Moving with children

Informing Kids

  • When moving with children, tell older ones once the plans are definite.
  • Kids need time get through things and adjust:
  • Do not rush their goodbyes to any friends
  • Do not keep the move as a surprise, leaving it to the last minute
  • Tell younger ones when the move is happening and involve them as needed as this will make them less frightened and nervous

Attitude and Moving with Kids

  • Adult moods should be focused and show a sense of adventure to the kids
  • Avoid depressed, worried or stressed attitudes as these produce negative responses from kids
  • Avoid kids fearing the unknown by providing all details necessary with an excited and upbeat approach, including what will happen on the moving day
  • Discuss the move, the community and new home
  • Encourage questions and the expression of feelings
  • Address all of the kids’ concerns meaningfully, attentively and lovingly
  • With younger children, focus on the present on the day of the move:
  • Encourage looking out for the movers arrival
  • Discourage frustration through play and fantasy
  • Encourage assistance by getting them to load wagons with light boxes to be moved to other rooms
  • Discuss feelings about moving through books about other kids moving
  • Be aware and prepared for unsettled reactions such as boredom and disinterest, helping them to deal with this through the discussion of honest emotions/feelings and assure them that disagreeing with you is acceptable
  • Deal with each kid’s level of emotions one at a time, whether it is sadness, nervousness, anger or frustration
  • Be prepared to deal with these emotions for some time after the move until the kids have settled in
  • Avoid generalizations with teens regarding their concerns and feelings by being respective, honest, open, able to resolve their issues and making no promises that cannot be kept
  • With teens, involve them in the move to avoid negative reactions, including responsibilities, decision-making and advice giving
  • Always make teens aware that their feedback is important

The New Home/Community Prior to the Move

  • Visit the new home/community with kids to ease their transition and see their rooms and neighbourhood
  • Visit local shops, playgrounds, parks, sporting facilities, movie cinemas, restaurants and other locations with kids in the new neighbourhood
  • Get kids signed up for activities through community facilities and meet the people they will be involved with
  • Take the kids for tours of their new schools
  • Introduce the kids to their new teachers
  • If the move is a great distance away then show the kids photos or videos of the new home and neighbourhood, including local kids, playgrounds, sports facilities, shops, schools, parks, restaurants, etc.
  • Encourage kids to discuss the photos and videos to learn what other kids wear, if they appear friendly, where they hang out and create a map to help them when they arrive
  • Create packs with coupons or certificates for each child for varied restaurants and attractions in the new neighbourhood, including a gift from a local shop
  • Discuss local music and television stations
  • Build their excitement and enthusiasm
  • Get the kids involved through specified moving day jobs
  • Get primary age kids to create list to tick off any jobs assigned to them
  • Get teenagers to create lists for their jobs to be ticked off on the day of the move
  • Constantly show appreciation for their assistance in the move
  • Encourage kids to voice their opinions regarding moving aspects
  • Create diagrams of kids’ rooms with photos of furniture and toys made to scale so they can arrange their things prior to the move
  • Involve kids in decoration plans such as bedspreads, wallpaper and paint
  • Get younger kids to help pack their things – toys, etc. – personalizing their box (s) with drawings and labels
  • Get teenagers to pack all their things
  • Arrange with the movers to pack the kids’ personal boxes last and then remove them first

Avoiding Changes to Kids’ Daily Routines

  • Maintain normal nap, bed, meal and play times
  • Avoid potty training for three weeks after moving in
  • Honour all current family routines – pizza nights, etc.
  • Do not add other routines until three weeks after moving in
  • Maintain stable habits to avoid stress
  • Do not discard kids old and unneeded things or clothes until three weeks after moving in
  • Respect kids’ private things and space
  • Transport kids’ favourite packed things privately
  • Pack rooms for smallest kids when they are at a neighbour’s or at daycare

Leaving their Old Home

  • Memories are important to kids as well as adults so photographing the process prior to dismantling and packing will help them say goodbye to their old home.
  • Get kids to create their own book of memories, including pictures/photos of their treasured memories of their neighbourhood’s places and people.
  • Let the kids host a party for their friends and give out pre-stamped postcards containing the address of their new home, as well as recording their friends’ contact information. They could also take photos or video recordings of the event, allowing them to view their memories of the final days and maintain contact with their friends. Giving them a long distance calling allowance for the phone is also a good idea. Schedule return visits for them to the old neighbourhood and/or let old friends come to visit.

The Day of the Move

  • Have small kids and babies stay with friends, uncles, aunts or grandparents to avoid them getting confused by the reduced attention, feeling under foot and to avoid accidents. Alternatively, keep them in playpens with their treasured toys and commandeer a neighbour to watch play with and watch them.
  • Avoid packing kids’ favourite books/toys/games into moving boxes, keeping them out to avoid boredom and allow easy access upon arrival.
  • Arrive before the movers to let the kids explore each room before the boxes arrive.
  • Ensure the kids are occupied when the movers arrive and as the contents and furniture is being offloaded as things will seem rather strange at first for them, so helping them to focus on a specific thing will prevent their minds from wandering. Most importantly keep the process as calm and positive as possible, including smiles and hugs.

Time to Settle In

  • Deal with the kids’ rooms first. This provides a base and feelings of security. Get all their furniture set up and let them unpack their own boxes, allowing them to arrange their things in ways that please them.
  • Check the new home for potential spots for accidents – uncovered swimming pools, gates that are not locked, loosened window screens, wobbly steps/rails, etc. – and establish clear boundaries for the kids by letting them know where they can and cannot explore.
  • Unpack things that are essential first and take breaks to explore the new neighbourhood with walks, drives around the neighbourhood and trips to the park or nearest restaurant. Find activities that are available at the local zoo, museum or library, or go for a bike ride. Help the kids and yourself to take time to absorb and enjoy the new home and neighbourhood.
  • Unpack other things gradually, getting the kids into swimming, sports, drama and other activities that they participated in, in their old neighbourhood. This helps maintain continuity, as well as allowing them to meet new kids with like-minded interests.
  • Let the kids invite their new friends for a barbecue or pizza.

Expectations of Adjustments to Changes

  • Once everyone has settled in, reality will click in with the kids. Anger and frustration may arise more easily as they make comparisons regarding homes, jobs, schools and friends. Each kid adjusts differently, either fitting in immediately or feeling that the new neighbourhood compares adequately to their old neighbourhood. This process takes about three plus weeks, or even over a year or more.

Signals that the Adjustment is Not Going Smoothly

  • Moving reactions are normal, but there are warning signs that show your kid (s) may be having extra difficulties in adjusting to their newer environment. These include:
    • Becoming noticeably withdrawn
    • Sleeping problems
    • Nightmares
    • Increased crying
    • Increased angry outbursts
    • Refusing to mix with other kids
    • Desiring more alone time
    • Headaches
    • Bed wetting
    • Stomach aches
    • Thumb sucking
    • Reduced school grades
    • Deceased appetite
  • Should these persist longer than normal or increase then get advice from the kids’ paediatrician or family doctor.

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