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Moving with Kids

Saying Hello

Find ways for the children to claim ownership of their new surroundings. If you’re going to paint their new bedroom, give them some color choices. Let them help you decide how furniture should be placed and which pictures should go where. Let go of control for now. You can always move the chair to where you really want it another day. “Nesting” together will help your kids get comfortable.

Reestablish routines as quickly as possible. The place will feel more like home if the rhythms of family life go on as before.

Talk to their schools ahead of time to see what they usually do to welcome new kids. Let your kids know that you understand it’s tough to be the new kid but you have confidence in them. Have a conversation with them about what they think might help them feel confident the first day. They may not really need new jeans, for example. But if having a new pair of jeans lets a kid feel cool on that first day, it may be worth the price. If your child is in elementary school or younger, make time to go with your child the first day. Even better, go after school is out the day before. It will help your children and you get acclimated if there is time to explore the classroom and meet the teacher.

Help your kids ease into the social scene. Arrange a playdate on the playground with another parent as soon as you can. You may find that you get a friend out of it too. With older children, the most important thing they can do is join something — a sports team, the school band, Scouts, a church group — as soon as possible. This gives them an immediate group. Having an activity to focus on takes some of the pressure off meeting new kids and fitting in. Meeting other parents also will help you begin to know your new community.

Knowing the territory is a basic need of all creatures. We’re no different. Take time to explore your new surroundings. Take walks with the kids to familiarize them, and you, with the area immediately around your new home. Take them on a drive around town and point out landmarks. If there is a playground or special park, spend a little time there too.

Don’t forget that the move is a major change for your kids and they may react in unexpected and uncharacteristic ways. Some kids get irritable. Some seem to regress. The child who proudly gave up his pacifier or blanket 6 months ago now cries for them. The kid who was doing so well in first grade before now seems stuck. The third grader who couldn’t wait to leave in the morning now lingers with you and has “stomachaches.” Some older kids seem to do fine in the initial months after a move, then seemingly out of the blue, have a major meltdown. Make room for feelings. Take time to listen and to reassure and to help them solve their problems. Each kid’s adjustment will happen at his or her own pace. With support, reassurance, and practical help from you, they will do fine.

Don’t forget that the move is a major change for you as well. You may find that you feel disoriented or irritable or upset at unexpected times. This isn’t at all unusual. Give yourself permission to acknowledge your feelings and call a friend or talk with your partner. It’s fine to tell the kids every now and then that you miss a friend or you wish you could visit your old neighborhood. What’s important is that you then refocus the conversation to what you are doing to feel better. If you find after the first month or so that you are feeling stuck in a fairly consistent depressed or overly anxious mood, do consider getting some professional help as well. You are your children’s anchor. They need you to be a positive role model for managing change.

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Moving with Kids

Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.

Marie Hartwell-WalkerDr. Marie Hartwell-Walker is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. She writes regularly for Psych Central as well as Psych Central's Ask the Therapist feature. She is author of the insightful parenting e-book, Tending the Family Heart.

Check out her book, Unlocking the Secrets of Self-Esteem.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, M. (2018). Moving with Kids. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 31, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.