Moving can be an exciting and stressful time. There seems to be a lot of moving to and around the Knoxville area with multiple recent news articles siting Knoxville as a hopping real estate market. With all the talk about housing and moving and the broader scale of the housing market and its impact on people in the area, I wanted to pause and discuss helpful tips for helping your littles cope with a move. Because while moving can seem straightforward to adults, especially a local move, it can be a scary process for the younger ones and may be overlooked in the moving process. We had own experience with this back in 2019 when we moved locally with our two-year-old twins and wanted to make sure they understood the moving process to ease any fears around it, and we are starting the conversation again as we look for a larger property in the area.
For the littlest ones in our family, our homes are their safe space and often where they spend the majority of time and develop their sense of identity around. While it may seem a no-brainer to move to a bigger, nicer, better located house, this context might be lost on young kids whose focus will be on the disruption of that safe space.
Here are some helpful tips to prepare your little ones for a move and ease the transition:
Talk About It
Talking about the move may seem straightforward, but it may also be easily overlooked as parents rush through all the details of a move. The big picture is already grasped by mom and dad, so they might not think to pause and share that with the kids. My advice is to start talking early and often about it. Explain a little of the why and a lot of the what around moving in a way that your child can understand. Make sure to address the physical details around the move but also the emotions that may be felt about the move as well. Most important is to make sure to communicate to your child that their familial structure and routine will remain just in a new location.
Draw It Out
Take it a step further from conversations to help your child draw out what the moving process is going to look like. This can be especially helpful in making an abstract conversation more concrete for your little one. Collect pictures and maps of the new home and area. Draw your family at the current home packing up boxes and then connect by arrow to the new house and family unpacking there. Similarly, you can create a paper link chain for counting down the days to the actual move.
Read About It
Take your drawing it out to the next step by adding some captions and making your own little book about the move to read with your kids each night leading up to and following the move. If making a book isn’t your thing, there are a lot of cute storybooks that address the topic of moving. Our favorite book for a local move is I’m Moving! New House, Same Underwear by Brenda Li. And a well-loved recommendation for a long-distance move for a young audience is Big Ernie’s New Home: A Story for Children Who Are Moving by Teresa and Whitney Martin.
Get Your Kid Involved
Let’s face it; kids are not the most helpful resources in a move. It’s often preferred that they are kept out of the way. However, in doing so, kids can often feel like a move is happening to them and not with them. One way to combat this is to find little ways to get your child involved in the move. Some ideas to get them involved would be to bring them along to a house tour and have them pick their bedroom, tagging along to pick up the moving truck or moving supplies, and having them help pack a small box with their favorite toys and put it away at the new house.
Honor Feelings About the Move
Make space during your move to address feelings around the move. If the move is long-distance, make the rounds and let your child have a proper goodbye with familiar friends and places. Similarly, and helpful for a local move, walk through your empty house with your child to verbalize goodbye. Be prepared that even with the groundwork laid, your child may have some strong and unpleasant feelings about the move. The important thing is that in all the chaos of the move, you remain a safe space for your child to express their feelings. It can be easier said than done in the busyness of the move, but reacting negatively to your child’s expression of feelings, can further complicate their feelings about the move. Encourage your little one to verbalize these feelings and talk through them together.
Establish New Routines As Soon As Possible
One way to make the transition easier for your kid is to make establishing their new space and routine as a priority. Focus on getting your kid’s room set up first so they can see how their bed, clothes, and other belongings fit into the new house. That way even when the rest of the house may be a chaotic mess, they will be able to retreat to their room as a safe and somewhat familiar space. Similarly, try to establish routines as quickly as possible. You may be tempted to skip meals and work long hours into the night cleaning and unpacking but make the time to keep these constants in your kid’s routine. Stick to a normal bedtime routine and meal schedule as much as possible. Along the same vein, a move may seem like a great time to make other changes in your life and routine, but it is worth considering how well those changes would go over with your kids and whether it may be better to stagger those changes (such as moving to a big kid bed, potty training, etc.).