Moving comes with its challenges, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. A new town, a new home and a fresh start. Kids can appreciate this too. It’s not all doom and gloom, even if they are leaving their friends and moving to unfamiliar terrain. Your child’s perception of moving has everything to do with your perception of moving.
Will your kids go their whole life with an aversion to moving? Or will they pull the positive from it and learn to look at the upside? Technically, it’s their choice, but there is a lot you can do to make moving more appealing to your little ones.
1. Make it an Adventure
You can easily make moving fun and adventurous. Kids already have an adventurous mindset, so it will already be easier for them to make it fun than it will be for you. Your kids may be excited and scared – curious, yet sad to leave family, but when you make it fun, their attitude will change.
Be sure to make it fun every step of the way. From packing to the move itself, to exploring a new area – there’s always fun to be had in a move. Look up your new town, or new area if you’re not leaving the city. Find some fun things to do before you get there. Show your kids pictures so they’ll be excited to see this new place. Try to replace their anxiety with excitement.
2. Keep as Much Routine as Possible
Once the move starts, everything will be out of whack. Routines are often the first things to go. Hold on to them. You likely already have morning rituals with your kids, nighttime routines, and other regularities. Keep as much of that as possible. Even the simple things – especially the simple things!
If you read to your kids each night, leave some books unpacked to keep the habit. If you have dinner together at the same time each night, stick with it. Kids don’t care if dinner means pizza and paper plates, they care more about the time you’re spending together. On second thought, I’m sure they prefer pizza and paper plates.
The more you can stick to how things normally are, the less change your kids will go through. Go out of your way to keep your kids’ schedule as unchanged as possible.
3. Sympathize With Your Kids
Keep the adventure aspect about moving, but acknowledge that moving is still hard. It’s hard on your kids, and it’s hard on you too. You’re leaving a life behind in some way or another, and your kids should know that it’s ok to be sad about that. We teach our kids not to feel sorry for themselves, and not to mope, but we also show them that their feelings are valid. Showing that you may also be sad to leave some of your friends can help your children see that this is a normal part of moving to another place.
Being strong for your children doesn’t mean putting up a stone wall. Your kids want to know that you’re human. Sometimes being strong means being willing to express your feelings, while also being able to deal with them. Moving is hard on everyone. Sympathize with them, and help them move on to start the adventure.
4. Use Moving to Minimize (Even With Kids)
Moving can be a great time to downsize. Get your kids involved with reducing and minimizing. Dump the unimportant things to make room for the more important things. It’s possible to be a minimalist with kids, but even if that’s not your goal, it’s always good to let go of some stuff. It’s good for everyone.
It seems like children naturally have a tendency to hold on to material possessions as a form of comfort, but that’s not the best habit to carry into adulthood. Moving is a great time to break your kids of materialism; it likes to creep in, and you have to face it head-on. I know it may seem like a difficult time for your children, and you want them to hold on to their things for comfort. I’m not saying you should throw out everything, but their comfort shouldn’t come from things.
They can hold on to their family and their relationships. They can hold on to memories. But holding on to material possessions can lead to a life of materialism, and moving is a great time to break that. It’s your call, as the parent, but I urge you to think about it.
5. Let Your Kids Help With the Move
A good way your kids can take their minds off the idea of leaving friends behind is to become active in the move. Let them help pack, and load, if it’s safe and practical.
They’re capable of making decisions as well. Give them a say in where the furniture goes. Of course, a five-year-old may not have the best sense of interior design, but he’ll be happy to give his input. Just the conversation of feeling like he had a say in where the couch went will be enough. It doesn’t mean you have to take all his advice.
At a minimum, kids can help set up their own room. It’s best to set up their room first to give them a feeling of being grounded – in the good sense, not the bad. Kids need more structure than adults. Your mattress can stay on the floor for a few days while you’re setting up your kid’s bedroom.
6. Prepare and Plan Ahead (But Not Too Ahead)
If you give yourself enough time to prepare for the move, it shouldn’t be stressful for anyone. You’ll want to wait as long as possible to start packing so that your kids’ lives aren’t stuck in a box for too long. But don’t wait too long either. The earlier you start preparing for the move, the easier it will be. You can do it in stages but save your kids’ rooms for last.
Try to keep your life in order until about three weeks out. At that point, start the adventure, and get the kids involved. It keeps their minds occupied because three weeks is a swift schedule. It’s also plenty of time to get it all done without being stressed.
You’ll have to find the timeline that works for you. It’s best to give yourself enough time to get it all done, but not so much that your kids think packing boxes are a part of your décor.
Moving is easier said than done. But it doesn’t have to lead to years of therapy, it’s more about your perspective. Moving can be fun and exciting and your kids can learn to hold the same perspective. Instill a love for travel, and a love for change, in your kids. It will help with their ability to pack up and move, but more importantly, with their resiliency.
Don’t just think of moving as something you have to “get through.” Take it as a teaching opportunity to show your kids how to be resilient. Model resiliency and they will learn a lot from you. Moving can teach us more than we think, and it can teach our kids all kinds of valuable life lessons.
Kalen Bruce is the founder of Freedom Sprout where he equips parents to raise money-smart kids. If we teach financial literacy to our kids now, we won’t be showing them how to dig their way out of debt later.