Moving to a new home is a huge milestone for anyone at any age, but it can be particularly unnerving for children. Children regard their physical home as a stable foundation in their lives—and the loss of that foundation can be distressing, and even traumatic unless it’s handled with understanding and compassion.
There’s a good chance that, at first, your kids might resist the very concept of moving, but instead of getting upset, it’s important for you to try to see it their way so that you can help them cope with their concerns. News of a move might make your children feel that they have no control over things. It also might give them a feeling that nothing in their world is stable anymore. The disruption to their school routine can also be difficult— let’s face it no one wants to be the “new kid” at a new school.
Fortunately, you can do something about it. Here are six ways to help your child to cope with the move.
Create A Moving Adventure Bag
Create a special bag that includes a couple of favorite toys, their favorite book, a blanket, snacks, and other comfort items. This will be their “room-in-a-bag” that stays with them even as their old room gets packed up, and before their new room is assembled.
Other things in life may be changing, but these items and easy access to them will be a much-needed constant. It’s a helpful transitional tool.
Involve children in the move
Let children know they will be moving between a month and two months beforehand, so they have time to think about it, but not to get worried. Show them the local area and point out the new things like the shops, school, playground, and parks so they can imagine the fun they will have there. Also, visit the house with them before the move and point out their new room.
Let your kids help you choose things like colors of paint, furniture and other decorations. By including them, they will feel excited about the new house, rather than worried.
Visualize Their New Space
Once you have signed the contract for your new home, you can take a photo of your child in the new house, especially in their new room You can hang this picture in your old house’s fridge door or their old room. Every time they see the picture, they will visualize themselves in the new house.
If their outside play space is also changing significantly—such as moving from the city into the country, or from an apartment to a house with a yard—be sure to also get a photo of the child in the new outdoor space. Likewise, if moving from a place with a yard into the city or an apartment, take them to visit the nearest park and take photos of them playing there
Help Celebrate the Milestones
Buy a small gift and wrap it, or have it wrapped, beautifully. Put it in plain view in their room. Tell them that the morning after their first full night of sleeping in their new room, they will get to open their “new room” gift. This will give them something positive to anticipate the move and may help prevent them from reverting to crawling into bed with you!
Anxiety stems from feeling helpless and fear of the unknown. By giving your child special tools and taking steps to build confidence and familiarity with their new home, you can help them adapt more quickly.
Plan an Outing
Pack a lunch and go “have a picnic” in the new house—on their bedroom floor. Be sure to pack their favorite foods. While you are eating, play an imagination game and ask them what things they would like too in their new room, once they move in.
Help Them Stay in Touch With Their Friends
Often, the hardest part of moving for a child is leaving all their friends behind. Remember that when we’re young, it’s especially hard to stay in touch and maintain friendships from far away. Most of the time, it feels like we’re subject to the whims of our parents and unable to determine much about our own life.
So, as a parent, you can help the transition go smoothly by enabling your child to keep in touch with old friends. Set up Facetime appointments. Brainstorm ways for them to have time to play together if you go back to the area later.