10 Tips for Moving with Children

Planning a move can be difficult -- but planning a move with children can be even harder.
©iStockphoto.com/Brad Killer

The decision is now final. You've accepted the promotion and narrowed down the list of potential new homes, and you'll be moving soon. Now comes the hardest part -- planning the move and telling the kids. Whether moving out of state or just around the block, children and adolescents typically aren't thrilled by such an event. In fact, they rarely relish change of this magnitude. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to ease the transition. Your attitude about moving and your willingness to let your children share in the experience will influence their feelings. Try following these 10 tips to make the move as anxiety-free as possible.


10. Have a Family Meeting

Call a family meeting. Order some pizza and gather around the dining room table for a casual dinner and lots of conversation. If you're moving because of a promotion or a new job, tell your children that you're excited about it. Explain why you took it and how it will impact the entire family. Tell them how you feel about the move. Encourage them to express their feelings and concerns. If this is their first time moving, it could be particularly difficult because they're leaving their family home. Share with them your first-move experience. Let them know you'll be depending on them to help out during the move, from packing to settling in to the new place.


9. Get the Kids' Feedback on the New Home

If possible, involve your children, especially if they're older, in the selection process of the new home. Once you've narrowed the choices down to two or three houses, get some feedback from the kids. If where you're moving to is within a reasonable driving distance, take them to see the homes. If you're moving to another city, show them photos of each home, describe the neighborhoods in detail and, if you can, take a virtual tour online. Ask them to share their three favorite things about each house. Let them know you'll take their comments into consideration when making the final decision. After you've picked the house, keep them posted through the process. Have a little celebration once you know you've got the house.


8. Purge Before Packing

Let the kids know that now is a great time to cut through the clutter. Throughout the house, there's bound to be a plethora of things that do not need to accompany you to the new home. Get the kids to help you go through the house, room by room, to identify what should go with you and what you could get rid of. Let them know that you don't want to toss everything. It's OK to keep certain things that hold important memories. However, items -- be they clothes, toys or electronics -- that are no longer used, should be closely considered for the toss pile. And you don't have to toss them … you can sell them.


7. Organize a Moving Sale

Once you've figured out what you want to pack and what you want to purge, get the kids to help you organize a moving sale. They can help you sort through everything, organize it, inventory it, and price and tag it. Let them know that the proceeds from the sale will be used for something for the family. In fact, you can have a family meeting and vote to decide on what that might be. Maybe it's a giant flat screen TV for the new house, or maybe it's a chocolate lab puppy. Whatever it is, the more invested the kids are in the goal, the more helpful they'll be with organizing the sale.


6. Research the New Place

Try to learn as much as possible about the new neighborhood, community and town. Share what you find with your kids. You don't have to make everything sound wonderful; honest, matter-of-fact information will be most helpful in the long run. If you oversell things and raise expectations, there's room for disappointment. Encourage your kids to do their own research. With your help, they can go online and look up community and school Web sites. You could also find copies of some local magazines and a weekend edition of the local paper. You'll be able to learn about community organizations and groups, school events and sports, and other social and civic activities.


5. Make Room Plans

To get your children excited about the new house, make room plans. You don't have to limit yourself to their rooms only. If they're interested in helping arrange and decorate other rooms in the house, let them. Take a trip to the hardware store to look at paint swatches. If you're going to purchase new furniture and the kids are interested, take them with you. For teenagers, set a budget and let them tackle their own rooms -- picking out colors, linens, rugs and furniture. Encourage them to shop at consignment and thrift stores. For younger kids, you can set a budget and work with them on executing their vision. Then, when it's all done, you can invite some family or friends over for a "big reveal" like they do on TV shows.


4. Do a Site Visit

If you're able, take the kids to the new place for a visit. If you're just moving across town, plan to spend the day doing a walk-through of the house and a tour of the new neighborhood. Then you can visit the local branch of the public library and each kid's school. If you're moving a great distance away, you might still be able to do this, even if it just means beating the moving van by a couple of days and staying in a local hotel. In addition to touring the children's schools and the local library, make arrangements to see any additional facilities you might end up frequenting like the area YMCA, community theater or music school. You can also drive your children by where you'll be working.


3. Host a 'See You Soon' Party

One of the most difficult things about moving for any child is saying goodbye to friends. You could lessen the anxiety of this by hosting a get-together with family, friends and neighbors and call it a "See You Soon" party. During the party, make sure everyone exchanges contact information, and take photos of your kids with their friends. Between texting, e-mails and phone calls, your kids should be able to maintain old friendships while transitioning to their new surroundings and making new friends. Depending on the distance of your move, you could speak with the parents of your children's friends about planning a weekend visit or meeting somewhere halfway for a day visit.


2. Map the Move

If you're moving a few towns away or to another state, pull out the GPS, maps and atlas. This can be especially helpful if you're leaving behind friends and family members you know you'll be returning to visit. Map out the moving route and mark some interesting places to visit and sights to see along the way. This will make the trip go by more quickly, and it will be more engaging for you and the kids. Keep the maps handy for when you arrive at your destination, too. Get the kids to help you plot out routine routes such as from the house to school or from the house to the local park, mall or movie theater.


1. Be a Tourist in the New Place

You've been in the new house for almost a week. Slowly, but steadily, the boxes are being unpacked, and you and the kids are starting to settle in to your new digs. Now it's time to settle in to your new community. If there is one, buy a guidebook for your new city. Grab it and a calendar and sit down with the kids to plan some fun outings around the area. Whether you decide on apple or strawberry picking at a local farm, hitting the natural science museum, or hiking, rafting or kayaking at the nearby state park, it's important to engage your kids and show them all that your new hometown has to offer. If they've met some new friends in your neighborhood or at school, encourage each child to bring a friend along on your outings.

Moving With Kids FAQ

Does moving frequently affect a child?
According to a 2016 study conducted by American Journal of Preventive Medicine, moving around a lot as a child can negatively affect a person well into adulthood. Frequent moves disrupt important friendships, increase anxiety and other mental health problems, and often result in parents that are stressed and upset, reducing a child's feeling of security and safety.
What is the best age to move a child?
Generally, moving tends to be easiest for kids younger than age 6 due to their limited capacity to understand the changes and the importance of the immediate family as their core relationships. Young children tend to be resilient and make new friends more easily than older children and teens.
Is moving difficult for toddlers?
Understanding and processing a move can be difficult for toddlers, so it's good to start talking about the move and what it will mean for them using words and concepts they understand. Consider talking about things like their new room and exciting things about the new house or neighborhood. Additionally, give space for them to have "big feelings" as they process this change.
How does moving affect a child?
Moving can disrupt a child's sense of security and stability and hinder their social development. However, if parents are intentional about helping their child make the transition and moving isn't something they have to experience over and over again, it's less likely that there will be long-lasting effects on the child.
What is the worst age to move a child?
Middle school, or the ages of 12 to 14, tends to be the worst time to move a child, especially if it's a long-distance move that will completely disrupt their friendships.