How to Help Your Child Cope With Moving Anxiety

silhouette of family on horizonIf you’ve decided on moving this year, you’re not alone. An estimated 1 in 5 Americans will move this year, amounting to over 45 million people moving their belongings from one domicile to another. If you’ve got children, moving adds another layer of complexity to the equation. A 2016 study in the American Journal of Pediatric Medicine showed that moving in childhood increased the likelihood of negative outcomes later in life. So, how can you avoid these outcomes? Children can go through range of emotions during a move. As a parent, it’s your job to get them through the process as unscathed as possible. Below, we’ve listed a few tips on how you can make them feel good about it.

1. Tell the Child They are Moving

A month before you move, sit down with your children and tell them that you’re making a move. Telling them at this point in the process gives kids enough time to adjust to the new situation, but is short enough so they won’t dwell on, and worry about, the changes ahead. Explain to them why you’re moving, where you’re moving to, when the move is going to happen, and what they can expect. Talk about the new school, the great features of the neighborhood you’re moving to, and the exciting adventure that moving is. You should also point out what things will stay the same—such as the things in your house and their room. This gives them a level of comfort in knowing that not everything will be different. You may want to help the kids to create a scrapbook of pictures from the old house as a way of keeping those memories alive for them.

If you can, bring the kids over to the new house. Help them to start imagining what their room will look like, where the bed will go, and where they can keep their toys. Take them around the neighborhood and point out significant features such as the nearest park and playground, paths they can ride their bike on, and shops they will like.  The frightening unknowns of a move will be lessened the sooner that they can become familiarized with their surroundings.

2. Allow for your Child to Have Mood Swings

boy looking worried chin on handsYou may find that one day your child is all gung-ho for the move, only to have them in a crying fit the next day, exclaiming that they don’t want to go. This is a normal reaction as kids continue to process what moving looks like to them. Your role as a parent is to allow these emotions and not diminish them. Stay positive with your comments and try not to compare your old home with your new one, but rather focus on the exciting aspects about the experience. If you’re moving away from family members such as grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins, reassure your family on the ways that you’ll still be in contact with these loved ones.

3. Simplify the Move for Toddlers

If your kids are of preschool age, you’ll want to keep the story fairly simple. You may want to find a good kids book that explains the process of moving, such as My Very Exciting, Sorta Scary, Big Move: A workbook for children moving to a new home by Lori Attanasio Woodring Ph.D, which helps walk kids through the entire process of moving.  Let them see you pack their special toys in a box and make sure they know you’re not throwing them away. You can even let them decorate their box with their name and artwork to make it more identifiable.

If you’re considering buying new furniture for their room, think about waiting until you’ve been in the house for a while. Arrange the child’s bed and nightstand in a similar place as their old room to provide an easier transition. On the moving day, if you have family helping you move, you might want to ask a family member your child trusts to accompany you and be the point person with them. This person can help them navigate what’s going on, while at the same time keeping them occupied with games and other distractions. This also allows you to focus on the details of your move.

4. Give School-Aged Kids Ownership of the Process

teen girlsMoving with kids that are in school presents its own challenges. Your elementary-, middle school-, or high school-age child has most likely developed friendships or even romantic relationships. For younger kids, get them involved in the process. Packing boxes, sorting items for donation, or even helping you take things to a storage unit, all help to give them ownership of the process. If the move is during the school year, try to make at least one visit to the new school ahead of your move. Allow your child to get familiarized with the layout and where their classroom will be.

For high schoolers, the decision of whether to stay at their current school or to finish out at a new school is a tough choice. If the move disrupts events such as prom or important tests, you may want to consider having them stay with a family friend until the end of the term or year. If you do decide to have the teen move with you, try to be as accommodating as possible if there are events that your teen wants to get back to school for, such as a dance or a big game. Make sure to take into consideration what classes your junior or senior needs in order to stay on track for graduation. Above all, it’s important for teens to understand that moving and the challenges faced by it are part of life and something to get used to.

5. Acclimate Pets Prior to the Move

Pets can also suffer from anxiety when moving to a new location. Prior to leaving your old home, get your pet used to its carrier by their placing toys or blanket in it. When arriving at your new home, keep your animal in a single room. Prior to letting them out, make sure there no open windows or openings that will let the pet get outside or trapped. If you kept the litterbox in the bathroom at the old house, do the same at the new one.

6. Maintain Your Routine

With all the changes that moving brings, your goal should be to maintain some of the same rituals that you did as part of your normal week. Things like dinnertime, or movie night that were part of the old routine, should continue as a way of bringing continuity to the situation.

7. Cultivate New Friendships

Part of a successful move is developing new bonds with neighbors, classmates and the community. Push yourself to be social by visiting your new neighbor’s homes and introducing yourselves. People are generally very accepting of this and will appreciate knowing who’ll they’ll be living next to. You’ll be able find out if they have potential play partners for your kids and you may pick up inside information related to the best/nearest markets, restaurants and routes to school or bus stop. At school, be sure to introduce yourself to other parents at drop-off or pick-up time. You may want to volunteer at school to give your child a little more comfort in knowing that you’ll be close by should they need you.

Moving is Part of Life

According to the American Community Survey (ACS), the average American will move 11.7 times in their lifetime, so guiding your children through the process now can give them the tools as adults to make successful moves themselves.

About the Author: Derek Hines

About the Author: Derek Hines

Digital Marketing Specialist

Derek is originally from the great state of Wisconsin (go Badgers), but is slowly becoming a Pacific Northwesterner. As part of the Digital Marketing team, he writes extensively on storage, moving and life for West Coast Self-Storage, based in Everett, Washington.