Moving? How to Help Your Child Adjust

Moving is an exciting and stressful time for everyone. If you’re moving soon, here are some ways you can help your child cope and handle the transition.

Before the move

  • Discuss the move with your child. Keeping your child informed is key in helping them adjust. Be honest and answer their questions as truthfully as possible. Younger children such as toddlers and preschoolers may need more help understanding the concept than older children, so consider using toys or books to help you explain.
  • Reassure your child that while things will be different, certain important things will remain the same, such as the daycare or school they go to, their favorite playground, their bed, or even simply that the family will be together as always.
  • Look for ways to give your child some small measures of control and ownership. These can include putting them in charge of packing their own books, or letting them choose the paint color for their new room.
  • Try using an art project as a way to help your child sort through their feelings. For example, they can paint a picture of your current home, or make a scrapbook of their favorite memories.
  • If your new home is vacant, take your child to visit, and let them explore and get to know their new neighborhood.
  • If possible, avoid other major changes around the time of the move such as toilet training.
  • Be patient with your child as they work through their emotions about moving. There may be setbacks and difficult days both before and after the move.

After the move

  • Unpack important and comforting items first, such as your child’s favorite toys, pictures, bedding, or books. These familiar objects will help make your new home feel more familiar to your child.
  • Maintain as regular a routine as possible, whether it’s the morning breakfast routine or the bedtime story routine. Consistent routines are highly beneficial to children, especially during otherwise unsettled times.
  • If your new home is farther away from your child’s friends, encourage them to keep in touch as often as possible, whether that’s regular video chats or weekly play dates.
  • Additionally, helping your child make friends in their new neighborhood or school can help them to feel less alone as well. Consider extracurricular activities or neighborhood family events.
  • Model positive behavior. While staying patient and respectful of your child’s feelings, let them see you keeping an open mind about the new house and new neighborhood, and bring them with you on walks or errands around town. If your child sees that you are feeling positive about the move, they will feel more confident about it as well.
  • Ask your child’s preschool teacher for assistance, whether or not they have changed schools. Their teacher can offer useful advice on how children can better handle a new move, and will know some local resources that may help.

Adjusting to a new move is difficult for a child, but with these tips, you can help to make the transition easier. See your pediatrician if things such as tantrums, trouble sleeping, or changes in appetite last longer than a few months, or are disruptive to your child’s daily life.