“Is Charlie Coming with Us?” Preparing Young Children to Move to Your New Home

I remember a move when I was five where my dad gave my two cats away. My mom brought me to our new house (yay!) and the first thing I did was go looking for Saki and Vince. Simple tip: don’t give your kid’s pets away when you move. They won’t forget.

Stephanie and I recently moved our family and all of our stuff to a rental house to wait for our new home to be built. Because Brooks is now two and understands the concept of home, we talked quite a bit about making the two upcoming moves as easy as possible for her. Brooks and her Lego animals may have all cried (“because they want to go home”), but after two weeks her turtle told Brooks she was happy again because the summer house was “home now.” Since we’ll be moving again this winter, I hope this list of tips helps me to remember the process. I would love for you to share any good ideas (or horror stories) you may have in the comments section of this post.

1. When looking for a new home it can be helpful to tell your kids what you are doing. I’ve seen parents take their kids with them to every showing and others wait until they’re about to close. It usually depends on each family’s childcare situation. When taking kids with you, funny things can come up. One little boy wanted his parents to choose a certain home because it had really great toys. Another little boy got concerned that we weren’t taking his dog with us to look at houses. We realized that he thought we were going to stay at the house we found and the dog would therefore be left behind forever if we didn’t take her that day. It was fun listening to both sets of parents sort those out.

2. If possible, take your child to visit the new home a few days or weeks before you move. Most children can entertain themselves for an hour or more, running around empty rooms. An empty house can be quite novel to a little kid.

3. One client did a great job of focusing her son on imagining the swing they could hang from a tree at the new house. When they talked about the upcoming move, they always talked about the swing. It gave him something concrete to look forward to.

4. Name your current home and the new home something other than “home.” We started calling our rental house the “summer house” two weeks before our move. We wanted to help Brooks understand that this is a temporary move and we also wanted to be able to talk about the homes separately.

5. Our pediatrician recommended that we have Brooks participate in packing. It’s not like she really packed her room, but the experience of “packing” her favorite things helped reduce anxiety about favorite things being left behind.

6. We were lucky to have family keep our little love for a few days of the actual move. This helped us to move quickly, but seeing the moving trucks and actual move may have been helpful for her. I couldn’t see keeping up with her around dollies and towers of boxes, though.

7. The first room we unpacked was Brooks’s bedroom. We stayed up until 3 AM putting her dolls, toys, and books out so that when she arrived the next day her space looked familiar.

8. After unpacking her room, I tried to quickly unpack the rooms she would use every day. This still took longer than I would have liked. What Realtor schedules a move during the busiest season in the country’s hottest market? Anyway, eating breakfast at our table without boxes surrounding us helped it to feel more and more like home.

9. As much as you’re looking forward to your new house, your child may not want to leave their current situation. First moves can be really hard. Another way to help your child look forward to a new house is a housewarming party or playdate. We have had a few friends over to play in the front yard and see Brooks’s new room. It has helped her quite a bit. I’ve seen others have a housewarming party with close friends on their first day in a new house. It’s a way to show the child that your friends will still come to your new house and that they think the move is a good thing.

10. Last fall one of the cutest little girls wanted to know where Ms. Kate was when they moved in. I had been at the house every time she had seen it. It may be a good idea to let your kids know that your amazingly fun Realtor is not moving in with you.

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