Studies have shown that moving to a new home is one of the most stressful events in adult life. Not only are you packing up every single thing you own and physically moving everything across town — or across the country — but you’re also undertaking a simultaneous home sale and a home purchase.
That means you’ve got to find the right agent to sell your old home, consider a conventional real estate broker versus a trendy new discount broker, worry about commission fees, haggle over home prices, and just maybe consider handling the whole transaction yourself.
That’s a lot of work for anyone. When you add children to the equation, it becomes even more challenging. As any parent can confirm, moving with children in tow is a uniquely difficult experience. But it can be done, if only because it has to be done. Read on for our 31 best tips on moving with children to learn how to make your family move the smoothest one possible!
1. Make Sure Your Kids Learn About the Move From You
Moving can be rough on kids. They’re leaving behind their friends, their classmates and teachers, their neighbors. Even if you’ve only lived in your current home for a few years, your children may have lived there their entire lives, watch can seem like forever.
One of the most important things to do is to get ahead of the news. Tell them before someone else does or before they start to feel unsettled by activity around them — whispers, packing, a “For Sale” sign in the front yard.
2. Give Them Something To Look Forward To
When you first tell your kids about the upcoming move, it’s natural that they’ll first think of everything they’re leaving behind — friends, school, and so on.
You can counteract those feelings of loss and dread by helping them focus on what they’re about to gain. A new bedroom that they’ll be able to decorate and personalize, a new yard, new neighbors and friends, a new school. The more specific you can get — whether that’s a promise to build a treehouse in the new backyard or an ice cream shop near your new home — the more effective it’ll be.
3. Visit the New Location Together
If you can spare the time and expense, it could be even more effective to arrange a little advance road trip to your new home.
A lot of the dread associated with a move comes from the unknown, so taking your kids on a deluxe tour of your new hometown can go far in alleviating those fears. Do your research in advance and put together a tour of local kid-friendly attractions: parks, shops, restaurants. If they have fun during your trip, they can become excited rather than fearful.
4. Wait Until the Last Minute To Pack Your Child’s Belongings
Much of a child’s psychological feeling of security and well-being, especially when they’re young, is tied to their physical surroundings. So during a time of upheaval, it’s important to keep the objects they know and love in place as long as possible. As tempting as it might be to start the packing in their room, try to keep their toys and other comfort items out until the last minute.
Not only will this make them feel better, but it’ll keep them occupied and out of the way while you’re dealing with the chaos of moving day!
5. The More Information, the Better
Kids love details, even if they don’t always fully grasp them — you’ve probably noticed that they love to give their toys and friends nicknames, and enjoy making up long, involved narratives.
Tell them everything you can about the move, from your new address and hometown, to the name of their new school, to the reason you’re moving, or your new job title. They’ll weave these details into their mental life map, and it’ll help them accept the move faster and with less stress than if you were just plunging them into the unknown.
6. Provide Fun Distractions
Make sure you have books, games, or electronic devices close at hand on moving day, so your kids aren’t getting in the way of you or the movers. Keeping them occupied like this will not only make your life easier, it’ll take their minds off the drama of the big day.
7. Encourage Them To Personalize Their New Room
When you arrive at the new house, let them decorate their space themselves. It’ll keep them occupied while you unpack and help them settle in faster. If they’re having a hard time adjusting, you can take this a step further and let them pick out furnishings, accessories like posters or lamps, or even new furniture, like a lofted bed.
8. Reward Them
While parenting experts don’t recommend always substituting rewards like treats or toys for your personal attention, it can be very effective in small doses.
On moving day or in the time leading up to it, the offer of a sweet treat, extra screen time, or a coveted new toy can keep your kids quiet, out of the way, and might even get them to lend a hand.
9. Indulge Them
A move is one of the most traumatic events a young child can experience, so you can expect some emotional turbulence before, during, and after the move. Different children express anxiety in different ways, so you might find yourself dealing with anything from tears, to clinginess, to angry tantrums.
However your children may express their fear during your moving period, it may be advisable to indulge them a little — allow them to have special foods, stay up later than usual, or just have a little psychological and emotional space for them to act out. However difficult the move has been for you, it’s even harder for the children!
10. Lead by Example
There’s no getting around it — moving day is tough. It’s emotionally, financially, and logistically challenging, and everyone in your family is going to be tested. While it’s important to make space for everyone’s feelings, you should model the type of behavior you want to see in your kids. Maintain a calm, positive attitude throughout the days, and when you do hit the inevitable adversity, keep in mind that your kids are going to take their behavioral cues from you.
11. Make Time for Affection
If you have very small children, they’ll still need close attention even on moving day. Build in regular breaks in the moving process so you can spend a few minutes holding your baby or sitting with your toddlers.
12. Set Up Your Child’s Bedroom First
Remember how we said to wait until the last minute to pack up your child’s closest belongings? The first thing you should do in the new place is unpack their bedroom, and make them a familiar, comfortable space to settle into. Some parents recommend making up their bed with familiar sheets and blankets and putting little personal touches like favorite night-lights or books.
13. Help Them See Their Future
Abstract talk about a move and a new life can be a little unsettling for a child. Give them a sense of stability by making it concrete: Show them listing photos of the new house, or take them on a “walking tour” of the new neighborhood using Google Maps. They’ll feel much better about the move if they see what they’re in for.
14. Get Your Child To Participate
Ask your child to pack some of their belongings — and to leave behind anything they don’t want anymore. You may be surprised at how picky they are, and anything they discard is something you don’t have to move. Getting them to pack is less work for you, and staying busy will keep their mind off the move.
15. Make It a Game
Kids love boxes, and letting them build a box fort or turn a few moving boxes into racecars or spaceships can make moving a lot less stressful for them. Some parents also suggest streamlining their toy collection by setting up a “store” with all their toys in it, and telling them to “buy” whatever they want. Anything they don’t select can be donated.
16. Help Them Build New Friendships
Kids are basically just feeling their way through social situations, and adjusting to a new neighborhood and a new school can be uncomfortable at first. Help them find their social footing by reminding them of some basic principles about smiling, eye contact, and being friendly.
17. Let Them Vent — Even if It’s Directed at You
Since you’re the adult and you initiated the move, it’s natural for your child to blame you for any negative emotions they may be feeling. It’s not that unusual for a child to say they “hate you” for making them leave their friends and their school. Don’t get defensive — just try to redirect them to more positive aspects of your new home.
18. Try To Give Them Closure
Give your children the opportunity to say goodbye to their friends, their schools, favorite playgrounds and shops. Take them around to each place with the express intention of having a “last visit.” This may make it easier for them to process the move and make a fresh start in their new home.
19. Don’t Cut ALL Ties
Encourage your child to keep in touch with the close friends they’re leaving behind, whether through written letters, email, social media, or otherwise. Planning a future return to the place you’re leaving, whether that means a summer vacation or a trip over the holidays, can take the edge off the finality of your move.
20. Help Them Process Their Feelings
Talk to your kids about what they’re feeling, from fear, to sadness and grief, to resentment at you. Let them know that their feelings are appropriate, while also gently reminding them of the positive aspects of the move. If you sense that your child is having trouble adjusting, don’t hesitate to seek out professional counseling.
21. Try To Stick To Routines
For the immediate period surrounding moving day, things are going to feel especially chaotic. Try to stick to established routines like bedtimes and mealtimes to give your child a feeling of comfort and familiarity.
22. Get a Very Early Start On Things
Moving is a long process that actually starts long before the moving trucks pull up on the big day. Even before you start packing, you’ll have to organize, declutter, and clean. However long you think it’ll take, it will take significantly longer. Don’t wait until the last minute (or even the last week) to get started.
23. Try For Kid-Free Time
Let’s be honest: No matter how helpful and well-intentioned your kids are, they’re probably hindering more than they’re helping. If you can send the kids to a movie with friends or a weekend with relatives, you can get a ton of packing done without having to work around them.
24. Be Organized
Losing prized belongings in the move, even temporarily, can make a precarious situation feel even worse. Keep your kids’ belongings organized by clearly labeling boxes; if you have multiple kids, consider color coding their boxes, so there’s no confusion when you’re unpacking.
25. Pack Essential Bags for Each Family Member
You may be too tired to unpack when you arrive in your new home. Before you set out on the big day, pack a bag for each family member containing essential medications, a change of clothes, and prized belongings, so you don’t have to hunt through dozens of boxes just to find a toothbrush or pajamas.
A move is a valuable opportunity to reduce the amount of junk you own, and the more you throw out, the less you’ll have to move. Ask your kids to get rid of any toys and books they don’t want, and donate or discard any clothes they’ve outgrown.
27. Empower Your Kids a Little
A lot of the negative emotions your child may feel about the move is tied to the absence of control they have over what’s happening. Letting them make a few decisions — even something as minor as what time to leave on the big day — can make them feel a lot better.
28. Turn the Move Into a Competition
If you have multiple children, you probably know how competitive siblings can be. Get them to contribute to the move by making it into a competition, complete with prizes; for example, offer gift cards or extra screen time to whoever packs up all their books and clothes first.
29. Donate Unwanted Clothes and Toys
Any toys or clothes that you don’t want to take with you but are in decent condition can be donated. It shouldn’t be difficult to find a local charity that will take them. Many charitable organizations will even pick them up from your doorstep.
Just make sure you involve your kids in deciding which things to keep versus donate. You don’t want to arrive at your new home and find out that you gave away your youngest’s favorite stuffed animal.
30. Record Your Memories
Many families like to compile a memory book when they move, with photos of their old house, neighbors, schools, friends, and so on. This will give you a tangible record of your time there — and could provide some comfort later if your children become nostalgic.
31. Hire a Babysitter on Moving Day
Between last minute packing, loading, traveling, and unpacking, the big day is going to be extremely busy. If you have multiple kids, or are handling the bulk of the move yourself, hiring a babysitter to keep the kids out of the way can be a great investment, and make your move a lot easier.