My husband and I have moved a lot in our 17 years of marriage. But this is the first time we’ve moved with two kids, at ages where they will remember their old home, and are facing some big changes to our routine. So I’m sharing my best tips for moving with kids…based on our successes and failures, of course. And I’m asking for YOUR tips, too!
Every move is different, but this one has felt the most challenging because our son was settled at school and we all were at church, too. On the surface, it might seem like the transition should be smooth because we’re moving to my hometown, where we’ve visited with the kids a lot, it’s only a 40 minute drive from our old place, and we’re living with the grandparents for awhile. Our kids have been jumping-up-and-down excited to move!
That being said, I don’t think there is such a thing as a nice and easy move. Even switching neighborhoods in the same town can create a challenging adjustment for different members of the family.
Tips for Moving with Kids
Help them keep track of the timeline.
Our kids love the systems we use so that they understand what’s coming and when. We still used our weekly kids’ calendar, but for our move we created a four-week countdown calendar.
The kids crossed off each day, leading to the moving day symbol we created. You can use your regular monthly calendar for this and it’s easy-peasy! Just hang it at a level they can reach with a crayon or two ready for your kiddos to mark each day.
We talked about our schedule with them all the time, and they still had lots of questions when they saw the boxes or we were taking a trip to our storage unit. Be prepared for your best efforts to seem a bit fruitless at times. But stick with it and it’ll help your kids immensely!
Help them say goodbye.
It was so tough to explain to our son that we weren’t just having an adventure, we were really and truly leaving the places he’d known and the people he’d come to love.
Kai prefers to express his emotions in private, and he didn’t want to talk much at all about leaving his friends. So I let him take the lead on it and didn’t probe too much when the topic came up.
His hardest day was his last day of school, which was the first time he’d ever expressed any sadness about the move to me. His friends and teachers were telling him they’d miss him, and I think that started to make things more clear for Kai.
Tips to help them say goodbye:
- Let your kids take the lead on how much to talk about their feelings. Encourage them gently to share, instead of forcing the topic.
- Do something special on their last day of school. We brought cookies to his class and dropped him off at his classroom as a family, like we did on his first day of school.
- Make a photo book of some favorite times in your old town or home. You and your kiddos can look at this as much as they want to. You’ll be so glad you have it. (Here’s a favorite photo book.)
- Pray as a family before you go. We didn’t want to make this a big, emotional goodbye for our son’s sake, so my hubby Ry and I kept this positive. We thanked God for the blessing of our home and the excitement we have in moving to a new place.
Moving with Toddlers
Age does matter when it comes to how a child will handle a big life change. Our toddler, who is the more outgoing, expressive one in our family, is handling the move well.
That doesn’t mean that it’s not challenging at all for her. Because she’s three, it’s been a bit confusing for her. On the second night we were at my parent’s house, she asked to go home. I figure it’s just going to take some time for her to understand, and that when we have our own home to move into, it will help.
Tips for moving with toddlers:
- Let your toddler participate in packing. Sylvie was in charge of coloring the boxes with crayons. 🙂 She did help with packing a bit, too.
- Let your toddler participate in moving. Sylvie was able to carry a few small things to the moving truck, and she was really proud.
- Talk about the move regularly – at least once a day. You don’t want to provoke anxiety in your kiddo, but we found it helpful to mention that we would be living and sleeping in a new place when we looked at our moving calendar, about once every day. They might not understand at the time, but doing this will give your little one a chance to prepare.
- Make sure she understands that her favorite things are coming with her. Sylvie kept wanting to pack her stuffed horse because she wanted to make sure it came with us. We explained quite often that she could hold it and take it with her when we move.
If you have a long drive ahead of you, check out my post on road trips with preschoolers.
More Tips on Moving with Kids
Helping your child cope with moving starts before you move. You can help them prepare in a few different ways.
Explore your new town or neighborhood online when you can’t do it in person. Go to the chamber of commerce website for your new town and dig in. Google the street views of your new neighborhood and let your kids “drive” down the streets. Talk about the parks, swimming pools, library, and any other places you might visit.
Get social after you move. Once you’re settled in, visit the library story time or go to a popular park to help your kids make new friends. Visiting a new church can be tough, but give it a try as well. Introduce yourselves to neighbors so that your kids will start to feel surrounded by familiar faces.
Bond as a family in your new home. Spend some time making new memories in your new house. Try a family game night, bake together, play a game in the yard, or build forts in the living room. Just get intentional about being together as a family when you’re settling in, and your kids will start to feel right at home.
How to Help Your Child Cope with Moving Anxiety
I’m not an expert at this by any means, but here are the things I’ve learned and would like to do for my kids to help them adjust.
- Let them pick the paint color for their new room. Giving your kids choices allows them to feel in control in a situation that they don’t have control over. Let them make decisions about their rooms colors, but don’t stop there. Include your child in the decision-making process whenever you can.
- Make allowances for the first few nights. Your kiddo might regress in their sleep habits a lot. I didn’t expect to encounter this problem, but we did. We learned that it was best to ask our child what would help them sleep, and let them use it for several nights. Examples might be: turn more lights on, let them read books in bed, play soothing music for them to listen to as they fall asleep, let them bring a special toy to bed, etc. Set a limit on how long you think you’ll allow this, and talk with your kids about it.
- Get into a routine. Routine helps kids cope with change immensely. I’m not so great at establishing a routine, so I’m guilty of not following my own advice, but I have a goal of giving my kids more structure once we move into our new home.
- Be patient with questions. If your kids are like mine, they may ask the same question more than once about what’s going on. Just be ready to over-explain the moving process and be prepared to do it again and again.
- Be there for them when they’re feeling emotional. You don’t have to have a speech prepared (it’s better if you don’t, actually) when your child needs to cry. Just hold them when they’re sad, or provide a good physical activity for any anger they feel. If your kiddo needs help expressing himself, it can help if you name their emotion. “You must be feeling so sad that we left our church,” for example.
My Question on Moving with Kids
Here’s where you can help me out! Give me your advice, people!
Is it helpful to visit your old home? When should it be done? I worry that this might make them regress and bring up tough emotions and/or cause more confusion. My daughter just turned three and I feel like she’ll wonder if we’re moving back.
I also worry about not doing it, because maybe visiting our old home and town could help them have some more closure. We don’t live very far away. Thoughts?
Moving with Kids Ain’t Easy
You guys, this is the hardest move we’ve ever done. We have more people in our family (and more stuff to put in storage), and all of us are adjusting in our own ways. Moving with kids makes the process more difficult. But we trust that God is guiding us here and that our kids will definitely be happier in the long run.
I know I’ve been more emotional as a mom during this move because of the changes my kids are going through. I didn’t expect to tear up in the halls of my son’s school, but I did.
If you’re moving with kids, I hope this helped you out a bit, and that you have a wonderful experience following God’s guidance for your family. Try to be patient with your little ones and help them discover the good in going on a grand adventure to a new place. Give them time and help them make choices. And go easy on yourselves, too, moms.