While moving can be an exciting experience that ushers in a welcome change of scene, it can also bring up many challenging emotions. This is especially true for children who have to leave behind familiar comforts and, oftentimes, their friends and school.
Unlike adults, who understand the reasons for the move, young minds can have a hard time understanding and accepting the “whys,” which can lead to feelings like anxiety, anger, or sadness.
Whether you’re moving across town or to a new state, there are many things you can do as a parent to help them cope with their emotions and support them before moving day. Let’s explore a few of those now.
Keep explanations simple
When the time comes to tell your kids about the move, explain what is happening in simple terms that help them feel safe. Let them know why you’re moving—because Mommy got a new job or because we need more space—and answer any questions they have.
Spell out what is staying the same (you’ll have the same bed, your stuffed animals are coming, we’ll still be able to visit grandma every week, etc.), followed by what is changing (you’ll have a room to yourself, you can walk to your new school, and you’ll have a yard to play in).
It may also help to tell stories about your own moving experiences to ensure them that everything will be okay.
Acknowledge varied emotions
Be prepared for your children to exhibit a whole range of emotions. They might experience shock or confusion when you first tell them. They might feel excited about their new room one minute and be crying the next.
Offer validity to their feelings by verbally acknowledging your own emotions, such as, “I know how you feel. I’m excited about this new adventure, but I’m really going to miss having Ms. Peterson next door and it makes me sad.” These types of conversations demonstrate to kids that it’s safe to express and process varied emotions, rather than bury them.
Pre-pave the path
One of the biggest reasons children feel afraid when they learn they’ll be moving is uncertainty about new environments. To help your children feel more comfortable, take them on a walk-through of the new house and explore the neighborhood before moving day. You could even explore via Google Earth or show them pictures of the new school they’ll be attending. This will help them feel like they have some familiarity with the new environments prior to the move.
Read them a book about moving
As you’re preparing to move, read a book about moving with your kids. Hearing stories of other children going through similar situations can be incredibly helpful when it comes to normalizing emotions, easing fears, and generating excitement.
My children’s book, A New Home for Eden and Ethan, shares the story of two fourth graders who find out that their family will be moving to a new house half an hour away. At first they’re scared and sad, but after some emotional regulation techniques and support from their parents, they feel excited about their new home.
This book encourages children to understand that challenging emotions are normal and that it’s how they react to these feelings that’s truly important. With the right support, children can deal with way more than we give these small people credit for!
You can find A New Home for Eden and Ethan, which is available for purchase on Amazon.com.