Moving With Kids: 8 Ways to Make a New Home Work for the Entire Family
Moving with kids of any age can be challenging to all involved. Use these tips to ease the transition and make your new house a home.
Moving with kids of any age can be challenging to all involved. Use these tips to ease the transition and make your new house a home.
Moving is a major life event for anyone, filled with all kinds of emotions and challenges. But moving with kids? That takes it to a whole different level. And if you’re a single parent, you could be facing an even more colossal task.
Although moving with kids sounds incredibly stressful, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it can be a positive bonding experience for the entire family. Whether you’re buying a home as a single parent, traditional family, or multi-generational household, here’s a guide that can help you move with kids.
The challenges you may face when moving with kids depends on how old the children are.
If you have very young children, such as an infant or toddler, your main challenge will probably be getting everything done between feedings or play time. Toddlers can present particularly unique challenges to a move, as they’re curious about everything and you may worry about their safety if they’re keen to climb onto (or into) your moving boxes.
But if your children are at an age where they understand more about what’s happening, then here are some challenges you can expect.
Kids react differently to the prospect of moving, and you might see them express a range of emotions during the process. Some kids may feel excited and even giddy about the move. Others may feel like their world is changing, and they don’t have much control over those changes, causing them to feel sullen, sad, or even resentful.
As a parent, you might feel powerless or even guilty when seeing your child struggling with the move. But keeping the lines of communication open and letting them know they can share their feelings or fears with you can help them through it.
One way to help them might be to offer solutions to their fears. For instance, you can promise that they can invite their old friends to visit at the new house, or you might allow them to use social media in a supervised way to keep up their friends if you’re moving a long distance from your current home. You can also suggest ways for them to get involved in your new community, pointing out activities or recreational sports they might enjoy and which will help them make friends.
Seeing the positives, or recognizing that they don’t have to give up everything about their current life, may reassure them and help them imagine the good things they have to look forward to.
When children experience uncomfortable or unfamiliar emotions, behavioral changes are often not far behind. You may notice your children becoming more fussy, withdrawn, anxious, or clingy. They might be more prone to tantrums or defiance or to keeping to themselves when they used to express themselves freely.
If you notice concerning behavioral changes, it’s important to communicate with your children and maintain boundaries. Letting them know you acknowledge their feelings, but not allowing the behavioral changes to cause a rift in the family, could be important for setting the tone for the next chapter in your new home.
When you tell children they will be moving away from their friends and family and changing schools, it’s only natural for them to have questions and doubts. Their minds may wander to the worst-case scenario about their new life. They could have concerns about making new friends while staying connected to the place they are leaving.
It can be overwhelming when everything feels so uncertain. The good news is that, as a loving parent, you can keep conversations flowing so that your little one has a safe space to express themselves and fully process what is going on.
This one's for families with smaller kids. It might be more challenging to handle packing, transportation to the new destination, and unpacking if you’ve got young children. If they are young enough to need constant supervision, you might wonder when you can actually accomplish all of this on a reasonable schedule.
Though it won’t be the easiest thing you’ve ever done, it’s possible with some planning and creativity. If you have family or friends who live nearby or who can make the trip with you, they may be willing to give you a hand by babysitting or doing some of the unpacking while you tend to the kids. You can also create activity kits filled with coloring books, stickers, toys, and snacks to keep them busy for certain periods of time, during which you can get things done.
Related reading: How to Buy a Home as a Single Parent: Advice From People Who Have Been There
The best thing you can do for yourself, and your kids, is to plan for the move as early as possible. Anticipate potential problems, and give yourself and them plenty of time to get acclimated to the idea and to get comfortable with the new home.
Here are some tips on how to make moving with kids a little easier for everyone:
Ultimately, the decision about where to move will come down to the adults, since you need to make the best financial and logistical decision for your family. But getting the kids involved can get them more excited about moving.
If appropriate, bring them along for house hunting appointments. As you walk through potential homes, paint a mental picture of how your family could use the space.
Use conversation prompts such as, “Do you think this yard could fit a swing set?” or “Which room would you like?” Just asking questions and getting them thinking about living in the home can instill excitement and anticipation.
If it’s not possible to bring the kids along, you can still involve them in the move. Have frequent family meetings where you talk about neighborhoods, schools, and houses you are considering. Show them pictures of the houses you’re considering, or take a drive by some of them and discuss your observations.
You can even ask their input on whether there’s a special paint color they’d like for their new room or a new tradition they'd like to start in the new home. Give them ways to feel as though a new home is theirs before you even move in.
Even if your kids aren’t toddlers, little ones may lose interest in packing or may not understand what’s really happening as you box up your current home.
If you have friends or family who can help, create a schedule for when they can pick up the kids and take them out for a few hours or take them for an overnight stay so you have uninterrupted time to pack. Or consider hiring a babysitter for an afternoon or two so you can focus on high-priority moving tasks.
Make sure you have someone who can watch them while you are at your closing for your new home, as you’ll need to sign a lot of important documents and you don’t want to be distracted by the kids if they’re bored (and they probably will be – closings aren’t much fun for children).
If you aren’t in the position to hire a sitter, consider getting help from your older children. Recruit them to watch the younger kids or help with some packing tasks. Other age-appropriate tasks might include sorting old toys and clothes for drop off at a donation center, helping younger siblings do the same, or doing light cleaning tasks to get the house ready as you move out.
Timing your move can have as much impact on your kids as any other aspect. If your kids are in school, try to schedule the move during summer vacation. That will be less disruptive to their education and their routines, and they won’t have to start over in a new school in the middle of the school year.
Plus, if you move during the summer, they’ll have more time to acclimate to the new home before school begins and they’re the new kid in class. Spreading those changes out a bit may make them feel less overwhelming.
Moving is bound to bring up strong emotions, even if your kids are excited about their new house and school. Embrace that side of things, recommends Tammy Lanore, a loan officer with Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation in Meridian, Idaho (Fairway owns Home.com).
“Allow them to help pack their old room and embrace all of the once lost toys and pretend they are new again,” Lanore says. “Reminisce on the pictures being packed away and tell stories from what each of you remember from that day. Then, when you get to the new home, allow them to help design and organize their new room. Enjoy the process and create new memories and new adventures in your new home.”
“As a child of a United States Marine, I moved every other year as a child. While it is part of that life that everyone knows, it still isn’t always easy,” recalls Catt Fleetwood, a branch sales manager with Fairway in Wake Forest, N.C. “What my parents did for us growing up was to always make sure our rooms were set up first so we could be in our beds and have our toys.”
Creating a sense of familiarity in the new house can help your kids settle in more easily and really feel like it’s their home. That can help them realize they’re safe here and get them comfortable with the new property faster.
If you’re not on a time crunch, take the move slowly to ease your children into the transition. That’s what I did, and I highly recommend it, if that’s an option for you.
At the time, I had two small children under 5 and was tasked with cleaning out a home and renovating it. Taking our time with the move – we finished it all in about a year – allowed us to schedule childcare on the days we had to pack, clean, and handle renovations more easily than if we had tried to shorten our timeline.
Even if you have a firm timeline, start the process as early as you can. There’s nothing wrong with starting the packing process before you’ve chosen or closed on your new house.
You can begin by putting away things you don’t use as often, then pack more as your moving day approaches. If you know you’re going to move, giving yourself and your kids a long runway can reduce stress and give everyone more opportunity to share their feelings about the move and get on board with what’s happening.
I won’t sugarcoat it – moving with kids was a tremendous challenge, so much so that I almost declined the opportunity altogether. But because I saw it as a way to create wealth for our family, I pushed forward and, until this day, am very glad that I did.
So, take your time and stay the course, knowing the move will benefit your family in the long run.
In addition to hiring a professional moving company, you might also consider getting packing containers from companies such as PODS, U-Pack, or Zippy Shell to pack on your own schedule.
These containers can be placed outside of the home and filled as you get closer to your moving date. They’re designed to be space-saving while allowing you to complete your move at the pace that suits you. When you are done, the packing container company will pick up the unit and move it to your desired location.
That can reduce a lot of hassle, especially if you don’t plan to hire professional movers and are moving the kids to the new house on your own.
Keeping communication open among all family members will help make the moving process easier, but it’s also a chance to bond. This is a big step for your family, whether you’re moving just down the road or to a new town. Staying connected throughout will help your kids adjust and can strengthen your family ties.
There’s no avoiding it. Moving with kids will probably be tough. But you can set the tone for how they perceive the move by having a positive attitude, and that can make a big difference.
“We were brought up to look at every move as an adventure and an opportunity to meet new people and see new places,” Fleetwood says. “Even if you are just moving across town you can explore new parks and try new ice cream shops with your kids in your new neighborhood. Make it an adventure and your kids will, too.”
And remember your why. If this is the first home your family will own, or you’re a first-generation homeowner, you are setting yourselves up for financial growth and stability. Or if you’re moving for a job opportunity or lifestyle change, remind yourself that the growing pains will be worth it.
The best thing you can do is take heart and be confident that the motivation behind your move is giving your children the best opportunities and best life possible.
Talk with your child(ren) about their feelings regarding the move. When children are prompted regularly to talk about life changes, it can help stabilize their emotions while improving their coping ability. You can also address their fears by offering solutions or telling them all of the things they might enjoy or look forward to in the new home. With younger children, be sure to arrange childcare or help on days you know you’ll need to be packing, moving, or closing on your new home.
A move to a new home can cause distress, uncertainty, or other uncomfortable feelings for a child. If the child isn’t able to express those feelings, they might act out or become withdrawn, and it’s important to reassure them and provide as much stability and support as possible throughout the process. On the other hand, if the child is currently unhappy in the home, neighborhood, or school environment, a move can have a positive effect on them. They may feel happier, more secure, or more included in a new community.
If possible, engage them as early in the move as you can, even if you haven’t yet confirmed the details or found a house. Begin to have conversations about moving and invite their questions and feelings. When you start the packing and moving process, ask them to be part of it, and show them where you’re going to be living and things they may enjoy and benefit from there. Most importantly, make sure your child feels heard and understood throughout the process.
*Pre-approval is based on a preliminary review of credit information provided to Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation, which has not been reviewed by underwriting. If you have submitted verifying documentation, you have done so voluntarily. Final loan approval is subject to a full underwriting review of support documentation including, but not limited to, applicants’ creditworthiness, assets, income information, and a satisfactory appraisal.