Moving to a new home is a very exciting time in the life of a family, but it can also present many emotional and practical challenges for small children, who tend to rely on, and greatly appreciate the comfort found in their everyday routines. Leaving behind familiarity to start life in a new home, school and community is a scary prospect for kids of all ages, and being in the midst of a cross-country move with my own family, I have faced these challenges on a very personal level. Today I am passing along some key ways to make the transition for children into life in a new home be as easy as possible, regardless of whether your move takes you across town or across the country.
Talk about what moving means.
Although this is admittedly important for older children, too, this is an especially important consideration when moving with very small children. Having moved with children of preschool age twice now, the number one fear at the top of my kids’ minds each time has been whether or not the things they hold most dear will be moving with them. Will their toys move? Their furniture? Pets? Friends? When you talk with children, let them know that items like favorite stuffed animals, books and video games will all move with them, as will precious pets. But then also make sure to address the people and things that won’t be moving, such a school friends, neighbors and favorite parks and schools. Knowing exactly what to expect removes fear from the situation and gives children a clear idea of what lies ahead.
Include them in the house-hunting process.
In our recent move, my husband and I made it a point to let all of our children in on the process of finding a new home for our family. My oldest children and I sat down together to pore over online listings, picking and choosing the ones we liked best. It was during this process that I discovered my son shares my appreciation for hand-scraped hardwoods, and my daughter thinks two stories are essential for our family. It was so fun to engage them in conversation as we clicked!
When it came time to walk through the narrowed-down properties, all six of us ventured out together along with our Realtor. Admittedly, it can be daunting to take young children into other people’s homes, but by establishing firm ground rules beforehand (no touching, no climbing on bed, etc.), this can be an excellent way for children to experience a very real sense of excitement over the changes that lie ahead, and to give their input into what they like and don’t like about potential properties.
Get plugged in.
Once you have found a home, a key element to getting settled in your new community is to get plugged in and involved. Let kids play an active role in getting registered in their new school, in signing up for a new library card, in getting registered for favorite extracurricular activities, in visiting a new church, and so on. This will help them feel connected to their new surroundings, and it is a great way to begin the process of making new friends!
Take time to reflect.
Homes become a part of the fibers of who we are, and this is especially true for small children when they are moving away from the only home they have ever known. Take time to reflect and remember the home you left behind as you embark on this new chapter of life. What did they love best about it? What is their favorite memory of the time they lived there? Taking time to talk as a family about what they loved about the old home is a great way for parents to communicate that there are many wonderful new memories to be created in the new home!
On our final night in our old home, we took a couple of minutes to carve our family’s initial and the date into the tree in our front yard. The kids were delighted when we told them that years from now, they might someday drive down that same street and see that same letter “B” carved in that tree. It was a wonderful way to help them feel a part of them would always be with the house they loved so much.
For families with young children, moving certainly provides unique challenges, but by engaging children and keeping them involved in the process, children can more fully understand the process and enjoy the adventure!
Do you have any tips for moving with young children? Take part in the conversation by sharing in the comments below.