Moving to a New Town: How Parents Can Help Kids Cope

Photo Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema

Moving is stressful for parents — there’s a house to sell, mountains of stuff to pack, and endless details to coordinate. But for kids, moving to a new town can be downright earth-shattering. Whether or not your kids are excited about moving, there are things you can do to make the transition easier on your children.

Breaking the News

Don’t wait until the last minute to tell kids you’re moving. They need time to adjust to change, and a surprise move will only leave them feeling stressed and resentful. Tell your children as soon as the move is a sure thing. That way, kids have time to accept and make peace with the news. The Child Mind Institute explains that keeping kids in the loop reduces their anxiety about moving because they feel more in control of the situation. However, the timing and delivery of the message matters: if parents announce a move and then shut down the conversation, kids will be left with more questions — and worries — than answers.

Choose a time when kids can ask questions, express their feelings, and receive honest reassurance from you. If you think an older child’s negative emotions may influence younger kids’ perception of the move, break the news separately to avoid an overwhelming situation. But don’t stop kids from expressing negative feelings! Listening to what your children are thinking, both good and bad, ensures they feel heard and offers you the chance to provide reassurance.

Saying Goodbye

Preparing to move is a busy time, but don’t let your to-do list distract you from your kids’ needs. The pre-move period is a critical time for shaping children’s feelings about moving.

Give your kids age-appropriate packing responsibilities so they feel included in the process. The youngest kids can decorate moving boxes while older children pack up personal items, including possessions they want to keep with them on moving day. To ease the pain of packing, show kids pictures of their rooms in the new house so they can start planning how they’ll arrange and decorate their new space.

You’ll want to keep kids out of the way on moving day. Hiring a babysitter to entertain kids on-site is a great way to ensure safety without removing kids from the process. Use Moving.com’s suggestions for fun activities kids can do when the house is already packed up.

For most kids, the hardest part of moving is saying goodbye to friends. Before the move, ask your kids what they want to do and who they want to see before leaving. Help kids take photos, throw a small party, and gather friends’ contact information so they can stay in touch.

Getting to Know Your New Town

The work isn’t over when you’re finished unpacking. Once situated, you face the task of helping kids feel at home in their new town.

If relocating a short distance, visit your new community before the move. It’s a great opportunity to frame the move in a positive light by pointing out the best features of your new town. It’s also a chance for kids to tour their new school so they have fewer first-day jitters.

If a pre-move visit wasn’t an option, you’ll need to hit the ground running when you arrive. Go on family walks to explore the neighborhood, schedule a tour of the school, and find out which families in the neighborhood have kids your children’s ages, in order to arrange get-togethers. Enrolling kids in extracurricular activities is another excellent way to encourage fast friendships.

Moving to a new town isn’t the end of the world, but to kids, it sure can feel like it. Rather than dismissing your children’s worries about moving, take the time to listen and address their fears. Doing so will make the move easier on your kids and on you.