Whether it’s for a new job, to be closer to family, or due to a new military assignment, moving is often unavoidable. It’s undeniably a challenging time for children—new schools, new friends, and a new home are all difficult adjustments for people at any age, but can be especially challenging for some children in early childhood.
Moving with children isn’t easy for caregivers either. But if you’ve got a moving day coming up, you can move through it confidently.
With a bit of care and understanding, you can help your child take this big life change in stride. To help, we’ve put together this list of 18 tips for moving with kids to guide you through your family’s next adventure, from making the announcement to arriving at your new home.
How to Announce the Move
When it comes to telling your children about the move, you may find yourself feeling excited, nervous, or both. No matter how you’re feeling about it, making a plan for how to share the news will help you manage your own emotions so you’re ready to handle theirs.
6 Tips for Announcing Your Move
- Get on the same page with your partner. If you share caregiving responsibilities with another adult, it’s important that you both present the move in a positive light. If one of you has misgivings, try to work through them together before engaging with your children on the topic. When children sense parental stress and that one parent is not enthusiastic about the move, it can cause them additional stress and anxiety.1
- Be honest and straightforward. Before you bring out the moving boxes, take time to explain to your children why you are moving and where you will be moving to. Answer any questions they may have about the new place and provide reassurance.
- Be ready with information about the new location. The truth is, we all find unfamiliar things scary—it’s simply human nature. The more you can show them about the new city, the less frightening it will seem. Show them photos, maps, and websites for local attractions. Or take a virtual trip together using Google street view or a YouTube video tour if you have technology handy!
- Involve them in the moving process. Ask your kids for their opinions on the move, and involve them in the planning and packing process. This will help them feel more in control and less anxious about the move.
- Give them time to adjust. They may not react strongly at first depending on their age and how much time it takes them to think through the news. Be ready for ongoing discussions as they process their feelings.
- Take their age into account. Younger children may need more help understanding exactly what moving means. Playacting with dolls or stuffies can be a good way to show what happens when a family moves. For older children, be ready for more stress around the news—research has found that moving is harder for older children, so try to be especially gentle with your tween or teen.1
Potential Impacts to Prepare For
Moving is a significant change for children, and it's essential to be prepared for potential impacts that may appear in the days and weeks to come. Your child might not tell you openly if they’re struggling, so you’ll need to watch for signs that they’re having trouble adjusting to this big change.
Here are some potential effects to watch out for, both before and after:
- Grief – It’s very likely that children will experience grief over leaving their old home, school, and friends. Even for adults, long-distance relationships are hard to manage. Naturally, children feel a strong sense of loss at realizing they won’t see their friends every day anymore. Learn more about how to approach children and grief.
- Anxiety – Your child is probably going to feel anxious about all the unknowns that come with big changes. If your move means a new school, your child might worry about making friends and fitting in. Even if you’ll stay in the same school district, leaving their familiar house comes with its own set of worries.
- Regression – You might notice your child becoming more clingy, regressing in toilet training, or no longer wanting to sleep in their own bed.
- Subtle signs of stress – Watch for other changes in behavior like falling grades, problems sleeping, changes in appetite, irritability, or social withdrawal. These or other significant changes in behavior can be warning signs of depression.1
For most children, these signs may only be temporary as they adjust to the changes associated with moving. However, if you’re concerned, you can check with your child’s pediatrician for additional guidance.
It's important to understand the potential psychological impacts of the moving process on children. Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that frequent moves during childhood are linked to lower well-being in adulthood.2 This was especially true for less outgoing people.
While you can’t avoid moving if it’s necessary for work, family, or financial reasons, you can minimize the harmful effects on your child.
- Be open to hearing their feelings – Make room for them to express any sadness, anxiety, or frustration they’re feeling, even if it’s hard to hear.
- Be prepared for your own emotional response – Hearing that your child is sad about moving may cause you to feel anxiety and guilt. Try not to be defensive or frustrated when this happens.
- Take their personality into account – If your child tends to be more introverted, be especially alert to their needs. Research indicates that less social personality types have more difficulty with moves than more outgoing children.2
6 Tips to Help Manage Kids' Grief
Simply providing a safe and supportive environment for your child to express their feelings will go a long way toward helping them adjust to a move. But you may find it helpful to do some family bonding activities together before and after the move as well. Here are some simple strategies to help manage your child’s feelings of grief or longing during the move:
#1 Plan How to Stay In Touch
Your child may find it reassuring to discuss ways they can stay connected with their old friends:
- Plan phone calls, video chats, or visits
- For children who love to write or draw, penpal letters are a special way to keep in touch
- A notebook or journal where they can collect all of their friends’ contact information is a tangible reminder that their friendships will continue
#2 Share Stories About Moving and Change
Stories are an effective way to help kids think through difficult ideas. Fox’s Big Family Change and Your Love Stays the Same can help you talk with your child about all the emotions that come with big changes, both happy and sad.
#3 Create a Memory or Moving Book
Make a scrapbook or moving book with photos and mementos from their old home to help them remember their room, neighborhood, and old friends. As you create the book, talk about all the things they love about their new place and where they live now.
Lead the discussion toward what they might enjoy in their new home, like parks, special activities or clubs, a nearby playground, and so on. Their special book will provide reassurance that they don’t need to forget about their old home even as they learn to love their new surroundings.
#4 Make a List of Things That Will Stay the Same
Help your child focus on favorite toys, hobbies, pets, and family members that will be in the new home. Most of all, remind them that their loving bond with you will always stay the same.
#5 Make a List of Things That Will Change
Don’t be afraid to talk about what won’t be the same after moving. This is an important part of helping your child move through their grief. Be sure to talk about things that will change for the better, too.
#6 Use Comfort Objects
Self care for kids can be beneficial during this time and can include having their comfort object with them to help them de-stress. Kids are concrete thinkers, so abstract concepts like connection across distance can be hard to grasp. A comfort object with a special story can help give kids a physical reminder of your love that they can hold onto in stressful settings like a new classroom. Child psychologists recognize that comfort objects are important tools for helping children cope with upheaval and change.3
How to Help Your Kids Adjust
Adjusting to a new home is an emotional time for the whole family. Fortunately, there are many ways you can help your children settle in while also having fun as a family.
Here are some to-dos for when you get to your new home:
- Try new activities – Look for fun new activities in your new community, such as going to the park, library, playground, or exploring local attractions. This can help your children feel excited about their new home and start making positive connections in the community. It might also be a good idea to sign them up for a sport or a club once they get comfortable in their new neighborhood and start making new friends.
- Set up kids' rooms first – When you arrive at your new home, make sure to set up your children's bedrooms first. This can help them feel more comfortable and settled right away. Unpack their favorite toys and books as a first priority to make them feel comfortable. A trip to pick out special touches for their new room, like curtains or a bedspread, will also help them feel that they have some control over their new surroundings.
- Try to maintain a consistent schedule – Moving is chaotic, but try to get back to your usual meal and play times as soon as possible. This can help your child feel more secure and less anxious about the changes. Additionally, establishing a bedtime routine for kids can help your children adjust and settle in.
Help Your Child Navigate Every Adventure with Slumberkins
Moving with children is always a challenging experience, especially if your kids are school-aged. But with the right planning and mindset, it can also be an exciting adventure for the whole family.
As you prepare for your move, make space for your child’s emotions, communicate with them frequently, and watch their behavior for changes during and after the move.
Resources, tools, and cozy Snugglers from Slumberkins can help you stay patient and understanding throughout the process. Try our Resilience Crew and Change activities and worksheets or snuggle up with books about connection or a book about change to help your child learn to manage big emotions in healthy ways. Before you know it, you’ll be creating happy memories in your new home together.
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology. Moving: Helping children cope. https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Children-And-Family-Moves-014.aspx
- Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Residential mobility, well-being, and mortality. https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/psp-98-6-980.pdf
- Journal of Divorce and Remarriage. For the love of Fluffy: Respecting, protecting, and empowering transitional objects in the context of high-conflict divorce.https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10502556.2019.1586370?scroll=top&needAccess=true&journalCode=wjdr20