How to Support Your Child When Your Family Moves
It can be an emotionally confusing time for a child when they have to say goodbye to their old home, the only one they may have ever known. You might even find yourself getting teary-eyed over saying goodbye to the kitchen you loved to cook in, the neighbors you thought of as your closest friends and the bedroom your child grew up in. It’s more than O.K. to have and process these feelings, and the good news is that you can make your move an abundantly positive experience for the whole family!
How to Make Saying Goodbye to Your Old House A Positive Experience!
1. Talk about your memories and feelings- the beautiful and the ugly!
Nothing relieves sad feelings like sharing them out loud with someone else and having a cathartic cry, so be a sounding board and safe haven for your child! You can help your child to process their feelings by asking them how they are feeling about the move.
It’s likely that by providing a safe and open dialogue between you two, they will share that they are feeling sad, anxious or worried about leaving their house and being in one that feels unfamiliar to them in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Help them process these feelings by equipping them with details about the moving process, the new house and the new neighborhood. Make sure to also share how you are feeling, good and bad! They will see that they’re not alone in feeling that way and that there are reasons to feel happy and excited to start anew in a nice home, too!
2. Ease their worries about “worst case scenario” thinking.”
If your child is feeling some pretty big emotions about leaving their old house or even old school, ask them what they think the worst thing that could happen would be. If you break it down with them and let them say their fears aloud, it’s likely that they’ll see how silly or unrealistic their worst fears really are.
For example, if your child is moving to a new school district and their worst fear is that they won’t be able to make any friends and end up all alone forever, you can help them see that this is an unrealistic fear. Try saying something like “I understand how you are feeling, adults can feel nervous about new situations like meeting new people, too. But this isn’t actually the first time you’re making new friends. When you went into kindergarten you didn’t know anyone and you met your two best friends. You didn’t know anyone when you started soccer and you’re close with your whole team. You hardly knew anyone in your class when you started first grade, too, and you ended up loving all of your classmates and your teacher. You have been able to make new friends every time, so you will be able to again!”
By letting your child put their big fears out in the open, a heavy weight will be lifted off their shoulders. Sometimes all we need to do is share our fears out loud with someone to hear how silly they really are!
3. Take fun pictures around the house for happy memories.
If your child is having a hard time leaving your old house because of its familiarity and all of the good memories your family has made there together, what a blessing that is! Help reassure your child that those memories will never be forgotten by compiling old photographs from memories made in your house into a photo album, and take new ones, too!
Part of the grieving process (yes, you can grieve about an old home) is acceptance- facing the reality that you will be leaving your old home for a new one. Of course it is normal for your child to grieve this move, but you can turn those sad tears into happy ones!
Make lasting happy memories in your old home by taking silly pictures around the house, recreating old memories that took place in certain rooms, or casual photos of your children doing the things they loved most at your old house: cuddled up together reading in the reading nook, play wrestling in the basement, doing crazy jumps on the trampoline, telling jokes around the dinner table. Have fun with the photos and encourage your children to be as silly and creative as they please, and you’ll have funny photos and memories to look back on long after they’ve finished missing your old house!
4. Say “thank you” to inanimate objects.
Here is another way to laugh and keep a light and cheery mood of what can be an emotional experience: say a final farewell to inanimate objects or places around your home that you can’t take with you.
Have a wall in the basement that your child drew on when you didn’t have eyes on them for ten seconds? You could go to that wall together and say something like, “Thank you wall for keeping our house standing for so long and I’m sorry for drawing on you when I was little!” Do you have a backyard garden that your family worked hard together to build and cultivate? You can all go to it together and say “Thank you little garden for teaching us how to grow healthy fruits and vegetables to help our bodies grow big and strong!”
By consciously thanking parts of your old home for providing for you in ways you may have never taken the time to think about, you are actually acknowledging both the past you have had with them and accepting that they will not be in your future. This is a positive way for your child to feel ready to move on by expressing gratitude for everything they had while preparing to let go and move forward.
5. Create a memory box or scrapbook.
As a final way to say goodbye to your home, you can make a memory box or scrapbook to take with you to your new home. Put the fun photos you took around the house in it, their favorite flowers from the garden, a piece of rock from your back patio, anything the children want to keep to remind them of their old home!
How to Get Your Child Excited About Your New House!
It might be difficult to get your children on board with moving because they may be fixated on all of the old, familiar things about their old home that they will miss. One of the best ways to support them in your move is by helping them see all of the amazing things they will gain by moving to your new home!
1. Visit your new house before moving into it.
One of the most anxiety-provoking things for children (and adults) is the fear of the unknown. Your child may be thinking only about what they will lose by leaving their old home, instead of all of the wonderful possibilities a new home brings- a bigger bedroom, a new backyard to explore, new neighbors to become best friends with and new nearby parks to spend the summer days!
You can start to help your child see all of these beautiful possibilities by taking them to the new house before the big move. This way their mind won’t fill in the blanks as to what the house will be like with negative thoughts, but they can see the house for what it is- their new home!
2. Explore the neighborhood (and new school if your child is transferring schools).
It can be overwhelming for a child to live in a new, unfamiliar neighborhood, and even more overwhelming if they will be attending a new school. You can start out by asking your child what concerns they have about living in a new place, what they think their teacher and classmates will be like, what they’re most excited about and what they’re most worried about.
After gauging their feelings and level of apprehension, you can enthusiastically give them a tour of their new neighborhood or new school. Make honest observations about what you like about it and help them see all of the fun experiences they could have there. If it’s just a new neighborhood, you could take them to a local water park and out for ice cream for a day of summer fun. If it’s a new school, you can introduce them to their new teacher or principal so they will see a friendly face on their first day. Walk them through the halls and to their classroom so that you are setting them up to feel successful on their first day!
After exploring their new neighborhood or school, ask them the same questions to gauge whether they feel better after seeing their new environment. Chances are, they will!
3. Help your child visualize what their new life will look like.
Visualization can be one of the most effective ways to help your child! Discuss what their daily routine will look like in your new home, what their bedroom can look like, how they will get to school, what the neighborhood looks like, etc. Be as descriptive as possible. This will help lower their anxiety by understanding what life in your new home will be like!
4. Meet the neighbors!
Although it’s custom for neighbors to bring a homemade dish to a family who is new to the neighborhood, why not beat them to it with a neighborly gesture by introducing yourself to them?
If you take your child to see your new house prior to moving in, have your child get involved in making a homemade dish or baked goods to take to your next door neighbors. Not only will this surely brighten your soon-to-be neighbors’ day, but your child can also meet and become familiar with who they’ll be likely to see often. There might even be families with children around their age, which could be exciting for your child to look forward to!
5. Create a moving gift basket for your kids.
As a reward for your child being so brave and helpful with your move, or simply as a kind surprise, make your child a gift basket! This can also be helpful to you if you fill it with toys and activities to keep them safely occupied while you pack and unpack everything during your move. Think colored pencils and activity books, drawing pads, electronic toys, or anything that is both engaging and requires little or no clean up. It might also be a good idea to include snacks and drinks so that you can have some handy when everything is packed away. Your child will stay happy and busy during your hectic moving day. Making moving a little easier will make the transition a bit smoother.
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