Moving your family to a new home often means finding a way to help your kids cope with complicated feelings. We asked two moms and one preschool teacher to tell us about their approach to helping children cope with the transition. Allison Lefrak, consumer protection attorney at the Federal Trade Commission; Anne, preschool teach for nine years; and Patricia Sasser, dean of students at a Connecticut boarding/day high school provide their insight below!
How did you explain the move to your kid(s)?/How do you recommend explaining a move to kids?
When we moved out of our townhouse, I explained the move to the kids by telling them the truth – we needed more space! Given the two older ones were sharing a very small bedroom at the time, I think they fully grasped the fact that the move would directly benefit them.
I would begin by talking about what it means to move to a new house. With an older child, I might ask "What do you think it means to move houses?" or if they know any friends who have moved. Depending on the child, he or she may experience some anxious feelings. Be sure to let the child know you are there to answer any questions they have.
Making a countdown calendar so children can see a visual representation of time can be helpful. I have seen people use post-it notes, make paper chains, or just use a calendar. Involving children in creating a concrete representation of time may help ease any anxiety associated with the move.
In 2012, we moved from Northern Virginia to Connecticut. My son was 3 years old at the time, so I think the transition was a bit different than if he'd been older. We were still pretty direct and let him know that Mommy had gotten a new job which meant that we would be moving.
What was your child's reaction to the news?/What are some ways a child may react to the news?
My kids were most concerned with whether they would be able to keep all of their books and toys when we moved. Part of their concern stemmed from the fact that I had to de-clutter the townhouse before putting it on the market – this entailed boxing up a large portion of their personal belongings and putting them in storage in advance of the move. I assured them that once we moved into the new house, they would be reunited with all of their stuffed animals, toys, books, etc. The good part about all of this was that once we moved and started opening up the boxes, it was almost like Christmas – toys you forgot you owned are almost as good as brand new toys, right?
A child can many feeling associated with a move, from excitement to worry. I think it is best to help your child identify and talk about these feelings. Let he or she know it is okay to feel more than one (possibly conflicting) emotions about a move.
Truth be told, he probably didn't have as much of a reaction as I thought he would. He took the news, processed it, and then went back to playing with his trains.
What went smoothly or what went easier than you had planned?
I think because I had been traveling for interviews and we had explained to him what I was doing on those trips, he had an idea change was coming. Also, when we knew we were moving, we told him how he was going to be moving into a big boy bed, which provided some excitement for him.
What was the most difficult part of the move?
The most difficult part of the move was that we weren't able to move into our permanent residence for about a two and a half weeks. So our belongings had to be stored while we stayed at my in-laws house and I commuted an hour each way to work until we moved in.