Whether you’re moving across town, the state, or the country, relocation is often a big change for your family. But how you tell your child can make a big impact on how well they adapt to that change. Here are some tips for how to tell your child you’re moving.
1. Share the news with a positive twist
Your own attitude about the move rubs off on your child. While moving can be stressful for everyone, and you’re likely feeling some of that stress yourself, share the things you’re looking forward to and the parts you think they’ll be excited about, too.
Be clear about why you’re moving, such as a new job or more land to play on, but put a positive spin on the move to help frame how your child thinks about the change. Focus on aspects that your child will be excited about, such as a bedroom with a big window or a fun new way to get to school.
2. Explain what’s changing and what’s not
When kids feel in the know, they feel more secure and at peace. Kids also pick up on a lot from their parents, so it’s often best to be upfront and honest.
Share what’s staying the same: the whole family is going, your princess bed is coming, we’re keeping the trampoline. And explain what’s changing: a new teacher at a different school and a new street name.
3. Embrace their feelings
While being optimistic can help your child adjust to the idea of a move, make space for their feelings of sadness, anger, or confusion.
Show empathy through statements such as, “It’s OK to be sad. I’m here for you and we’ll work through this together.” and “This must be tough to change neighborhoods. I’ll miss some of my friends too.”
When kids feel heard and understood, they’re better equipped to process change. They also feel more comfortable and safe to come to you in the future with their emotions or struggles.
4. Show them the home
Visuals can help your child envision what life will look like. Make a plan to go see the new home or walk the neighborhood. If your new place is far away, show them a video tour, photos, or even an online map of the new location.
You can also explore photos of the town, school, local parks, or whatever makes your child feel more confident about the move. If possible, arrange for a Zoom call with your kid’s new teacher.
5. Explain the timeline
Let your child know when you’ll be packing up, moving, and settling into the new home. Share other details, such as when they’ll start in their new school or come back to visit their old friends.
6. Spend time with them
When kids get extra time with you, it can help them feel more secure and better able to cope with the upcoming change. While moving is usually a busy time, try to still make time for family meals, adventures, and reading books.
When you’re with your child, be on the lookout for any feelings they may be processing. Be there to listen and care for them during this transition time. You can also ask them how you can help, whether it’s arranging a playdate with a favorite friend or packing up their treasured stuffies.
7. Get extra support
Some stress, sadness, anger, and anxiety are typical responses to life changes. But if your child shows more serious signs such as depression, trouble sleeping, or withdrawal from things they normally love, consider seeing a child therapist, pediatrician, or school counselor. A professional can help your child cope in a healthy, resilient way.
- Cheryl Lock. “How to Help Kids Cope With Moving.” The New York Times. July 13, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/13/parenting/moving-tips-kids.html.
- Jennifer King Lindley. “An Age-by-Age Guide to Moving With Kids.” Parents. April 9, 2021. https://www.parents.com/parenting/money/buy-a-house/make-moving-easier-on-you-and-your-kids/.
- Ryan and Rachel Ehmke, Jamie Howard Ph.D. “Advice for Moving With Children.” September 14, 2021. https://childmind.org/article/advice-for-moving-with-children/.
- Sarah Rasmi, Ph.D. “Talking to Your Kids About Moving Away.” Psychology Today. April 9, 2019. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/bridging-the-gulf/201904/talking-your-kids-about-moving-away.