Easing the Way Home: Helping Kids Transition from House to House
A move can be a difficult adjustment for little ones. Local realtor and Main Line Parent Community member, Nicole Klein shares her experience and words of wisdom to help smooth the way.
Moving is stressful. Nobody looks forward to weeding through an entire household’s worth of belongings, wrapping every teeny breakable in bubble wrap, packing it all up, tripping over boxes, and trying to live life while undertaking the enormous project of a location change, only to reverse the process elsewhere. And all of that says nothing about the sometimes arduous, emotional, disappointing, but possibly exhilarating process of finding a new home and selling the one you live in. It’s a lot. So if we, adults, experience moving house as one of the top five highest stressors in life, how can we translate that into a happy, exciting, and peaceful experience for our children?
For kids, depending on age, the worries around moving are very different from ours. What about my friends? What is my room going to look like? Where will my toys go? Will I have to go to a different school? The idea of being uprooted from everything familiar, and just the thought of missing things, can be tough for kids to handle. On the other hand, children are notorious for getting easily caught up in the excitement of the New. Helping them say goodbye to the old place while embracing the next, not to mention living in limbo in between, can be a difficult balance.
Experienced Realtor Nicole Klein, herself a mother of two, has guided hundreds of families through the stages of buying, selling, and moving. She says that the key to easing the transition lies in keeping the current home as calm as possible, while involving kids in the process of moving enough to get them excited and give them ownership over the shift. For younger children, help understanding how moving works is the right place to start.
“For families with children six and under I bring a coloring book that talks about moving day,” says Nicole. “It helps them understand that all of their things will go with them to the next house.”
This kind of basic strategy invites your children into the action, and to look ahead with excitement. Here’s more:
For the home you’re leaving behind
- When preparing your current place for sale, most Realtors ask you to clean up and “stage,” making your home as appealing and neutral as possible to try to grab the interest of potential buyers. Nicole advises letting your kids’ rooms stay kids’ rooms, so they retain the comfort of their own space. For staging purposes, put favorite toys, especially those that tend to scatter everywhere, in an easily accessible box in the closet. Kids can pull out and play freely, and then tidy up quickly for showings.
- When it’s time to pack, let kids lend a hand, and label their own belongings. They’ll have a clear picture in their minds of where all of their treasures, books, and clothing are, and less anxiety about putting their rooms back together on the other end of the move.
- When vacations can be made to coincide with placing a home on the market, Nicole encourages it! This allows families to avoid that first big rush of buyers inspecting their home. And depending on the market, sometimes a house is snapped up during its first weekend for sale, so kids (and parents) are never disturbed by making themselves scarce during showings.
- To help kids understand that their memories come along with them to their new home, use your phone to walk around the house with them taking pictures or making a video. On the last night in the house, camp out, order pizza, and celebrate all of the exciting new things to come.
For the home you’re moving into
- When you start viewing potential new homes, Nicole says to bring your kids along so they can feel a part of the experience and begin to understand what a new home might look and feel like. Just make sure to frame each one as something you’re “trying on” like a pair of shoes so they don’t get unduly attached.
- When you find “the one” and the purchase is a sure thing, especially for older children, allow them input into paint colors in their room, and how their furniture will be arranged.
- If the location allows, take some field trips to your new neighborhood before the move and take the kids to restaurants you plan to frequent, playgrounds, and other hubs of family activity to get them familiar with their future environment.
- When summer precedes a move, trying a day camp that includes kids that live in the new neighborhood means your kids could have some built-in friends if they’ll be starting at a new school.
“I know a mom who promised her son he would have at least one friend before starting at his new school,” says Nicole. “She posted in the Main Line Parent Community Facebook page looking for a family in the new neighborhood to connect with. It worked! He was thrilled to have somebody familiar around when he started school.”
Above all, just being there for your children is the most important thing. Show them your understanding that, as much as you might be looking forward to just being in the new place and having the whole experience behind you, it may take some strategizing, encouragement, and conversation to help them along the way. Ultimately, they’ll assimilate to the change, and you’ll all move forward together in your new place.
“It’s hard for kids,” says Nicole, adding, “and adults. But once you get there, it all works out. Sometimes as parents we overthink things. Kids bounce back faster, kids adjust. Just be their support system and let them know everything’s going to be okay.”
This story was written by Karen Barbuscia in collaboration with Nicole Klein to support the Main Line Parent Community.