Moving is difficult for the whole family, especially the youngest members. There may be emotional bonds with both the community and the old house, and there’s always a bit of fear (and excitement) about heading into something new.
1. Get your kids in the right mindset
Waiting until the last minute to tell your kids about the move isn’t a good idea. Sure, you may avoid a few meltdowns — some parents prefer one tantrum than a week or month of dealing with feelings — but deny your kids the ability to adjust to the news, and this could have a lasting psychological impact on your child.
Remember, moving is an unfamiliar and scary process for children so before doing anything moving-related, you have to prepare your children for the whole process.
Tell them you’re moving at least a month before the move-date (if possible). This will give them time to process their thoughts and feelings, and it’ll give you time and space to help them understand what all this change means for the family.
Acknowledge their feelings, and regularly repeat how fun the process of moving can be and how they will meet new friends, have bigger rooms or any other positive aspects.
2. Use kid-friendly packaging
Make sure you involve your kids in the packing process, and make it as fun as possible for them. Buy different color packing tape (or duck-tape) or colorful stickers that the kids can use to “identify” their boxes.
Then give them the task of packing their own toys or clothes using the colorful boxes, stickers or tape.
Another option is to print out their favorite cartoon characters, and ask them to label and color these characters before sticking them on their boxes. Besides keeping the little ones busy and included, it will be much easier to find their toys in the next house.
3. Keep them busy during unpacking
Unpacking is the moment when kids realize they are in a completely new and unfamiliar environment. This is another moment when they can potentially break down or turn into rampaging, excitable small people who are unable to sit still or listen.
To help you — and them — you’ll need to keep them busy. If you used a kid-friendly packing system, tell them to find those boxes and bring them to their rooms. Then, let them unpack those boxes.
Not only will this help them find their favorite toys, but it helps them to feel more grounded as they’ll be around familiar, favorite items.
If this process fails to keep them engaged during the entire moving process, ask them to help decorate. Tell them they can pick their room color, where their bed goes or how the toys should be organized.
This helps keep them in one area of the house while keeping them engaged, so you can finish the rest of the moving process.
4. Follow the same routines as before
A sudden change in your whole lifestyle is something your kids will struggle with, no matter how excited they are about all that is new. To help, keep all of the same routines.
Stick to bedtime routines, eating schedules and all the little routines in between. The familiarity will help children feel better in the new environment.
5. Meet up with both new and old friends
For most kids, the hardest part about moving is leaving their old friends behind. Although it’s hard for us to understand, the bonds children make are much deeper than we realize, and forming new ones can be scary and challenging.
To help, consider staying in touch with old friends, at least until your children have formed new friendships with other children. This could include writing letters, doing video-chats (you’ll have to set this up with other parents) or exchange photos (either digitally or through the mail).
If your old neighborhood isn’t far away, you can even go and visit these friends over the weekend.
In the meantime, look for local activities for young children in your neighborhood, and meet with teachers in the nearby schools to discuss how you can help your children socialize with their age-group.
Another option is to hold a barbecue party where you can invite your new neighbors (hopefully with their children) so you can get to know the people closest to you. If it’s nice outside, consider making it a routine to take your kids to the local playground or park where they can meet kids their age.
Moving doesn’t have to be a negative experience for children. By following these few steps, you can turn a potentially stressful process into a fun, new experience for the whole family.