problems. More often, they just want to get their burdens off their chests. Try to determine when your children are asking for change or simply want a listening ear. In the case of older kids, the latter is most likely. Just knowing that you’ll listen without judgment can be enough to help them through the transition.
This may seem like a lot to consider in light of all the things you’re managing as a parent. But being there for your children’s emotional, physical, and mental well-being is something you’re already doing — they might just need a little extra support during this time of change. If possible, don’t take their frustrations as a condemnation of your choice to move. Even if they tell you they aren’t happy about it, do your best to offer encouragement. They depend on you to model how to best handle change, and this may be your biggest opportunity to teach them how.