Moving with Children
There are two schools of thought about “the right time to move with children.” Some experts say that summer is the best time because it avoids disrupting the school year. Others say that midyear is better because a child can meet other kids right away.
Either way, here is how you can make the smoothest transition possible with these tips on making your next move with children.
How to Move with Children
Get Them Ready
Properly prepare your kids. Several experts will tell you that how you handle the time leading to the move has a big impact on how easily your kids adapt. For toddlers and preschoolers, begin by calmly breaking the news about a month in advance — that gives enough time to process the information but not so much that your kid has the opportunity to ruminate on the changes ahead. Of course, if you’re selling your home and there are going to be months of potential buyers poking around your house, the conversation can’t wait.
Make sure you explain that the important things will stay the same, including that everything in the house, especially what’s in the child’s room, will come with you. Keep explanations clear and simple. Use a story to explain the move, or use toy trucks and furniture to act it out for kids under 6. When you pack your toddler’s toys in boxes, make sure to explain that you aren’t throwing them away.
To avoid glitches that would add stress, gather any information the new school will need to process the transfer. That may include the most recent report card or transcript, birth certificate, and medical records.
Make a book about the house you’re leaving. Give your child a camera or a smartphone and have him take pictures of your house, his friends, school, favorite neighborhood spots; let him choose the shots. When you put the book together the last picture should be his new home. After everything is out, say goodbye to the home.
Get excited about the NEW home. If possible, take your kids on an advance tour of your new house and point out sites that will matter: the playground, library, and ice-cream shop. Doing so will help take some of the mystery and apprehension out of the move so kids will wonder (and worry) less.
Allow Their Angst
Heartbreaking and stressful as they were to witness, crying and tantrums were a normal response to the seismic shift that takes place when you move. Even if your children are excited about the move, don’t underestimate how difficult some of the losses may be — especially if the relocation means separating from someone they love and depend on, like a caregiver or a grandparent.
After months in a new home, kids still long for beloved babysitters and other lost connections. How long will his grieving go on? Of course, all children accept things at their own pace, but most experts estimate that it takes at least six months for kids to fully acclimate to their new life.
It’s common for teens to actively rebel against a move. Your teen has probably invested considerable energy in a particular social group and might be involved in a romantic relationship. A move may mean that your teen will miss a long-awaited event, like a prom.
It’s particularly important to let teens know that you want to hear their concerns and that you respect them. While blanket assurances may sound dismissive, it’s legitimate to suggest that the move can serve as rehearsal for future changes, like college or a new job. However, also be sure to let them know that you hear their concerns.
Walk the Walk
Even though you may empathize with your children, it’s important to avoid throwing an all-out pity party. Your kids will be looking to you for cues. So it’s important for them to see your feelings of sadness and how you manage those emotions constructively. Stay positive so they’ll have a sense that everything will be okay. Don’t bad-mouth the new place or the old place – only talk about the positive memories and the exciting things about the new place – even if it’s just the opportunity to start fresh with organizing your home.
Stick to the Routine
If you don’t have a schedule or routine before the move, make one and then stick to it after the move. Keep bedtime routines and activities. Use the favorite blankets and have all the items near and dear to them unpacked first. Hold off on getting rid of your child’s old bedroom furniture, which may provide a sense of comfort in the new house. It might even be a good idea to arrange furniture in a similar way in the new bedroom. Avoid making other big changes during the move, like toilet training or advancing a toddler to a bed from a crib. Arrange for your toddler or preschooler to stay with a babysitter on moving day.
Give them Decision Power
Let them make decisions. This will help them feel more in control. Do they want to take the current lamp with them or pick out a new one for the new house? Do they want to draw a smiley face on all the boxes with their things in them? What bag would they like to use to carry their prize possessions?
Temporary regression is a natural way for young kids to deal with a stressful situation. Kids that are potty trained may have accidents, elementary age kids may struggle to tie their shoes, middle school kids may seem forgetful about their backpack or homework, high school kids that are great at making friends may struggle. If they are not getting through it in a few weeks, counseling may be needed.
Teens may rebel. Your teen has probably invested considerable energy in a particular social group and might be involved in a romantic relationship. Be sure to them know that you want to hear their concerns and that you respect them. It’s legitimate and relevant to suggest that this move can serve as rehearsal for future changes, like college or a new job.
Encourage your child or teen to keep up with old friends through phone calls, video chats, parent-approved social media, and other ways to stay connected.
Give yourself and your kids grace. Moving is psychologically disorienting and emotionally exhausting.
Get to Know People
Be sure to give your kids many opportunities to meet people and make new friends and acquaintances. Getting familiar with people can ease anxiety. You want your child to try out new experiences with different groups until they find the ones that click. As for finding some adult friends, if your schedule permits arrive early at events to chat up other parents or volunteer to be a room parent. Join a local club, gym or neighborhood watch group. Invite the neighbors to a “front yard” or “driveway” party with food and beverages and LOTS of lawn chairs that invite neighbors to stay. The front yard is more welcoming, the backyard is more private. Ask guests you connect with to fill out an index card with their phone numbers and e-mail address.
Improve Their Social Skills
Show your kids how to make friends. Have kids practice a conversation opener at home, something like, ‘Hi, my name is Avery. I just moved here from The heights because my mom got a new job.’ Give them questions to ask other kids like, ‘Where is your favorite place to get ice cream?’ or ‘Do you do any activities after school?’ that will get them talking about local things.
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