Change and impermanence—these are facts of life. For kids, almost nothing is a starker lesson in change than moving homes. Although it’s good to remind yourself not to feel guilty about the inevitable—one in five American families moves each year—you should do everything possible to ease the difficulty of this time for your children.
The most important thing you can do is communicate. As soon as you know you’re relocating, tell the kids; the more time they have to adjust, the better. Hold a family meeting so that everyone gets the same information, and let the meeting go on as long as everyone needs. Don’t assume that one conversation will cover it; as everyone gets used to the idea of moving, new thoughts, questions, and feelings may arise, and they should all be addressed.
Allow them to voice their opinions and emotions—but stay strong. Although you may not want to dissect every angry reaction, your children need to feel heard and included. This does not mean you should cave and cancel all your plans, but neither should you hand down a unilateral decision and require that everyone just deal with it. Yours is not the only life that will change completely over the next few months.
Keep them involved and, if you can, get them excited. As much as possible, keep your kids in the loop about your plans, and tell them as much as you can about their new town and home. The internet makes this much easier: together, you can search for information about the area, fun things to do there, where your kung fu master might find a new teacher or your soccer star join a new team. For most children, moving will appear negative, so try to remind them of the positive and exciting aspects to this change.
Let them say goodbye, but don’t make them say goodbye to everything. Needless to say, you shouldn’t pack up and leave in the dead of night. Everyone in the family should be allowed the time to say goodbye to people and places they love. To make the transition less painful, keep some things the same. Take beloved teddy bears or security blankets—even if your child seems a bit old for such objects, they may make the move slightly less traumatizing. Make a list of addresses and phone numbers of friends with whom you want to keep in touch. If possible, plan when your next visit will be, so that even when you leave, your kids already know the next time you’ll return.
Remember that kids will likely react differently at different ages. Each of your children may react to this news their own way; they’re individuals, after all. But also keep in mind that moving poses different challenges depending on one’s development stage. If your kids are struggling, you may want to do some extra research—or even consult a therapist—about how best to support a person at that age.
How did your kids react to moving? Share your tips for making the transition as smooth as possible here or on Facebook!