Children are so impressionable and these fragile years are important in shaping who they become. I love to hear someone speak about their childhood and the events that took place that have shaped their viewpoints and character, even as an adult. As a parent, this reality is exciting, but can also be overwhelming as you realize that the choices you make deeply affect your children’s lives, positively or negatively.
Jeff and I moved several times when our children were growing up, and I remember these fragile times very clearly. Jeff and I learned many lessons – good and bad about being a parent and uprooting your children. While this change can be a blessing – new friends, new community, new beginnings – it is so important to stay connected with your children during this time. Hear them out – their fears, their worries, their excitements. Remember – they are “unlocking new doors” as well.
Since children find a great deal of security and comfort in the familiarity of their surroundings, moving to a new home can be jarring for them. However, moving to a new neighborhood, a new town, or a new state often opens up many new opportunities for a child and can be a celebrated change – and this positive perspective can be encouraged by some of these tips I have picked up along the way:
- Talk it through. The more you communicate with your child about what is going on and what their expectations should be, the more smoothly the moving process will go for everyone. Look up some things in your new location that would be appealing to them and present the move in a positive light. For example, if you are moving to a neighborhood with a pool, that may be something to share with them to give them something to picture and look forward to in their new home. If you are moving to Central Illinois for example, talk about Elevate Trampoline Park in Peoria or the Children’s Museums in both Peoria and Bloomington. Even the zoo!
- Involve your children. Allowing your child to pack some of their own things for the move is a great way for them to gain a sense of closure and to feel included in the moving process. This helps the move feel a little less scary and out of their control. When it comes to unpacking and decorating their new room, allow them to be involved – either in picking out some new decorations, or simply arranging the toys on their shelf. This gives them a sense of ownership and excitement about the new space, encouraging them to embrace the change.
- Encourage new, and old, relationships. Although it is important for your child to be actively engaging in new relationships with neighbors and schoolmates, it can bring a great sense of stability to allow them to maintain old relationships. Facetime can be a great tool in keeping up relationships that become long distance, and playdates are even better if your location allows! My grandchildren moved to Indiana with my son and daughter-in-law, and Jeff and I realized that the more we made the 3 hour drive to see them in their new house, the more it seemed like home to them. Familiarity is key!
- Explore your new location. As a parent, moving can be a stressful and busy time, with ever-lengthening to-do lists and so much on your mind. I’ve learned from a few wonderful clients that it is super important to pick a certain time (whether it is every Saturday, or every day at 3:00 pm) to take a break from the unpacking and the busyness of relocation, and just enjoy your new surroundings. Take the kids and find your nearest library, nearest park, or a fun local restaurant to try. This small amount of time can do wonders in keeping a positive perspective and helping the kids to see their new home as a place they want to be. I would especially advise you to take them to their new school before they start, so the first day does not seem so scary!
- Bake some cookies. My final tip on moving with children is to take the first step in building new friendships in your community. Take an afternoon to bake some cookies with your kids (or no-bake cookies are great with younger children!) and take them to your neighbors. This is a simple way to introduce yourself and engage with your community to begin fostering relationships and this can be so beneficial in helping kids to see an unfamiliar setting as a place that they belong.
Ultimately, the key in moving with children is to stay involved in their lives and assure them that you are always there for them, even if everything else seems to change! With some intentionality and forethought, moving can be something that your children remember as a thrilling family adventure and a positive experience for the rest of their lives. I did not do this perfectly myself, and I learned some big lessons along the way that I would love to share with you. Learning from other’s mistakes is part of life. Every time I walk alongside a family “unlocking new doors”, I am always thinking of the children. Remember, this is the new generation, the new caretakers of our community. Let’s invest in them!