You’ve made it through what seems to be the most challenging part of moving—you’ve worked with an agent, listed your house, negotiated with buyers, found your new home and sold your old one. Whew.Now what? While it might seem that packing up a house full of stuff is the most daunting task left, if you’re a parent, your thoughts might be focused on a more important one—how to involve your kids. Moving is a big deal, no matter your age. But for many children moving is a great unknown, and that can bring up a lot of emotions and challenges.
1. Communication is key
Be as direct and as detailed as possible to combat your child’s fear of the big “unknown.” Speak with positive words — this is a new, exciting adventure! — but also leave room for your children to express their fears, doubts and questions. Listen, validate their thoughts and inquiries, and don’t worry about having all the answers. Talk about your shared emotions (“I’m feeling a little sad, too”) to show empathy once they’ve shared theirs. Emphasize that you will be with them during this whole journey—you’re going on this adventure together!
2. Use narrative to help children comprehend the move.
People learn best from stories, especially children. Share stories from your own past moves to create relatability. Read books together on the topic. If your children are very young (under the age of three), to fill in the gaps in verbal skills, use physical objects to show what a move will be like. Grab a toy truck, fill it with some small items, and “drive” it from one toy house to another.
3. Help kids visualize what your new home and community will be like.
Buying a new house is exciting, but it can be hard for children to envision what a new house might be like. If possible, bring the whole family along on walk-throughs. Help children “pick out” their new room and encourage them to imagine how they’ll decorate it — Where should the bed go? What color should we paint the walls? Before the move, go exploring in your new neighborhood or city, whether you’re walking, biking or simply driving around. If you’re moving far away or can’t bring the kids to house prior to moving, show them pictures. Point out details and imagine together all the fun things you will do in your new home!
4. Involve kids in packing.
How much kids are actually able to help pack is going to depend on their age, but the idea here is to make them feel involved. For older kids, set up three stations in their room — Donate, Pack, and Trash — and let them have at it! For younger children, make a game of packing. Stand at a box and then time how long it takes for them to find all the stuffed animals around the house. And for little ones (or if you really can’t handle packing with your children around), give them a special task like packing a backpack with their most special items to be in charge of during the move.
5. Create special memories for your Last and First night.
Both leaving a house and moving into a new one are big moments in your family’s life — so celebrate! Plan simple but memorable moments for your Last Night in your old house and your First Night in the new one. It can be as simple as a pizza picnic, dessert-first-dinner, or watching your family’s all-time favorite movie on your Last Night and a brand new one on your First Night. (And don’t forget those all-so-important family pictures for both houses. You will be thankful you took them!)
Moving with children can present a variety of challenges, but you’ve got this. Now start packing! Check out our list of recommended books to read on moving with your kids here! Inspired to start your own home-buying journey?