Moving with Children

Advice from PSP Members about making the transition to a new home as smooth as possible.

MovingBoxes.Littleboy

 

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Keeping YOU sane

Pre-move help for kids

During the move

Adjusting to the new home

Books to help kids with the move

Books to help parents with the move

A note on moving before the first day of school

 

Keeping YOU sane

 

Stay organized.  Keep details (emails, packing lists, estimates, contacts, etc.) in one place online or in a move book.  

 

Purge things you don’t need. Check out the PSP website for places to donate. And ask—some moving companies will also schlep donations for you.

 

Keep important documents in one place and move them yourself.  This includes birth certificates, passports, wills, passports, medications, irreplaceable photos, etc.  If you’re moving locally, you can put these in a safety deposit box.

 

 

Pre-move help for kids

 

Some great, basic advice:

“Make sure to leave out her favorite toys until the last minute, of course. I think it helped to visit the new place as much as possible before the move. We had the walls painted bright colors; her room is yellow, so we made a big deal about how fun and special that was.”

“During the move, be as relaxed as you can (pretend to) be. I tried to make my daughter feel this was a positive change. For unpacking I'd try to enlist the help of family or friends to keep her occupied. It will be fun for her to see all her stuff re-emerging from the boxes! Ask her where she thinks stuff should go, etc. Spend lots of time with her in her new space and have playdates to celebrate the new space. Good luck!”

 

Visit the new home and talk it up.

“We moved a week before my son turned 2.  He was very attached to his house and on vacation would say he wants to go home.  We brought him to the "new house" several times during the 2 weeks before we moved in, and when we started packing we gave him a box to help us, which he really seemed to like.  We talked a lot about the new house and explained what we were doing and why."

 

“We moved last month with our 2-year-old. In the few weeks before the move, we'd mention now & then that we were ALL moving soon (lest he fear Mommy & Daddy were moving without him) to a new house & we were bringing all his toys & all his things with us.”

 

“We moved from Alaska with a 1-year-old and  2 1/2-year-old. My husband built up the move so much -- how exciting it would be to live in a city -- that they never wanted to go back and visit Alaska.  With that experience, my recommendation is telling her all the positive and wonderful things about your new place. She will follow you and your example of enthusiasm.”

 

"This is how we handled it, and it seemed that it was emotionally seamless for our daughter both times, particular the second move. We brought her to the new, empty apartment a few days before the move a couple of times while they were finishing work on renovating the rental. She loved running around and exploring the closets and the open space. We really talked it up as if it was this new exciting thing we were doing and focused on that as opposed to focusing on leaving the old apartment or the actual transition of moving.  I wouldn’t mention that very much and act really excited when you bring her to see it if it’s available and empty a day or so earlier. It was an upgrade for us so I think that was also helpful, but even if it’s not try to find a few new things to point out and focus on that are cool. Our daughter didn’t seem to miss the old apartment at all once we left (and we still passed by it a lot as it was close to the new place). When we did we would say “Look! That’s our old apartment, do you remember living there?” And left it at that.  I think maybe that even if she expresses nervousness and sadness now that it might all be forgotten once the actual move happens and if you just focus on the excitement of being in a new place. Try not to show concern that she’s sad and try to redirect to the excitement of it all."

 

"We also moved a couple months ago, and the way we got our son on board was really just to hype up the new house, the backyard, etc. He was really excited about having his 'own green grass.' We also taught him the new address and made a big deal out of him memorizing it, and because he loves maps we also showed him where it was on the map."

 

Let books help.

“Buying some books about moving can make it exciting. My daughter thrives on routine and familiarity, but the excitement of the move and having all her things waiting for her in place made it a pretty peaceful move.  She adjusted beautifully - you'll be surprised at how easily she adjusts and how much she really associates "home" with you and the touch posts of your house.”

 

“We moved when our daughter was about 2 also, and one thing that seemed to help was that I made her a book telling the story of our move and we read it a lot ahead of time.  I wrote a simple text (i.e., telling about how we would put our stuff in boxes and the movers would come, with an emphasis on how when we opened the boxes all her toys would be there and addressing whatever I thought her anxieties might be).

 

"I cut out pictures and did simple stick figure drawings to illustrate, nothing fancy. My daughter helped make 'her' book about the move and then we read it often and it seemed to help her rehearse what was going to happen.”

 

Find a fun way to commemorate the move and remember the old home.

"We received the recommendation to create a photo book (using Shutterfly or a similar service) with pictures of our old apartment and new apartment."

 

During the move

 

Leave packing the kids’ stuff to the very end.

"As far as packing in the weeks pre-move, we were careful to not pack his stuff when he was up & left out enough toys so he wouldn't notice some had already been packed.  We packed his important things at the last minute in clearly marked boxes so we could easily find them & unpack them first.”

 

"The movers were amazing and agreed to set up M.'s room first, so he could take a nap and feel comfortable. They packed his crib last in the truck, so it was first out! My mom-fail was not putting aside his fave toys and blankets on my person, vs being packed, bc I could not find them in time for nap. He was upset but got over it."

 

Make sure the kids (and pets) are not underfoot while packing!

"Having kids under foot makes the job of the packers and you more stressful.  If you can, get them out of the house. If not, make sure they (kids and pets) are supervised and out of the way in a separate closed room. It might be worth it to board an animal if there’s a place you trust.  Having a clear workspace will help your movers be most efficient."

 

“The day of our move, my mom picked him up from preschool and had dinner with him.  By the time he got to his new home we had his room unpacked (well, mostly) and he was very excited to see his toys and bed.  We talked about how this is our new house and tried to generate enthusiasm. He sometimes still misses his old house, especially if he sees it (which is fairly frequently since we still see people on the block, and you can see the building from 7th Ave).  But he will also admit that he likes his new house a lot.”

 

“On the day of the move, we went through a whole "bye-bye house" routine & blew kisses to the old apartment.  We left him with his babysitter who had him out in the playground for the entire day. Meanwhile, we moved & set up his room enough so it would look really familiar:  crib had all his regular blankets, his favorite blankie & stuffed animal were right there, as many of his favorite toys as we could unpack were right there where he could see them.  When the sitter brought him over that evening, we paid tons of attention to him until he went to bed (& let him stay up late since he was pretty excited). I must say it went really well.  He was excited to have his toys in a new place but spent much of the time exploring."

 

Let kids help with the move.

Let them decorate their moving boxes and let them pack some of their own boxes.  (Make sure to pack one box as their “OPEN FIRST” box). Keep these boxes light so they can carry them and feel helpful and responsible; like they are part of the process. A trick with purging before you move is to hold up two toys and say, “Which one do you want keep and which one will go to a new child who doesn’t have very many toys?” (You can couple your favorite toys with least favorite toys to help purge the things you like the least.)

 

"We moved over the summer, and I think one of the things that helped was having my son help pack his things - so a bin of his toys, boxes of his books etc. We made sure those were in our car and one of the first things that got unpacked into his room. We also would frequently talk about what things we were moving and what things were staying, and kind of made a game out of it (the ceiling fan? no! Your bed? Yes!).There are still times when he talks about being sad and missing our old apartment. I try to use it as an opportunity to talk about things he misses from our old apartment, and then talk about things that he likes in our new home."

 

"What I recommend is making it fun and exciting, and including your little one in the process: Letting him draw on the big boxes, and play in the boxes like tunnels; visiting the new place and having a little fun ritual like a picnic there, and leaving some of his toys (not the favorites) there so that you can come back and find them waiting for him later; making sure that the prized items like books, favorite toys and stuffed animals, favorite bedsheet, blanket, and pillow covers etc., are always with him as you transition - so you don't have to dig into boxes to find them, and so that they are readily available and set up before everything else for comfort and normalcy at every turn."

 

Adjusting to the new home

 

Unpack the kids’ rooms first so they feel at home, and give them a say in setting up their space.

“We moved one block when our daughter was [around 2]. It is best to set up her room first and have her come to her room with her bed, toys, and pictures while the rest of the move is going on -- it helps for them to have a familiar, safe touchstone."

 

"We put him for nap in the new apt, the room was only half set up, he was overtired and crabby and cried that he wanted to "go home" and it broke my heart! I'm like, this is home now. But during his nap, I found and unpacked all his toys and books and blankets and when he woke up, I set up his entire room in time for bedtime. He was SO excited to be reunited w/ his toys. That night, he slept well, woke up once or twice confused but that was it. The 2nd night and beyond, it was business as usual!"

 

'I made sure he is super comfortable in this new home and has his own space, factored in his preference for light, space, toy storage, etc. Whenever I ask if he prefers the old home or the new home, he answers “new”. Maybe he just doesn’t want to upset me, but he seems happy here and not once said like he did on our trips, 'Okay, this is great, let’s to back home now.'"

 

It’s going to be okay!

“There was zero adjustment!  We were shocked! I think it has to do with being where their stuff is—so make sure to unpack her room first and to take her right away to her usual places so she knows she is the same neighborhood."

 

Final words of wisdom

 

Be especially gentle with yourself and your family.

Moving is one of those top 5 stressors in life (along with death and divorce) so know that the whole family will be feeling it, even if you’re only moving a few blocks away. Keep hydrated, remember to eat, get an insulated cooler if you don’t have access to your kitchen. 

 

Allow kids—and parents!—to feel sad about leaving the old home behind, even while acknowledging the excitement of making the new home your own.

"One thing that struck me—about a week after we moved, we were sitting eating dinner and my son asked when we'd go back to our old apartment. I said we wouldn't go back, it wasn't ours anymore. He teared up, and then my husband started crying too! (he's very sentimental; I am not). But actually I think it was good that both my son and husband got to have those feelings openly. We explained it's ok to be sad and miss the old space. We also talked about how a new family would move into our old apartment, and how much they would enjoy it. And that was that. He never seemed sad about it again.  It's like Janet Lansbury's thing of letting the kids feel the emotions, honor them, not try to distract away from them, and that way they can pass."

 

Books to help kids with the move

 

If you can, please buy local!

The Slope and surrounding neighborhoods are full of wonderful small community and indie bookstores, including:

Community Bookstore

Greenlight Bookstore

 

Boomer's Big Day by Constance W. McGeorge and Mary Whyte (Ages 2-4)

Covers Boomer's confusion, anxiety, concern, and ultimate delight on this day familiar to all moving days.

Big Ernie's New Home by Teresa Martin (Ages 2-5)

Affirms the normal sadness, anger, and anxiety that young children may feel after a move. Also discusses the feelings that young kids face when moving and offers suggestions for creating a smooth adjustment.

Peanut Butter & Cupcake by Terry Border (Ages 3-7)

In a Jar by Deborah Marcero (Ages 3–7)

The Berenstain Bears' Moving Day by Stan and Jan Berenstain (Ages 3-7)

This classic Berenstain Bears story is the perfect way to help prepare a child for a new move!

Bruce's Big Move by Ryan T. Higgins (Ages 4-7)

Anita and the Dragons by Hannah Carmona (Ages 4-7)

One day, Anita must face her fears to begin a new life in a new country. Will she be brave enough to enter the belly of the beast and take flight to new adventures?

We Are Moving by Mercer Mayer (Ages 4-8)

Little Critter® doesn’t get a new dog— he’s moving to a new house! Questions arise.  Will he be able to bring his sandbox? What if he has to go to a new school full of bullies? What if his new next-door neighbors are monsters!? Join Little Critter as he learns moving is not so bad after all. . . .

When You Are Brave by Pat Zietlow Miller (Ages 4-8)

Saying goodbye to neighbors. Worrying about new friends. Passing through a big city. Seeing a dark road ahead. In these moments, a young girl feels small and quiet and alone. But when she breathes deeply and looks inside herself, a hidden spark of courage appears, one she can nurture and grow until she glows inside and out.

Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend! by Cori Doerrfeld (Ages 4-8)

Change and transitions are hard, but Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend! demonstrates how, when one experience ends, it opens the door for another to begin.

A New Kind of Wild by Zara Gonzalez Hoang (Ages 4-8)

When Ren moves to Ava’s city, he feels lost without his wild. How will he ever feel at home in a place with no green and no magic, where everything is exactly what it seems?

The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John (Ages 8-12)

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling (Ages 8-12)

Moo: A Novel by Sharon Creech (Ages 8-12)

Uplifting New York Times bestseller reminds us that if we’re open to new experiences, life is full of surprises.

Soar by Joan Bauer (Ages 10+)

Newbery Honor winner Joan Bauer hits a home run with her newest friend, who always sees the positive side of any situation.

Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin (Ages 10+)

An affecting story of a girl’s devotion to her brother and what it means to be home.

Shelter (Book One): A Mickey Bolitar Novel by Harlan Coben (YA)

 

Books to help parents with the move

 

 

Moving with Kids: 25 Ways to Ease Your Family's Transition to a New Home by Lori Burgan

Easy to read and useful, this is the ideal parents' helper when faced with a move across town or across the world.

The Essential Moving Guide For Families by Sara Boehm

Moving? You're in good company: 14% of Americans move each year. Despite all this relocation taking place around us it can still feel like a lonely process fraught with anxiety for you and your children. But it doesn't have to be this way.

Good Move: Strategy and Advice for Your Family's Relocation by Kaly Sullivan

Loaded with real stories from families that have been through relocation, this book is your best friend as you take on moving into a new home.

 

 

A note on moving before the first day of school

 

Moving into a new school district? PSP members recommend timing the move so that kids don't miss out on the first day of school. Here are some thoughts from a 2021 thread to help you plan and use school as a way to ease the transition.

 

One member shares:

"We have a incoming 1st and 3rd grader, we've talked alot about the move, and they're excited, my dilemma is, on paper, we can move and get the kids into the first day of school in CT, but it will be super quick, we'll have a matter of days to move and get them registered. I thought it wouldn't be a big deal to have them start a few days late just in case it plans to line up the way we need them to, but my sister and mom (both teachers) keep telling me the first day is really critical from a teaching perspective and also a social perspective."

 

Members advise:

"I agree with your mom and sister that if you can, sending them to the first day of school is really important. It’s when kids get to know each other as part of a class and there are usually 'get to know you' games etc that die down after the first few days, which you wouldn’t want them to miss. Especially in a smaller school where kids likely know each other from kindergarten and second grade, starting a few days late makes there be an even bigger chance they’ll be considered 'the new kid' the rest of the year.

Also, especially during a big move, the predictability of school is a really nice landing pad for kids, so you all can worry about unpacking and getting all in order and they’re nicely tucked into their new routine right away.

There are a few ways to build up your kids resilience during this time- talking to them about what school will be like, looking at pictures of the building online, and practicing a super short 'secret handshake' that you can use to say goodbye during drop off are all ways to ease the transition."

 

"Although I was an elementary school teacher for a few years, I don't claim to be an expert...I am instead speaking as someone who moved a lot growing up - both mid year and at the start of the school year.

I would say it's a good idea for them to go to the first day of school - being in a new place is hard enough but having the 'new school year' experience with everyone else is more encouraging and feels more 'normal' than being the only new kid. I would find comfort in everyone having to meet each other and learn the routines rather than being the only one figuring things out, which would make me feel lost and frankly a bit dumb.

Also the routine of their new normal could be helpful to help their transition - this I can say as a former teacher and nanny. Kids love predictability and the sooner they can establish that, the sooner they tend to feel more comfortable, grounded, and able to focus."

 

"I just wanted to share our experience, as we moved from BK to Cold Spring in December of last year. My older child was in 3rd grade at the time, and we anticipated that switching schools mid-year would be hard on her. And, to be honest, it was. But she adapted much more quickly than I expected and she now has lots of friends both from school and from the softball team she joined in the spring. Actually, team sports made a HUGE difference for her transition - even though she's not naturally athletic - so if that's something your kids might be into, I highly recommend looking into options for outside school activities. We also found a ton of great resources at our local library, so we end up there once a week or so for storytimes, movie screenings, and just to get new books to read. Finding resources like that have helped to build our sense of community, even during COVID-times.

With regards to the timing of your move: my takeaway from all this is that you have to balance the needs of your individual kids with your needs as a family. If it's not a huge additional stress, it might be smart to aim to get the kids there for their first days of school. But if not, they will probably be just fine. A few years ago, my daughter missed her entire first week of kindergarten due to scarlet fever, and it was all fine. In addition, with COVID/Delta variant infection rates being what they are, I wouldn't be surprised if some districts push back their in-person start dates by up to a week, so it may all be moot anyways. Not that I have heard of that plan, and don't want to panic anyone, but I feel like I'm already bracing for those decisions. That said, if any of your kids are highly sensitive or have any academic or social-emotional learning differences, being there the first day might provide a little more security for them as they adjust to a new school. You know your kids best, and probably know in your heart how they are going to make the transition."