Curbing Moving-day Angst

By Sharon Naylor

June 13, 2014 7 min read

Moving is stressful -- for you and for your kids. While you're dealing with packing and hiring movers, your child may be anxious or upset about many things. He doesn't want to leave his friends, his school, his bedroom. He wasn't part of the decision to move, or the move comes as the result of a trauma such as a divorce or a death. He may be easily unsettled by change. And a move is a big change. Here are some tips to help your child adjust to your impending move:

--Invite your child to ask you any questions about the move. Having information could allay his fears. He may ask what his new neighborhood will be like and whether there are any other kids his age there. He may wonder whether he can keep his toys or simply when the move will take place. Assure him that you're always available to answer any questions and that no question is silly. With you as his lifeline, he won't be as bothered by the unknowns.

--Involve your child in the moving process. If your child is old enough, she might join you in online searches and browsing photos of different houses. Welcome her input, but she must understand that the adults will make the final decision. Post a calendar on the refrigerator showing your moving date circled in a bright color, and decorate it with stickers and brightly colored notes conveying excitement. Show your child a layout of the new home, as well as photos, so that she can see where her bedroom will be and how big it is.

--Diane Schmidt, About.com's moving expert, says, "Give your child a plan for their room." Seeing that layout then becomes an opener to, "Let's figure out how to arrange your furniture in your new room." This activity gives your child a sense of ownership over her new space, which is far better than her walking into a space you designed, whether she likes it or not.

--Help your child streamline her belongings. Explain that now is a good time for her to donate some of the toys and books she's outgrown, as well as clothes she doesn't wear anymore. Other children will benefit from her generosity. You might also help your child sell some of her outdated belongings on eBay to earn some spending money.

--Tell your child what it will be like to pack before it's time to pack. Show her photos of packed boxes, and let her choose the color of labels for her boxes. You might also get fun labels with her name on them for her to apply to her own packing boxes.

--Give your child an address book, and help her fill in the names and contact information of friends, teachers and coaches she'd like to stay in touch with, advises Schmidt. Kids know they can connect with their friends online or via text, but it's wise to remind them that their friends will be "just a mouse-click away," says Schmidt.

--Plan goodbyes for your child. She could host a slumber party with her friends, or you could invite neighbors and their kids over for a pre-packing, pre-move barbecue. Get creative with decor, and have your child help choose menu items to reinforce the message that her input is welcome.

--Help your child pack a moving-day box. Schmidt says to call it her "Moving Day Survival Kit," and it could hold her favorite shoes, toothbrush, an outfit and other essentials. Your child can decorate this box, as well.

--Let your child document the old house. Leslie Levine is the author of "Will This Place Ever Feel Like Home?" She suggests giving your child a camera and inviting him to take pictures before leaving the old house. He could then write down favorite memories of the old house and also what he's looking forward to experiencing in the new house.

--Plan final visits to favorite places. Schmidt advises taking kids to their favorite playground, restaurant, bakery and other locales so that there's no grief later over not having had one last turn on the swings with friends or one farewell ice-cream cone.

--The night before moving day, expect emotion from your child. He or she may be weepy or act out in defiance. Provide as much comfort as possible, and explain that you're sad, too. But emphasize that you're looking forward to the new home, mostly because your child will be there. Feelings of love and comfort go a long way in helping a child adjust to a move. Your teen might be moodier than usual, slamming doors and giving you the silent treatment if she's against the move. Remember that anger and bargaining are part of grief, and so expect your child to ask for permission to live with a friend instead. That's a common question.

--Stay upbeat. If the Realtor or bank is stressing you out, make every effort to shield your child from your frustrations and anger. Emotions are contagious, and if your child thinks you're against the move, he or she may act out more.

--On moving day, keep things as organized as possible, and tend to your child's needs.

--Create detailed lists of what your child needs to pack and of what goes into his moving-day box or bag so that he doesn't lose his retainer or phone charger and create further upset.

--Make the last act in your home a family hug that expresses joy at what the old home brought you and excitement for the adventure ahead.

--When you're settled into your new home, maintain family traditions. If you always had tacos on Tuesday nights, keep that tradition going so your child feels a sense of continuity.

--Don't buy new bedroom furniture for your child just yet. While it may be tempting to fill her new room with new furniture, it is best to keep the furniture she knows and loves as part of her new space now. Soon, you can shop for new furniture together.

If your child is having a tough time adjusting, feeling depressed, not sleeping, underperforming in school or complaining of headaches or stomachaches, it's time for a visit to a doctor for an assessment. Some children benefit from short-term counseling to help ease them through this transition in a healthy way.

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