MOVING WITH KIDS
How to Make it Easier For Them
by Katharine Canfield
Moving can be as
challenging as it is exciting. Sometimes more so. Moving is as hard for kids as it is for
adults. They, too, are leaving behind familiar places and important friends. They, too,
are starting over: seeking new friends and adjusting to a new home, neighborhood, and
school. But because they're still learning how to socialize and how to effectively get
their needs met, children need caring adults to listen and help them adjust to their new
home, now more than ever.
If you're a parent
contemplating a move, this article's for you. By considering a move in three stages -
before, during, and after - and thinking about your children's needs during each stage,
you can make a big difference in how your kids feel about the move and how they adjust
BEFORE THE MOVE:
- Tell your children about
the move as soon as you can. The more time they have to think about and prepare for the
move, the easier it will be for them.
- Give your children a
chance to express their feelings, and try to be honest about your own feelings. Most
children will feel some anger, sadness, or worry about the move. These responses are
natural, and kids who have a chance to express them will work through their doubts more
easily. Gently tell your children about any sadness you may feel about leaving or
uncertainty about a new home, job, or city. This will reassure them that they aren't alone
in having worries or concerns.
- Help older children
prepare a list of phone numbers and addresses of close friends, relatives, and other
important people in their lives. Knowing they can stay in touch with these people is an
important part of a successful move.
- If your kids are old
enough, let them participate in decision making. Have the kids keep a notebook of
potential new homes with the positives and the negatives listed.
- If you are able to, before
you move take your children to your new home and explore the new neighborhood and town or
city together. If this isn't possible, take pictures of your new home, the schools your
kids will attend, a nearby park, and anything else that would be interesting to them.
- Make a scrapbook
containing pictures of your pre-move home, friends, and other mementos of your life
- Call the principal of your
children's schools, and try to set up a meeting with their teachers or, if they're in
junior high or high school, guidance counselor. The new school may even be able to give
you names of students in your child's class who live near your new home. If so, you may
want to drop by to meet them and their families before you move in.
- Try to line up some
activities in which your child can participate after the move: a sports team, music
lessons, art classes, a scouting troop. Not only will activities like these keep your
children involved; they'll also help them to feel like part of a group - an important
aspect of settling in. Try to sign up for more than one activity in case one falls through
or doesn't go well.
- If you can, try to meet
families in your new neighborhood before you move. Being familiar with people when you
move in will help your children feel more at home.
DURING THE MOVE:
Remembering What's Important
- Throughout the move, stay
as upbeat and calm as you can; a good plan makes this possible. Your own mood will impact
other family members, especially babies, who are particularly sensitive to their mother's
feelings. With older children, it's important to be honest about some of the uncertainties
you have, but also to be generally optimistic about the move and the positive ways it will
affect the family.
- Involve your kids in the
packing. Older kids can put their own belongings in boxes, and kids of all ages will enjoy
decorating the boxes containing their things. Doing so will also make finding your
children's things easier once you're at the new house!
- Try to stick to your
routines. Have meals at the same times as always. If your kids nap, encourage them to lie
down at the usual time. Keep to the normal bedtimes.
- Don't pack things that
your children treasure. Take special blankets, beloved stuffed animals, favorite books,
and other prized items in a separate bag or box that you can bring with you in the car or
on the plane when you go to your new home.
- Help your children say
good bye to the important people in their lives. For their friends, a pizza or
make-your-own sundae party is a fun way to celebrate the friendship. An album or poster
with photos of good times together will add to the celebration. If your children are
comfortable, encourage hugs at the end of the party. With neighbors or other special
adults, you may want to set up a time to stop by and say good bye as a family.
- Expect the unexpected: few
moves go smoothly, anticipate trouble (predict it!) and have a positive, "can
AFTER THE MOVE:
- Don't spend too much time
unpacking - at least not right away! Sure, the essentials are important to unload and you
want the house to feel settled. But wait on the less important stuff. In the first few
days, take time to enjoy your new home with your family. Take walks. Check out local
restaurants and take-out spots. Introduce yourselves to your new neighbors. Spend time at
- Be on the look-out for
neighborhood kids, and help introduce your children to them. If it's comfortable for you
and your children, invite some of the neighborhood kids over for pizza or a video.
- Let your children have
some input in planning on the new house, especially in choosing things to buy for their
rooms. Even if you don't follow through on their ideas, it's important to listen to what
they think. Be tactful if you choose another option, and let some decisions be entirely up
to them - for example, the placement of their bed or the color of the rug or paint in
- Get involved: church
groups, synagogues, YMCA and activity clubs, etc. enable socializing. If a couple of
months have gone by and your child seems unusually troubled, ask a doctor, guidance
counselor, or principal if you need a referral. Signs that your child may need help:
unusual academic difficulty; ongoing irritability; trouble with peers; changes in sleep or
eating habits; a generally despondent mood. Give them time, this behavior can last for 4-5
months for teens.
- Above all, listen. Try to
be there when your kids get home after the first day at their new schools, even if it
means having to leave work early that day. Regularly ask how things are going, and take
time to listen. Sometimes kids have a hard time opening up; spending relaxed time together
may help them to bring up whatever is on their minds.
- For children and adults,
it takes time to feel at home. With your understanding and patience, your children will be
reassured that, after a while, things will get easier; everything won't feel so new; and
that home is, after all, wherever the family is.