For years my parents searched for our next house. It would be in a better neighborhood, have a game room, and a big yard to play in. Although this hypothetical dream house sounded like a great idea, I wasn’t so sure when my dad brought home a bunch of boxes and began packing our things.
Although we were getting our wish for a bigger, better house, it also meant leaving our school, neighborhood playmates, and swing set behind. While moving can be an exciting time for children with the promise of a fresh start, it can also be a time of anxiety and fear.
Here are some ways to help prepare your children for a move and make the best of a scary situation.
1. Keep Them in the Loop
It’s important to let your children know as soon as possible that the move will be happening. This will give them time to prepare mentally and emotionally for the big life change. The experts at kidshealth.org suggest letting children ask questions and answering them as honestly as you can. It’s also important for parents to be prepared to accept negative reactions to the news of the move.
If you’re going to be moving to a new city, state or even country, research that location with your child and let them be a part of the planning process when it comes to choosing schools, parks and eateries.
2. Keep Them Involved
Allow your children to be a part of the moving process as much as possible. If you have an older child or teenager, you might give them the task of choosing items to sell on garage sale websites. If they are handy with the computer (as they probably all are), you can even ask them to take pictures of the items and track their progress.
Younger children can be tasked with sorting their toys into sell, give away and keep piles and boxing them up. You can even let them decorate the boxes with markers or crayons.
3. Talk About What Will Happen
Children, especially those who are prone to anxiety, want to feel prepared. They want to know the steps of the process and how it will go down. Check out or buy some books about moving that are age-appropriate for your child and explain the moving process. Goodbye House by Frank Asch and The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day are a great place to start.
4. Memorialize Your Current Home
Before all of the boxes come out, try to take pictures of your children in their rooms, in the front yard, and in all of their favorite places in and around the house. This will help them to memorialize the time they had in the home and help them say goodbye.
5. Give Moving Incentives
When my family moved all of those years ago the process was made somewhat easier by the fact that my parents had purchased new bedroom furniture for each of us. We were excited to decorate our new rooms and start fresh. This tactic can be especially effective for younger children who are having trouble leaving behind the comfort of an old home, or for older children who are struggling with being away from friends and familiarity. Incentives can be as big as new furniture or a swimming pool, to as small as a bag of inexpensive goodies they can use in the new house.
6. Expect Ups and Downs
Moving can be a stressful experience for the whole family and sometimes this means big emotions. Don’t be surprised if your child deals with these changes by acting out or being moodier than usual. If your child seems particularly affected by the transition to a new home, it might be a good idea to consult your child’s doctor.
Changing homes can be a big deal to a child, but if you keep them involved and feeling prepared, then it can be a less stressful experience than you think.
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Jessa is the Editor-in-Chief of Hooray for Family and the mom of three energetic children. She has a BA in Mass Communication/Journalism from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, and is a long-time resident of Central Texas. When she isn't writing and editing, she enjoys playing board games with her kids, teaching Sunday school and channeling her creativity into craft projects.