Is your family moving? Whether you’re heading across town, across the state or to another part of the country, moving requires an adjustment period for everyone in your family, especially children. As a parent, you can take important steps to help your children adjust to life in a new home and a new school.
How does moving affect children?
Moving can affect children in a wide variety of ways. A child’s response to a move may depend on their age and personality.
If you have younger children, they may not fully understand what moving means – but they can still feel anxious if they sense a big change is coming. If you have older children who’ve attended the same school for many years, they may be upset about leaving established friend groups, teams and extracurricular activities.
"Some children are happy and excited about a new adventure. Others are devastated and feel real loss and sadness with the fear of missing their friends," says Vanessa Simpson, LCSW-S, a Behavioral Health Care Manager with Children's Health℠. "Some kids may also express anger due to feeling left out of the decision making process with the move."
How to tell your kids you’re moving
Helping your child adjust to moving starts with the way you share the news. When telling your kids you are going to move, it’s best to:
- Give children as much advanced notice as possible.
- Be open and honest about the reason you are moving, where and when.
- Project a positive attitude.
- Allow children to express their feelings – whatever they may be.
- Keep the lines of communication open.
If you have family dinners together, Simpson suggests using that time to talk. Make sure everyone in the family is present and be clear about what’s happening. "Tell them why you are moving, and tell them where you’re going and when," she says.
It’s then important to give children the opportunity to talk. Listen to your child and acknowledge how they feel, whether they are happy, sad or angry. Some children may be more vocal about their opinions, while others may be quieter. Likely, they will continue to feel different emotions as they process the news. Let them know that you are there to talk when they need it.
"Give your children the opportunity to talk about your move in the days ahead, too. Even if you’re excited about the move and your kids aren’t, be understanding," says Simpson. "Reassure them that they’ll have your support throughout the moving process."
How to make moving easier for your child
It’s normal for children to feel a little uncertain or anxious about a big change like moving. However, there are ways to you can help make the move easier.
1. Involve your child in the process.
Ask your child to help with the preparations. "All children – from toddlers to teens – want to feel a sense of control in their lives," explains Simpson. "When children get involved in the moving process, they feel some control. They feel less stressed. And they’re more likely to develop a positive attitude about the move."
Here’s some ways kids can get involved:
- Cleaning your new home or planting flowers in the new yard
- Age-appropriate decision-making (What color would they like to paint their new room? How should furniture be arranged in the new playroom?)
2. Prepare your child for a new school.
Help your children become familiar with their new school before the first day of class. If at all possible, visit the new school beforehand and meet the principal or teachers. If you’re not able to make an in-person visit ahead of time, you can:
- Look at online pictures of the new school with your child
- Read online biographies of your child’s teachers
- Check the school’s website for sports and extracurricular activities
Talk with your children about what clubs and extracurricular activities they enjoyed at their former school. And think about what activities they might like to participate in at their new school.
3. Make new friends and keep the old ones.
A great way for children (and parents) to make new friends is through participation in extracurricular activities and volunteer work. You can also find out if other children in your new neighborhood attend the same school and look for ways to arrange playdates in the outdoors or at local parks.
While making new friends, encourage your children to stay in touch with old friends in their former city too. Stay connected with virtual visits and phone calls. Or, introduce your kids to the art of letter writing, and let them become pen pals with their old friends.
4. Keep family traditions and routines.
To give your children a sense of normalcy, follow your daily routines and family traditions as much as possible in your new home. "Routines help children feel safe and secure no matter where they live," explains Simpson. "With a little thought and planning, you can help your children relax and gain confidence to pursue new experiences – so they can truly enjoy their new home and school."
Find a new primary care provider for your child
When you move, another to-do on your checklist is to find a new health care home. Before you move, you can research pediatricians in the area – as well as any specialists or therapists that your child might see. See six questions to ask when choosing a new pediatrician for your child.