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 everything you own and physically moving it all across town — or across the country — but you’re also undertaking a simultaneous home sale and home purchase.
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 is a uniquely difficult experience. But it can be done! Read on for our 31 best tips for moving with kids.
1. Make sure your kids learn about the move from you
One of the most important things to do before moving with kids is to get ahead of the news. Tell them before someone else does or before they start to feel unsettled by activity around them — like whispers, packing, or 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, teachers, neighbors. Even if you’ve only lived in your current home for a few years, your children may have lived there their entire lives, which means they’re leaving behind the only place they know.
You can counteract those feelings of loss 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 friends and neighbors, a new school. The more specific the better — whether that’s a promise to build a treehouse in the new backyard or visit an ice cream shop near your new home.
3. Visit the new location together
If you can spare the time and expense, arrange a trip to your new home before the actual move.
A lot of the fear associated with a move comes from the unknown, so taking your kids on a tour of your new town can help alleviate 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 for the move.
4. Wait to pack your child’s belongings
Your child’s physical surroundings help them feel safe and secure. 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.
5. Give them details
Kids love details, even if they don’t always fully grasp them. Tell them everything you can about the move, like your new address and hometown, the name of their new school, the reason you’re moving, or your new job title. Knowing this information can help them accept the move faster and feel less stressed about it, since they won’t be moving to the unknown.
6. Provide fun distractions
To prepare for days of moving with children, make sure you have books, games, or electronic devices close at hand. Give them fun distractions on moving day so they won’t get in the way of you or the movers. Keeping them occupied will make your life easier and also 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 decorations, like posters or lamps, or even new furniture, like a lofted bed, for their new room.
8. Reward them
Substituting rewards like treats or toys for your personal attention isn’t always a good idea, but it can be effective in small doses. On moving day or in the time leading up to it, offer your kids a sweet treat, extra screen time, or a coveted new toy. These rewards can help your kids be content, out of the way, and maybe even willing 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 give a little psychological and emotional space for them to act out. However difficult moving with kids has been for you, it’s even harder for them.
10. Lead by example
Moving — especially moving with children — is 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, and when you do hit inevitable challenges, 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 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
One of the first things you should do in the new place is unpack your kid’s bedroom. Make them a familiar, comfortable space to settle into. Some parents recommend making up the bed with familiar sheets and blankets and adding 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 know what’s coming.
14. Get your child to participate
As you begin the packing process for moving with kids, ask your child to pack some of their belongings. Having them help pack means less work for you and a positive energy outlet for them. Ask them to leave behind anything they don’t want anymore. Anything they discard is something you don’t have to move!
15. Make it a game
Kids love boxes, and letting them use boxes for a fort, race car, or spaceship can make moving a lot more fun. Some parents also suggest streamlining a child’s 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
Adjusting to a new neighborhood and a new school might be uncomfortable for your kid at first. During the first few weeks of the move, 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 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, schools, and favorite playgrounds and shops. Take them around to each place with the 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 other methods. If you can, plan a future return to the place you’re leaving, whether for a summer vacation or the holidays. This 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 and sadness to resentment and grief. 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 professional counseling for them.
21. Try to stick to routines
The days surrounding moving day are going to feel especially chaotic. During this process of moving with children, try to stick to established routines like bedtimes and mealtimes to give your child a feeling of comfort and familiarity.
22. Get an early start on moving tasks
Moving is a lengthy process that 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 these tasks will take, they’ll take significantly longer. Start as early as you can, including lining up a moving company.
23. Try planning 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. Stay organized
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
Before moving day, pack a bag for each family member containing essential medications, a change of clothes, and toiletries. This way, when you arrive at your new home, 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. 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
Your child might feel some negative emotions about the move, and a lot of these feelings can be tied to the lack of control they have over what’s happening. Letting them make a few decisions — even something like what time to leave on the big day — can make them feel a lot better.
28. Turn the move into a competition
Sometimes siblings can be competitive. During a move, you can use this to your advantage. Get your kids to contribute by making moving tasks a competition, complete with prizes. For example, offer treats or extra screen time to whoever packs all their books and clothes first.
29. Donate unwanted clothes and toys
When moving with children, you might discover a lot of toys and clothes you don’t want to take with you. If they’re in decent condition, you can donate 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 and which to donate. You don’t want to arrive at your new home and find out 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. Creating a memory book gives you a tangible record of your time at your old place — 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, moving day is going to be extremely busy. If you have multiple kids or you’re handling the bulk of the move yourself, consider hiring a babysitter to keep the kids out of the way. It could be a great investment and make your move a lot easier.
Frequently asked questions about moving with kids
What is the best age for a child to move?
The best age for a child to move is between 5 and 8 years old, when they're in elementary school. At these ages, children can understand what's going on during a move. They also tend to look up to their parents, so when parents portray the move in a positive light, the children can view the move positively too.
What are some tips for moving in together with kids?
When moving in together with kids, it's best to be as transparent as possible and help them know what to expect. Kids can adjust to change better when they know details of the change and feel free to ask questions. To help them feel important, keep them involved in the process of moving with kids.
How stressful is moving for kids?
Moving is a big change for kids, and no matter how old they are, moving to a new town will be stressful to some degree for them. Children moving to a new community might feel sad to leave old friends behind and stressed about making new friends. The whole moving process can be an emotional shock.
Younger kids may not express their stress outwardly in ways older children will. As a parent moving with kids, empathize with them and help them find ways to alleviate their stress. Listen to and observe how they're feeling, and offer solutions and guidance.
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