Adding a move to the mix of toddler, tween, or teen drama? Let’s face it: Changing schools, leaving friends, and abandoning a childhood bedroom have the potential to make the process of relocating difficult — if not downright traumatic. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
First of all, kids are resilient and eminently adaptable. And second, grownups have the power to help minimize the tears and fears that often arise while moving with kids. Keeping in mind every child and every family situation is different, take a look at our top nine tips for making relocating with family as painless as possible for everyone involved.
1. Be transparent
Tell your kids why and when you’re moving — age appropriately, of course — as soon as the plans are finalized. Is this a job relocation? Are you moving to be closer to family? Tell the kids — because they’re smarter than we think. Our children have a sixth sense that can pick up on the slightest shift in the household vibe. So instead of waiting for the elusive right time, tell them on time. Add the topic to the next family meeting agenda. They may need a minute to absorb the news and process it, so give them that, too. But making sure they’re informed of your plans early and keeping them up to speed every step of the way will go a long way toward a smoother move for the entire family. Bonus: You’ll gain points in the trust department — a rarity, particularly in those sometimes prickly teen years.
2. Involve your kids in the move
From picking a new house to packing up treasures, enlist your kids as part of the team — it’s a family event, after all.
Here are a few ways to get them involved:
- Give them a vote as you look for a home in your new town. This can be as simple as looking at photos online together as you narrow down your search or taking them along to tour new homes. Ask their opinions, hear their pros and cons, and consider their views when making your selection.
- Send them to their rooms — with a few boxes to pack. Giving your kids ownership of their part of the move — again, age appropriately, of course — helps them feel like they’re a part of the process and can make for an easier transition.
- Unleash your kids’ inner decorators. From paint colors to pillowcases, let them help decide on the look of their new bedrooms. Even the most cranky toddlers will crack a smile if they get to pick out new goodies.
|Pro Tip: Advise the kids to keep the lovies out of the moving boxes. Stuffed bears and penguins belong in a carry-on backpack or otherwise in hand at all times. The last thing you want is for that precious cargo to get stowed away in a moving truck or container.|
3. Take your kids along on a recon trip to your new town
If you’re moving for work, negotiate a visit to your new city as part of your relocation package, and take your kids with you. Make a mini-vacation out of the trip and explore the area — particularly sites with kid-friendly activities like parks, playgrounds, and the nearest ice cream shop. When they’re familiar with places of interest in their new town, your children will feel more at home when you get there for good.
4. Connect with other parents
This one is a win-win for you and your kids. Tap into your social networks for connections. Somebody always knows somebody, right? Or if your situation is a job relocation, ask your new HR director to refer you to local parents’ groups. Moving with toddlers? Check out the library for weekly story times or playgroups. They’re an easy way to meet potential friends for both you and your children — essential to settling in and feeling at home. For older kids, your local YMCA or community center can be a source of new pals, particularly if you’re moving during the summer, when area swimming pools are the social hub of neighborhood activity.
5. Plan for a visit home to see old friends
Turn that tearful “goodbye” into a cheerful “see you soon!” Everybody loves having something to look forward to — it’s why we count the days until Christmas starting in July. Apply the same anticipation to planning a trip back to your old town. Your kids will be comforted knowing there’s a visit on the calendar. It’s always soothing in times of stress to turn to old friends, so keeping them close in their hearts is the next best thing.
6. Give yourself plenty of time to prepare
As you’re winding down time in your old home and getting closer to moving day, the transition period will likely involve lots of unexpected moments: friends dropping in to wish you well, neighborhood going-away parties, and, inevitably, the occasional meltdown of one of your children — or you. Build in some buffer time to allow for these unplanned delays. And consider PODS portable moving containers, which allow you to take all the time you need. Literally. Because the containers are just outside in your driveway until you schedule them to be picked up and transported to your new home, you have the flexibility to move at your own pace. The best part? That means you can keep your focus on your kids throughout the process.
7. Learn as much as you can about how to make your move as smooth as possible
Visit the PODS blog for more great moving tips to keep your family sane. You also might want to check out these family-friendly neighborhoods in a few sought-after cities. Even if you’re not moving to one of these destinations, you’re sure to find some valuable information to help with your move and your home search:
- Family-Friendly Neighborhoods in Miami
- Family-Friendly Neighborhoods in Los Angeles
- Family-Friendly Neighborhoods in Seattle
- Family-Friendly Neighborhoods in New York City
- Thousand Oaks: Top Family-Friendly Community Near L.A.
8. Remember: There’s no “worst age to move a child”
Every age has its own distinctive challenges when it comes to moving away from the only home they’ve ever known. For teens and tweens, there’s sadness at losing lifelong friends. Being the new kid in town can be nerve-wracking — and if the school year has already started, doubly so. For toddlers just beginning to gain their footing in the world, there’s the daunting task of navigating a new home and the loss of leaving familiar faces. But these challenges can also represent opportunities, and it’s your role as their caregiver to help put a positive — even exciting — spin on the move. Talk to your teens about the chance to start fresh and expand their horizons. Maybe celebrate with a shopping spree or a makeover. For little ones, finding those new friends will be key, so get involved with your local toddler network as soon as you can.
9. And finally, trust your instincts
Moving is stressful at any age, but children experience disruptive events differently. Your goal is to reassure them and keep angsty moments at bay. Even the most insightful parents can miss a signal, so be sure to check in with your children to make sure they’re rolling with all the changes. If you feel like your kid is struggling, take a wellness break from unpacking: Go outside and start a new project, or just snuggle up on the couch for a bit. Sometimes a hug is all it takes to feel better in a time of disruption and change. And that’s true for kids of all ages.
Shannon Jacobs is a Tampa-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to the PODS blog. She has lived in Atlanta, the Berkshires, and Nashville, but always returns to the warmth of Florida’s Gulf Coast.