While exciting, moving marks a major event in any family’s life — and as such, it brings lots of challenges. In a move, both parents and children face inconveniences such as disrupted routines, new people and new places. It’s hard to leave the familiar and face so many unknowns, not to mention watch all your stuff get packed up by movers and hauled away.
For children, the impact of a move is about more than short-term discomfort; in some cases, moving can decrease social skills, ramp up emotional and/or behavioral issues, and make it hard to form friendships for years to come.
What can you as a family do to weather the transition well? It all comes down to careful consideration and planning. By thinking through the various stresses and fears common in a move, you can take steps to minimize the impact on everyone. Here’s a look at key factors to consider when relocating your household:
How Old Are Your Kids?
Emotionally speaking, the best time to relocate is when your kids are babies and toddlers. At age five and under, they’ll be less impacted by a change in community. Children between the ages of six and 10, on the other hand, tend to feel moves the most deeply — in some cases with effects that last for years and even into adulthood. Keep in mind, kids understand what’s happening and will often feel sad that they’re leaving friends and not having a say in where they’re going.
How Often Do You Move?
The more you move, the more disruption that occurs. Kids who move three or more times in their early childhood years tend to struggle the most. This can mean disruption of developmental milestones, less satisfying relationships, and feelings of sadness and dissatisfaction.
What Are Your Kids’ Personalities?
While moving challenges all kids, the nature of the struggle can vary. Introverts, for example, will be harder hit in a big relocation than extroverts. This could be because extroverts naturally have the social energy to re-make friends and form new connections wherever they go.
What’s the New Place Going to Be Like?
Your neighborhood has a big impact on your whole household. If you’re moving to a place with lower poverty levels, for example, that can end up being a long-term benefit for your children. Statistically speaking, kids from more affluent areas will be more likely to go to college and have higher earning potential as adults. They’ll also be less likely to be incarcerated, experience a teen pregnancy or deal with diabetes or extreme obesity. If your move is giving your kids the opportunity for better influences, weathering the short-term discomfort could pay off down the road.
Thinking ahead can go a long way in preparing you to help your family through a move. When you understand and empathize with what your kids are experiencing, you can have good conversations to process emotions, fears and questions together. Try to keep an open dialogue going as a household about what’s happening. Talk about solutions for problems such as meeting new people or finding new places to play.
Offer ways your children can have some agency in the transition, such as helping you pack their stuff and/or choosing a paint color for their new room. Likewise, try to keep any routines and familiarity you can even as you transition. Little steps such as always reading a story before bed or cooking Saturday morning pancakes can signal to your children that they are still safe and loved.
For more information about weathering a move as a family, take a look at the accompanying resource.
Author bio: Stan Caramalac is the founder and CEO of Move Central. He started the company because he truly believed that moving could be simple as long as it was done efficiently. He strives to help people make their moves smoother and less stressful. Caramalac and his team proudly serve San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles and the Bay Area.