Moving can be a stressful and complicated process for the whole family. Whether your family has moved many times before or you’re facing your first big move, breaking the news to your kids can be a challenge. However, you can make it easier for yourself and your kids with open communication, confidence in your decision, and sensitivity to your family’s needs.
How to Prepare
Before you break difficult news to your kids, you should carefully choose a time and place where you know you’ll have their undivided attention. For younger children, find a comfortable spot away from toys and other distractions. For older ones, consider putting away all electronic devices.
Tell them as soon as possible, but only once the decision is final. They’re going to have a lot of questions and concerns, so:
- Don’t dismiss their questions or fears
- Reassure them that their feelings are valid
- Understand that they may feel scared, angry, or resentful. Be ready for an emotional response.
Prepare to support your children and guide them through their concerns. Help them manage their fears by providing as much detail as possible so that they know what to expect. They’ll need to know the where, when, why, and, perhaps most important of all, the hows.
The Where, When, Why and How
Your kids may feel like their lives are turning upside down—especially if they’ve never moved before. Give them with as much information as possible and find small ways to let them feel some control. Be sure to include the following:
- Where you’re moving
First, tell them where you’re going. Show younger children where your new city is on the map, and find landmarks and other cool spots near your soon-to-be new home. Even if you’re moving across town or to a new community, remember that to the younger ones, you may as well be moving across the globe.
- When you’re moving
Prepare kids for a move by giving them a clear timeline. Tell them what you know: if you know you need to be settled by a certain date, but you’re not sure when you’re leaving, it’s okay to tell them that. But keep them in the loop, so they have time to prepare.
- Why you’re moving
If you’re moving for work, explain why your company is relocating you, and why it’s important. If you’re moving for more complicated reasons, such as a divorce or to care for a relative, be as honest about the situation as you can. Knowing the reason for such a big change in their lives may help them to see why the move is necessary.
- What they should be excited about
Suggest a few reasons the move will be good for them. Are you moving near a major attraction, such as an amusement park or a sports team they love? A science museum or theatre? These attractions may get younger kids excited about the transition.
Middle and high school students will likely be more focused on what life will be like in their new schools. If you already know what schools they’ll attend, let them know. Highlight academic, social, and athletic opportunities that may interest them.
- How they can help
Let your kids get involved in the process. Give them opportunities to make decisions whenever possible, like the color of the paint in their bedrooms. Keeping kids involved can give them a sense of agency during these big life changes.
Give them a sense of purpose. When you break the news to them, assign them a task or a way to actively participate in the moving process. Put elementary-age kids in charge of packing their most valuable toys. Middle and high school students can handle more advanced tasks, like sorting through items for the donation box, packing up their rooms, and planning a going-away party.
- How they can stay in touch with friends
Technology makes staying in touch so much easier than it was when we were kids. Email and social media accounts provide a convenient way for your kids to stay in touch with their friends. If you’re moving within driving distance, reassure your kids that they can still visit their old friends once you’ve moved.
- How you’ll help them meet new friends when you get there
Talk to your kids about how you can help them connect in your new community. Facebook groups and community pages can be great resources for meeting your soon-to-be neighbors, or for learning about dance schools, sports programs, and other activities that your kids might enjoy. If you’re moving during the summer, consider enrolling your kids in a day camp where they can meet new friends before school starts.
Moving can be as stressful for your kids as it is for you. Be honest with them, reassure them that their feelings are valid, and be ready to support them as they say goodbye to their old life and start a new adventure.
Heather Hyllested is an Atlanta-based real estate agent with Owners.com, where the process of buying and selling your home is made simple. Her favorite part of the job is seeing the joy her clients experience when she helps them find their dream home. Prior to launching her real estate career, Heather raised two daughters, now 22 and 17.