How to minimize the stress and maximize the fun when embarking on a move with kids
You don’t have to be a psychologist to know that children thrive on routine and stability. And let’s face it, moving houses is the polar opposite of that. It’s chaos. It is upending your whole life, from moving schools and leaving friends behind, to living out of suitcases, staying in hotels, being on the road, on planes, and finally settling into a new, empty, unfamiliar house and place. Even for us adults it’s stressful and daunting. Now imagine how your kids must feel.
That doesn’t mean you should feel guilty for making a move. Life happens, and your kids are along for the ride. But getting inside their heads will help you keep their best interests at heart and make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone involved.
The psychology of moving with kids
Being a kid means going through countless changes on a daily basis. They’re growing on the inside and out, faster than they can process. This means that kids often seek out structure and routine in other areas of their life to help them feel secure. School schedules, friend groups, sports practices, music lessons, family dinners, and more give them solid ground to stand on when things are in flux.
Moving, no matter how near or far, uproots that stability, and disrupts social circles and educational trajectories, which can impact their development. Plus kids, like pets, pick up on stress. Sometimes moves happen because of other problems going on in the family like divorces, job changes, or financial concerns. Kids might associate the move with these more negative factors. They’re likely to feed off of your own stress, whether it comes from the reason for moving or all the work that goes into it.
Be aware of these challenges and make plans to support them through it. If you’re moving too far to keep up the same friendships, you can schedule regular phone calls with their friends from the old area while they’re making new ones. Before you go, research ways for them to get involved in their favorite activities in the next neighborhood right away so there’s no delay in starting up a new routine or making new connections. Remember too that you can’t pour from an empty cup—take steps to manage your own stress, for your own sake and theirs.
Ask for Help
Here’s where having family nearby really pays off. As you probably already know, there’s no substitute for grandma or grandpa when it comes to having the best, most reliable, most convenient, and most affordable babysitter in the world. And nowhere will this pay off more than during a family move.
We know how hard it is to get yourself ready for a move and then settled into a new place, so your loved ones will understand the need for a little extra support. Lean on them to help get the kids out of your hair while you pack and cover the bases at home, including trips to and from the new destination. You can also reach out to important adults in your kids’ lives like teachers, coaches, and friends’ parents to talk with your kids about the move in a positive way from a variety of angles. If nothing seems to get through, support from a family therapist might help them process the stress.
Best practices for managing kids during a move
You’ll need help and space to get it all done, but don’t write your kids out of the equation completely. Giving them some autonomy over the move, especially the parts that involve their own belongings, will make them feel like they have at least a little bit of control.
If they’re old enough, have them pack up their own boxes so that they know where their things are, that their things are safe, and so that they can get to them easily once you’re in the new place.
Save the most difficult parts—physically or emotionally—for when they’re out of the way. Moving is hard on parents too, and you’re allowed to struggle. Give yourself the time and space to process your feelings in peace while saying goodbye to your favorite room or loudly curse the day that you ever got the huge couch that won’t fit out the door in one piece. You’ll be able to get your feelings out in a healthy way without rubbing off any negativity onto them.
Tips for adjusting to a new school and neighborhood
Get ahead of the game by notifying teachers at both the old and new school of the change with as much advance notice as you can. That way, everyone can communicate the finer details that don’t translate well on paper. Plus, there’s probably a wait list, so plan ahead when it comes to preschools and activities.
School records don’t necessarily talk about your kid’s attitude, effort, learning style, or relationships—and these details will make it easier for new teachers to accommodate your kids’ individuality. Take a tour of the new school together before their first day to show your support for the new place.
You’ll be spending plenty of time inside your new home getting organized. Make sure to get out and explore your surroundings too. Try out restaurants while your kitchen supplies are still packed away, and plan activities that take you to different parts of town. Maybe you’ll even discover a new hobby you can enjoy as a family. It’s time for the whole family to finally get those pickle ball rackets you’ve been hearing about.
Kids are resilient. Don’t beat yourself up over the planning stages of this process. You are a good parent and you will do the best for your kids as you move through this time of transition. Stay positive and lead by example. That’s the best tool we have as parents, and you will survive and thrive during and after your move is complete!
Are furry friends a part of your pack? Head over to our recent blog for tips on Moving with Pets.