Moving a family is stressful. And if it comes with another emotional event like a death in the family, divorce or job loss, the transition can be even worse. Still, while it probably won’t be immediately obvious, your child can ultimately benefit from a move.
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry notes, “With the proper attention from parents and professional help if necessary, moving can be a positive growth experience for children, leading to increased self confidence and interpersonal skills.”
Here’s how to ease the transition.
1. Discuss the move ASAP
Have a positive conversation with your child, explaining why relocation is necessary. Discuss the perks of your new home’s location, and help your child learn about the area with maps, photos and the local newspaper.
2. Say your good-byes
A week or two before you move, throw a farewell party to officially bid adieu to friends and neighbors, exchange contact information and take pictures. Keep refreshments simple, like delivery pizza. Peer groups are especially important for the older child. Host a slumber party for your child to say good-bye to close friends. Provide a keepsake pillowcase for friends to doodle and autograph with fabric markers. You also can create a memory book or provide a few craft supplies to make their own. They could include pictures of their friends and memorable outings. Ask friends, teachers, coaches and other people they’ll miss to sign it.
3. Revisit favorite haunts
Whether a park, zoo or local eatery, take time to honor the places your family enjoyed most. Together, make a list of your family’s favorite hot spots you each want to visit before departure day. Make a video journal or a photo book documenting the outings.
4. Coordinate moving day
Ask the movers to load your children’s rooms last, so their things come off the truck first at your new home. Also, if your kid has a outdoor playset that they’ve enjoyed in your current backyard, be sure to move that. In the July issue of Metro Parent, the owner of Kids Gotta Play provides tips for properly moving your child playset or swing set. Plus, consider hiring a sitter or enlisting a family friend to watch your kids while working with the movers.
5. Celebrate a new chapter
On the first night in your new house, organize a “family fun night” with pizza and games to celebrate a new beginning. Invite your child to help make choices about his new room’s decor. Promptly return to the comfort of routines like regular meal times and naps.
6. Use tech, with boundaries
Help your child use video apps, like Skype or FaceTime, to stay in touch with old friends and extended family. Keep extended family and close friends updated on how your family is settling in via email or a private blog. Discourage older children from spending too much time on social networking sites. Seeing their friends returning to life without them can be painful and reinforce a sense of loneliness.
Illustration by Mino Watanabe
This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.