Moving into a new house can be a stressful life event for the whole family, particularly young children who rely on predictability and find comfort in familiar routines. Other than talking to them about the move and including them in the decision-making process, what can you do to make the experience positive and as stress-free as possible?
Create a bridge
Ask your child to document the move by taking photos of the event from start to finish. Once you’ve moved into your new home, make a point of getting together specifically so you can all work on creating a photo album as a family. The album will serve as a bridge or a way for your children to connect their experiences before and after the move. According to author and social worker Cindy Jett, a bridge offers a sense of continuity between old and new worlds.
Alternatively, give your child a shoebox to fill with mementos from the old house. This can include anything light and portable that you aren’t required to leave behind, like rocks or pressed leaves and flowers from the yard.
Get the kids settled first
Unpack the kids’ rooms first. “The rest of the house may be in chaos and you may have to order take-out, but your child will have a calm, safe space surrounded by her familiar things, which goes a long way to helping her adjust and feel good about the move,” says Dr. Laura Markham, clinical psychologist.
Once the kids return to their usual routines, with their rooms unpacked and their schedules back to normal, they will begin to settle into the new home and start to feel more secure.
Decorate your new home together
Let your kids help you pick out the paint colors for their bedroom walls. Also, let them help you decorate communal spaces like the living room. Younger children can draw a picture of how they want to arrange their rooms, or even create artwork for you to display in the house.
“Many children do better with a move when they feel included in the process,” explains Family Therapist and Author Susan Stiffelman. “Let your children unpack books or organize the silverware. Having a job can help them feel less untethered, creating an anchor and sense of connection to their new environment,” she concludes.
Explore the neighborhood
Use the Pokémon Go craze, or an offline activity like a scavenger hunt, to explore the surrounding area. Pokemon Go’s augmented reality will allow you to visit real locations, including nearby landmarks, and familiarize yourself with your neighborhood.
Invite your neighbors and their kids to participate as well, making this into an opportunity to get to know your community and broaden your children’s social circle as well.
Teach your kids coping skills
According to Jett, it’s important to equip your child with the necessary tools and strategies for dealing with circumstances that are less than ideal. For example, if your child hates her new room, suggest a proactive approach to dealing with this, like redecorating the space or swapping rooms with a sibling.
“Teaching a child skills to be proactive can have a lifelong positive impact. Persons who feel they can positively impact their circumstances experience less anxiety and depression, and enjoy better physical health over the course of their lives,” adds Jett.
And while you’re at it, a lesson on how to socialize should help them when it comes to making friends in the neighborhood. Dr. Michele Borba suggests exercises like practicing conversation openers with your kids.
Don’t forget to schedule family time
Scheduling quality time and even individual check-ins with each child is highly recommended. Psychologist Dr. Kalman Heller states that experiencing anxiety or distress as a result of a major life change like moving into a new house is normal, adding that you should share this with your kids while comforting them.
Kalman adds that it’s also important to remember that the source of this stress is likely your child’s need to reaffirm her attachment to you, since this bond is integral to her security. So be sure to lavish your kids with attention, giving them a little extra to carry them through this transition.
Have you moved house with kids in tow? How did your little ones adjust to their new home?