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How to Help Your Kids Adjust to a Move

My daughter and I just moved out of our old home and into a new place because we were losing our home. We got notice rather suddenly and had only a certain amount of days to leave our house and find a new one. This made our move emotional and fast-paced, but once we moved in, things slowed down and we both had time to finally digest the experience and realities of life, as it were. Whether it's a bigger home down the road or a continent away, a move is an adjustment for the whole family. Try these tips to help your kids have a smooth transition!

Photos of the New Place

If your little ones haven't seen the new place yet, show them some photos! My daughter hadn't yet seen the place because I went looking without her (she's 4). The photos helped her understand where she would be going, which is helpful to a young child who can't quite grasp what it means to "move" to a new home.

Map It!

If your child is old enough to understand maps, show them on the map where your new home will be. After that, use Google maps to show your kiddos how far or how close they will be from major destinations and places of importance to them. Whether it's Grandma's house, his school, her best friend's house, etc., giving your child a reference to how far or close they will be to things and people that matter to him or her will help the adjustment. If your daughter will be close to her best friend but perhaps not in the same school district, this could be a way to appease her. "See, you'll be close to her even if not in the same school."

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For little ones who can't quite understand distance yet and are just grasping time concepts, I recommend saying how near or far you are from important landmarks. I told my daughter we would be very close — even closer than before — to her father and both sets of grandparents. I shared that we would be only five minutes from and extremely close to her favorite Disney store and named some of the parks she enjoyed going to that were within distance. I did not name the things that would not be close to us until she asked. Then I explained that we could go there on a day we had more time or that those places would be father from us now, but we have X, Y, and Z places as new options!

Acknowledge the Feelings

Even if you're so excited about moving that you could pee yourself a little (hey, you did have a baby so this is entirely possible), acknowledge your child's feelings, which may be quite opposite from yours. For myself, it's been easy to acknowledge my daughter's sad feelings since I, too, am sad about the move. I talk with her about how I feel, but I also make a point of saying all the positives gained from moving so we both don't wallow in the sad feelings. This can be challenging if you're in a situation like myself: losing a home to divorce, a fire, foreclosure, etc., but it's important. If you can't find the silver lining, it will be hard for your kids to as well, and that will not help them adjust. You don't want this bad energy surrounding you.

Decorate the Room

Have your child join you for a little decorating fun! We went to Target and picked out a new rug, pillows, and other items to make her new room feel more like hers. And then since I moved while she stayed with her grandparents and father, I sent her dad photos so she could see her room "unfolding." When she stayed with me in our new home for the first night, we went through her room and got excited about all the things we had bought and the layout of her new space. We also got additional things after we moved in to help make the room feel more like "home."

If you want to decorate but are renting and don't feel like painting just to repaint when you leave, use wall clings and photos to make the four walls more colorful minus the primer and paint fumes! We are personally looking forward to our My Little Pony wall clings!

If you're able to paint, let your child assist in choosing colors and help (based on his or her developmental abilities) with the painting!

How to Connect With Distant Friends

Remind your older kids and little ones how they can keep in touch with far-away friends now that you're moving. Obviously your 4-year-old won't use Facebook to chat with one of their park buddies, but your older kids have so many unique ways to access friends from far away. Some folks may fall by the wayside, but if you've made some close-knit friends and will be moving far from them, set up a monthly, biyearly, or yearly playdate to keep in touch. Your child can plan for these events and look forward to them. There's also Skype or FaceTime too!

Advance Notice?

If your child is very young, giving too much notice about the impending move will create anxiety for your kid. It's hard to say how much is the right time to notify your child that you're leaving your home, but it depends on a few things:

  1. Your Child's Temperament: If your child is a Nervous Nellie, giving her or him less time is better. Too much time means a lot of time to panic over the move.
  2. School and Activity Changes: If your child will be undergoing major changes in his education and activity level perhaps because of moving midyear or perhaps leaving special activities only to miss a recital or big game, give your child more notice and try to garner information on his new school as well as set up activities in the new area as soon as possible.
  3. Upgrade or Downgrade: If this move is a serious downgrade, you may not want to notify your child too soon until you have a better idea of what the future will hold. I did not tell my daughter about the move on the same day I found out we had to exit the home. I wanted to look around first and get my bearings before breaking the news.
  4. Your State of Mind: If you are a mess about the move, hold off and tell your child the next day. People told me to be positive about the move so my child would be, and this is 100-percent true, but it can be hard to do, so pick your timing wisely and tell the kids when Mommy is calm and sane.

Have Them Pack Too!

We had my daughter pick out things she did not want anymore and place in a box for donation. Moving is a great way to do some serious Spring cleaning! Let your child help pack, especially his or her own things if old enough. Even a little one can throw items in a box for taking.

Expect also for young children to be upset by the sight of boxes. They don't quite understand that everything will be going with them to the new house. It bothered my daughter a lot, and I simply kept reassuring her that these were all going to our new place with us.

Who Will Live Here?

My 4-year-old is obsessed with discovering who will live in our old house. I have no idea, but we talk about other families or couples moving in. It can be fun to pretend if you don't know. If you do know, your child will still probably be intrigued by the new owners!

Saying Goodbye, the Right Way

Your child has the right to say goodbye to the house. My awesome cousin let her kids write a goodbye message to the house in a very hidden spot in order to assist their grieving process. You may want to throw a "goodbye party" with close friends to relieve stress and release good cheer before moving. Of course, don't forget to take photos of the house. We took photos of our daughter's old room so she can look back later and remember her very first room!

Housewarming Party

Be sure to kick off the new digs in style with a little housewarming party. It can be a big bash or a little one, but include your kids in on the fun since it will help them form positive thoughts about their new home.

Grief

It's OK to be sad about a move. Saying goodbye to my marital home and the home I brought my daughter home in has been hard. Give yourself time to transition too, Mommy. It's an adjustment for the adults too!

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