How to Talk to Kids about Your Move

Telling kids “We’re moving,” is right up there on the list of difficult things to talk about. You say, “We’re moving,” and no matter how carefully you phrase it, they hear some variation on, “My home and friends are being taken away from me.” Here are some tips to ease their transition to a new home.

Tell them early. Even very young children will sense that something is different if you hold off telling them about a move. Rather than letting children worry about what’s going on, let them know as soon as the decision is made. Gather everyone together so you can tell them all at once, rather than one at a time. Most importantly, tell your kids before you inform relatives and non-family members. The last thing you want is your kids learning they’re moving across country from someone other than you.

Unless your family has regular family meetings, it’s best to pick an ordinary moment—after dinner, or Saturday morning. That way the idea of an unaccustomed family meeting won’t become an anxiety inducing thing on its own. And it’s best to tell them at home, rather than in public, so that they can react. 

What you say and how you say it really matters, so be positive. “We’re moving because I got a really great job offer” sounds much better than, “My company is moving my job.” It may be helpful to agree on what you’ll say in advance. Let them know as much as you can: Where you’ll be moving, when the move will take place, and why. If there are gaps in what you know, assure them you’ll let them know as soon you know. And let them know that the decision is final; conversely, if there’s only a chance you’re moving, wait until you know for sure.

Give them a reason to be excited about the move, even if they’re also upset. Talk about why the move will be beneficial for the family. Maybe you’ll be closer to grandparents, or you’ll be able to go to the beach more frequently. 

Let them be upset. Expect tears and slammed doors. Answer their questions honestly and positively. Acknowledge that yes, it is unfair that they have to leave their friends, but reassure them they’ll make new ones. And expect that they’ll use the move as a way to demand puppies, kittens or expensive toys. Remember that anything you promise them, you will need to deliver on, so don’t make promises just to stop a temper tantrum or a sulking fit.

As the move progresses, keep them up to date. Make it clear that you’re moving as a family, and keep all but the littlest kids (under five) involved in planning, packing, searching for a new house, and unpacking. Let them participate in planning the drive to your new state, and have them pick special things to do once you arrive. 

Most importantly, reassure their fears of a new school, and help them find ways to keep in touch with friends.  If you had an experience with moving as a child, share it with them, especially the happy bits of the story. The more you can make them feel that you’re looking out for them, the easier the move will be for all of you, and the more quickly your kids will settle in to their new lives.

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