3 Tips to Help Your Kids Process a Move

The average family in America moves every 7 years. Some of course, move more often and others less. A move is a huge change for anyone involved and it is common to see behaviors arise in children before and after a move. Why?

Moving can be considered a loss for children. After all they are changing homes, schools, and moving away from friends.  There are different stages of grief they might experience that might be perceived as behavior problems. Stages of loss include shock, denial, sadness,bargaining, anger, and acceptance.

Be patient with your children, as they have a lot of uncertainty surrounding a move. Uncertainties include will they get to keep all of their prized belongings, where will their stuff go, who will be their new friends, where will they go to school… just to name a few.

Often times, kids do not get a say in the move. A move takes children out of their comfort zone. It is interesting  to see how children of different ages worry about different things.  A three-year-old might worry about where their stuffed animals will go and if they get to take their belongings? Older kids might worry about the surrounding social implications including their friends, school,  and teachers. We also have to remember that during a move, routines are changed, which can spike our kid’s anxiety.

Children feel like that they have no control and are left out, because quite frankly they are. From a practical standpoint, parents get baby sitters to watch their kids while they go out looking at houses.  Parents do this to be more productive and take the house hunting process more serious. After all, there is a bit that goes into buying a home. Home inspections, mortgage paperwork, getting title insurance, perils of escrow, loans, taxes the list goes on and on.

Cover page of Lily and Andrew Are Moving.

I had the privilege of talking to Julie Etter, author of Lily and Andrew Are Moving to get tips on how to help children with a move. Julie Etter is a Boston-area realtor and former middle school teacher. She knows first hand the excitement and anxiety children go though during the moving process.  In her words,  “I wrote the book [Lily and Andrew Are Moving] because there is nothing out there that breaks down the process for kids and tells them what to expect.”

Back cover of Lily and Andrew Are Moving.

3 Tips to Help Your Kids Process a Move

  1. Give your kids an input:  We as parents, forget to give our kids the option to give their opinions. This can be as simple as asking your kids, what is important to you in the new house? Often times kids can articulate very simple things that parents can create to make the move more comfortable for them.  Their responses can vary from getting to keep their bed, having a place for their favorite toys, or even where the swing set will go in the backyard.  If your kids are old enough, let your kids get rid of clutter in their own room and decide what to give away and keep. Of course, we can steer our kids in the right direction. Involve your kids in packing up their room. Lily and Andrew Are Moving has a great suggestion to use color stickers.  Kids can pick out their own color sticker to help organize their boxes of personal belongings. You can arrange to have their color sticker put on their bedroom door in the new house to make sure their belongings get to the right room.

    Using colored stickers helps give back a little control to your children in the move by getting them involved.
  2. Communicate and listen to your children: Open up a dialogue to discuss your child’s main concerns. Be simple and honest with your children. Let the children guide the discussions.  For example when you tell your kids that in the new house, you will have your own rooms. Pause and listen to what your kids have to say and take it as far as they take the conversation.  For example they might want to know what type of beds they will have. Address that concern and pause again.  Hit the key words and information that the kids are looking for. Try not to overwhelm your children with information they are not ready to process yet. Sometimes we as adults complicate things for them. Let them guide the dialogue, because what they are saying out loud is what they are worried and concerned about.  Bring everything out on the table and have open communication about it.
    •  Lily and Andrew Are Moving is a wonderful tool parents can use to open dialogue with children. At the bottom of pages, there are questions you can use to prompt the dialogue to help your children process their feelings with the move. The book also includes emotion stickers to help your children identify which emotion they feel when the questions are posed.  Help kids articulate their feelings and express them in healthy ways. Create the conversation to make moving a positive experience.

      The book is interactive in that it offers feeling stickers to help children identify how they feel about moving.
  3. Give kids time to dwell and process the move: Talk to your kids about what your plans and why. Maybe you are moving for a new job, or to have more room for your growing family.  Be open with your children and try your best to prepare your kids with the upcoming change. If your kids are going to have their own rooms, let them know so that they can process it. Once you find your new home, take your children to visit it and become acquainted with it.

I hope these tips help your family make your next move a positive experience.

More information on Lily and Andrew Are Moving:

  • The target audience of the book range from ages 3 to 8. You can use the stickers in the book as a security blanket.  The colored stickers can help children feel a sense of control with the move.
  • Julie Etter has stated, ” Much of the emotional journey for children in the moving process is akin to the stages identified by Kubler-Ross in the grieving process.”
  • It is suggested that this book be read several times and adapted to your family’s situation.

    Although we do not have scheduled an upcoming move, our kids know that we one day want to move into a bigger house to fit our family comfortably in. Through reading this book, Isabel brought up some of her concerns with moving in the future!

Who Can Benefit from this book?

  • Families who are planning a move, in the middle of a move, or have just moved.
  • Foster Parent As a former foster mom, I believe this book could be used to open dialogue with children in foster care who are transitioning back to their biological parents, from a group home to a foster home, or even from a foster placement to a new adoptive family. This children’s book is an excellent resource to help kids talk about feelings when it comes to a move and confirm those feelings. Children in foster care, have the short end of the stick and really do not get a lot of say or control in where they move. Reading this book together, can help children give a name to how they feel and give them a bit of control back!
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  1. Verla says:

    Wish I had this blog post to read years ago. It is packed with helpful information. I had not thought about asking for their input directly about what they would want most in a new house. It is easy to assume when we too are under pressure. Valuable info.

  2. Anitra says:

    Moving is difficult on adults, so it is even more difficult on children. This is great that there is a book that helps with the transition. Great post!

  3. Heidi says:

    This is so helpful for parents! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  4. ONEadventures says:

    Maybe I can figure out how to apply this to the elder parents that need to move closer to family. It’s hard for everyone, but even harder on those that have lived 45 years in the same home and have dementia. Thanks for posting. There is a transition process for everyone.

  5. LauraBelle says:

    These are great tips. We moved a lot, sometimes twice in a year and I think all your tips would be very useful.

  6. Deanna says:

    Letting kids be part of the moving process as much as possible seems important in obtaining a more positive transition. The book seems very helpful.

  7. Melissa says:

    I’m sure this can be hard, and these are great tips!

  8. This was a great idea for a blog post! We moved so much when our first child was born I think we lived in 7 places now that I count in 3 years! We were traveling for work but i think because of this our oldest loves to travel and is so great on the go with us! Happy to see that one of the biggest things we always tried to do was prepare them ahead of time and also def give them a chance for their own input! Great read thanks for the info!

    1. Melina says:

      Thank you! I received a lot of helpful tips from Julie Etter!

  9. Nicolette says:

    Yes, moving can be a big stressor at any age. It’s good to prepare our children as best we can.

  10. Maggie says:

    Thank heavens for this book! We moved every couple of years when I was growing up and I could have used it.

  11. Karen says:

    Moving can be tough at any age! Great suggestions!

  12. holisvf4 says:

    These are great tips. Input and communication are so important for all decisions and changes.

  13. Lakesha says:

    We’ve moved a lot since we had our son. I thought it would be rough on him but then my aunt to me that kids are so resilient and he would be okay. And, he has adjusted very well…

  14. Christy Wilson says:

    I would have loved a book like this when the kids were younger. We’ve moved a total of 7 times in the past 11 years (all in the same town so at least their school attendance and friendships didn’t change). It’s true that kids are resilient and as long as routines remain consistent and they are able to have a hand in each move it works out just fine. Your advice is spot-on!

  15. chbamey says:

    Great information and thoughtfully presented. Communication and consideration are so often the answers! Our kids have not been through a move, but these are great tips to remember.

  16. Monica says:

    Great tips! We are thinking about moving and worry how it will affect our kids. Our daughter is still young but is in school and has some friends. I could see it causing emotional stress in a few years. I think involving them in the process would help relieve some of those negative feelings.

  17. shanna says:

    I love the idea of helping your kids deal with a move. So often we expect kids to just “suck it up.” But it’s hard even for adults to do that! Thanks for this post.

  18. freespiritedsinglemom says:

    These are great tips! I have moved quite often with my kids as well. Whether it is just to a new home or new apartment, or even another state or country, it can be done!

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