Moving is hard enough; doing it with kids in tow adds an entire additional dimension to it. Between the concrete logistics like finding a school and place for ballet lessons to the much more complicated emotional piece of the puzzle, relocating with children can be incredibly challenging. It is especially hard on them. Just like you, they are moving away from friends and familiarity. Unlike you, they may never have faced this task before. Try to be understanding, patient and upbeat about a relocation. While I’m a real estate agent, I’m a mother, too and I understand how stressful it can be when your child is afraid or upset. A move can and often does trigger those feelings. Here are some of the best tips I’ve collected to reduce the emotional upheaval of a move for kids:
Explain what’s going to happen in advance. Give them some time to get used to the idea and ask questions. Make sure they understand that while they will make new friends and have new adventures, it doesn’t mean they won’t ever see their old friends and favorite places again.
If possible, visit the area several times prior to the move. Be sure to take them to places and events that they are likely to be excited about. For example, in the Philadelphia area, I’d be sure to visit the Franklin Institute, Smith Memorial Playground and, if you have a teenage daughter, the King of Prussia Mall. These visits will allow the kids to not only explore, but to begin to establish favorite activities and places. Having their own “haunts” will be an appealing part of moving.
Help them create a memory album. Encourage them to take pictures of special friends and meaningful places and make a scrapbook so that they can feel connected when they become lonely for their previous home.
Similarly, plan a “see you soon” party and make sure to talk to the kids enough in advance about it to be sure they have the opportunity to consider whom they want to invite and to get those invitations out well enough in advance to increase the likelihood of a good turnout.
Help your kids design their own change of address cards. It’s easy to make these on line and they can have their own to send to friends with the focus on kid-themed things—for example, their cards could include a message like: “When you come visit, we’ll go to the coolest science museum ever!” These kind of messages are great conversation points that can lead to phone calls or emails which helps your kids stay connected.
Maintain as many of your routines and traditions as you can. Those family dog walks on Sunday morning? Friday night pizza and movie night? Taking turns to choose what’s for dinner? Whatever consistency you can keep will anchor the kids—don’t underestimate the power of those kinds of things to make kids feel like their lives aren’t completely upside down.
Be positive but understanding. You are your child’s role model. If your attitude toward the move is negative, your child will share your feelings. That said, even if you are excited and try to share that excitement, they may well be unsettled. Telling them to “suck it up” or “be brave”, while tempting, is rarely effective. (It’s sort of like when someone says “Calm down.” In the history of the world, has that phrase EVER had the desired outcome?) Acknowledge their concerns and fears and don’t make them feel like you consider them babyish or cowardly. Relocating is scary!
Once you arrive, be sure to meet as many neighbors and people your kids could potentially befriend as possible. Nothing will make you feel at home more than knowing people (and places to go) in your community. Ask the neighbors for recommendations for a pediatrician, the best car wash or a great restaurant. It’ll help you get to know them learn your new area sooner.
Finally, if appropriate, let your children feel some ownership of their new home—let them pick out a bedside rug or new lamp for their night table or even new sheets. If they feel as though they’ve had any control over even a small part of a huge life change, it can mitigate some of the feelings of powerlessness that children often experience in a move.
For more on relocating with kids, try some of these articles:
Moving with kids
If you are facing the double challenge of relocating in the wake of a divorce, I recommend this article.
If you are relocating to the Philadelphia/Main Line area, please go to my relocation tab. If you’d like to and read other blog entries related to relocation, please scroll down a couple of lines and click on RELOCATION (to the right of FILED UNDER). Thanks!