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Moving with kids? Here's how to make it the least stressful experience you can

  • Author: Barbara and Clair Ramsey
  • Updated: June 23, 2016
  • Published June 12, 2016

The end of school and the beginning of summer can be an exciting time for kids whose thoughts are of friends and free time. However more people move over the summer than any other time of the year. So when it is time to move, whether across town or across the country, the people we love the most – our children – may not share our enthusiasm.

Whether moving by choice or necessity, adults understand the reasons — a change in jobs, the need for more space, or the need to be closer to family. For children the reaction can be more emotional because most of their lives and memories are connected to their current friends and familiar surroundings. As the parent, even though you'll get wrapped up in the logistics of a move, you have the ability to influence whether this change will feel like the end of the world or the next great adventure to your kids.

It starts with your attitude, because children will pick up on your verbal and nonverbal cues. To ease the transition, information and communication are the key no matter your child's age. If they are unable to go with you to look at new homes, make an effort to take plenty of pictures (and use video chat) to show similarities and differences between the old and new. Don't forget places of importance to them – schools, malls, favorite restaurants and theaters. If your children enjoy specific activities, remember to capture those as well.

If they go with you, be prepared for some restlessness and bad behavior, which may mask your child's anxiety. Take a proactive approach by having them take pictures to show their friends back home. The more you involve your children — by acquainting them with the new home, their bedrooms, the street and kids in the area — the more you may help lessen their anxiety and guide them through to acceptance.

Once you return, go through the same process with the old home by taking photos of everything from friends to favorite places. Let them create a time capsule or online photo album of little things that will remind them of their old home.  That way after the move, the familiar won't seem so far away.

For teens, moving can be an earth-shattering event.  Having to fit into a new group of friends, at an age when peer pressure and acceptance are extremely important, can be overwhelming. Let the internet and social media help by working in both directions – as a way to explore a new town from the comfort of their old home and to help make old friends not seem so far away.

If you are flying out and your family is a combination of two- or four-legged members or even feathered ones, check early about any possible flying restrictions. Some airlines do not allow certain breeds in cargo, limit the number of pets per flight or have other restrictions.  If you are forced or choose to drive, think of it as another family bonding experience and make the transition an adventure.

Perhaps the kids can be involved in planning the route or some of the sightseeing along the way. This will require more planning and family involvement, but allowing them to take part can have positive payoffs. Helping navigate along the way with an old fashion map or plugging in the next stop with the GPS will make them feel part of the process.

Even with the best intentions and no matter how much you keep your children involved, they may continue to grieve for old friends and familiar surroundings.  Be prepared for some crying, tantrums and bad behavior as they process the emotional upheaval they are experiencing.

Keep open the lines of communication, involve them in the process, allow them to express their feelings and return to a routine can help them work through their anxiety as they face new things ahead. With a little careful planning, and a couple of months of patience, you can help make the move a less traumatic event in your children's lives – and the start of a new adventure.

Barbara and Clair Ramsey are local associate brokers specializing in residential real estate. They can be reached at info@ramseyteam.com.

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