Moving With Toddler’s Or Teens?

Boy with family packing to moveOur Abbitt Realty office is located in the very heart of Hampton, Virginia, where we serve all of Hampton Roads and the surrounding areas, we often have families transferring under Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders into and out of the area.

The information that follows is equally applicable to non-military families too though, so I thought it would be good to talk a little about the stress a move can put on younger family members.

Read on to find valuable tips on how to reduce and manage the special stresses you and your toddler or teen may experience before, during and after a move.

Moving house affects people differently and can even affect each of us differently depending on the catalyst for a move. You’d expect someone to be positive about their move say if it’s into their first home, their first home together or for other positive reasons like they’re welcoming a new family member.

On the other hand, it’s easy to understand a move could be trying and stressful if you’re down-sizing after a divorce or maybe leaving the home you raised your family in.

I’ve heard many times that the average family moves every 5-7 years. There are common influencing factors, some of which I’ve already mentioned but whatever the reasons for your move, it’s important to take time to look at how it will affect all members of your family and household.

How Long Has Your Child Lived Here?

For a child of 8 who’s spent his entire life so far (or at least as much of it as he can recall) living in the same home in the same neighborhood, with the same friends, attending the same schools, the home most likely represents the “anchor” or maybe even the “safe harbor” for most of his entire life experience to date.

Once you understand this, it’s much easier to see why moving house can be especially stressful and disruptive for children. But when parents take the time to talk through their children’s concerns, acknowledging and validating them thoughtfully, a lot of the stress and disruption can be avoided on both sides.

When you consider time spent living in a home relative to entire life span to date, it becomes a little easier to understand how a move may not always be viewed as a positive by all.

Children will typically have a completely different set of concerns than their parents and it can be very difficult for them when their routines are changed. More often than not, a move comes along with or as a result of other changes within the family. As we said above, your move may be dictated by a job reassignment, promotion or even a job loss, any of these can require a move to wherever the work and greater opportunity lies for you as an adult.

While parents may be happy with the reasons for the move, children often, at least in their minds, have much less to be happy about in regards to a move. This can be especially true for them if it’s a long distance move and they will have to change schools and face the challenges of making new friends, which can be especially challenging in the difficult teen years.

How & When To Announce Your Move

The time-frame involved in a move can often be very extended, you might think even protracted when you take into consideration that it extends past the actual moving date. For most of us it can reasonably be expected to affect them for about a year after they move into a new home before it becomes “their home”.

Probably the best advice I’ve ever heard is not to mention it too soon but to be absolutely sure your children hear the news from you first. It’s important they have an opportunity to express concerns and have your undivided attention focused on answering any worries they do have.

When you tell children should also be based on their age at the time. Teens tend to think of themselves as adult members of the family and there are benefits to indulging their perspective on that to ensure you don’t set yourselves and them up for more drama than is justified about a move.

Younger children and toddlers probably don’t need to be told until they ”have to know”, it could just introduce an element of worry for them that will stress you both out and that’s not going to be helpful either for you or the kids.

Make It Sound Marvelous!

When you do tell the family, it’s always good to share the move as a positive, arm yourself with plenty of information about the new location, schools, activities you’ll all be able to enjoy – swimming, fishing, hiking etc, weather (if that’s a positive – not much benefit in saying “Hey, guess what, we’re moving to Tornado Alley yay!”). If you can, have some brochures, photos or websites to show and help them appreciate the benefits of your new location and neighborhood.

Be truthful but positive about the move and your new home. If it’s appropriate, ask your agent to schedule a follow up viewing, so children can see the new home with you and maybe even choose their rooms.

If you’re buying a home remotely and it’s not possible for the whole family to see it first hand, ask your agent if there is a video tour of the home, or maybe even if you can video it yourself once your offer has been accepted. At the very least try to get some photos of each child’s new room and encourage them to help you start planning how they will set up their furniture and make the room their own.

Children will often still see negatives though, so it’s important to be prepared for their fears and concerns. They may lose friends they’ve known their entire life so far. They may have to separate from clubs, sports teams, or dance school, so be ready to help them see how a move does not have to mean the end of those relationships, just that how they interact may be a little different.

Younger children need to be reassured about the unknown too. Listen carefully, small children tend to be much more honest and forthright about their concerns and it’s important that you’re ready to respond thoughtfully. Be sure to explain that many familiar things will be making the move along with you. Very young children may be concerned that their toys or stuffed animals will get lost or stay behind at the old house so reassure them that will not happen then make sure it doesn’t!

Ask them about the move, what they may be concerned about but be sure to also ask what they are excited about – inferring there’s plenty to be excited about will help them embrace the positive aspects of a move too.

If they’re old enough, be sure to involve them in the entire process. Let them choose paint colors, window treatments or linens for their new room. Let them collect swatches (girls especially love this) of fabric and there are many online room layout tools but I’ve found teens especially love the one at Pottery Barn Teen – Room Planner (in fact I’ve even played with it myself it’s that much fun) great resources where they can even plan the layout of furniture for their new room.

If they’re older and will be leaving friends behind, try to make that as pleasant as possible. Plan a going-away party and let them help plan where, when, activities and invite their own guests. Take lots of pictures of the event and help or let them make a photo album or scrap book. If they’re old enough let them take photos of things in your town or neighborhood they want to be sure to remember.

Telling Teens and ‘Tweens

Teens who may be leaving long time besties or boy/girlfriends behind will require careful, coordinated planning and handling probably from both parents. Good communication between parents and the child will be essential for a successful result.

It’s probably good to be prepared for teens and ‘tweens to be even more stressed after the move than before. From your own perspective, you should expect it to take at a minimum a few weeks for the house to look like home, for your furniture to be exactly where you want it, for all the curtains and window treatments to be up and all the boxes to be unpacked and sent on their way to recycling.

If you move during the summer your kids may not know anyone until after school starts up again and it may be stressful for all until you settle into your new home. Just remember that you are probably better equipped to handle any or all of these stressors than your children are. They’ll need your help and especially your support before and after the move.

If you can, give them a long distance call allowance or set them up with a Skype account so they can talk or IM chat for free to stay in touch with old friends at least for a while until they settle in and make new friends. The dependence and attachment to old friends will most likely fizzle out once they fall into new patterns but the ability even just to complain to old friends can actually help with the transition.

Be sure to encourage them to get out of the house and experience what your new location has to offer. Plan outings and things to do that will result in positive photos and activities they’ve enjoyed that they can share with friends and family they’ve left behind.

If it’s age appropriate, have them look into making flyers to let new neighbors know they do babysitting, yard work or car washing. Once school starts or maybe even before if it’s an option, encourage them to participate in as many church, sports or club activities as possible.

If you want to fast track making new friends for both you and your children, throw a house warming party and invite all the other families on the block, if the weather is good it can easily be a casual back yard BBQ or even a pot luck.

If your children are having serious adjustment issues many churches have a youth pastor who can help, and school guidance counselors can be a great resource too. The main thing is not to let it slide and get help sooner rather than later.

Most important of all realize that time will help and as all the changes and differences become the “new normal”, new friends will become new best friends and the new house will become your new home.
With every holiday celebrated and every season that passes you’ll build new memories, it really can be an opportunity to create a new life exactly as you want it to be.

I hope you find this information helpful, if so please feel free to share it using the share buttons at the side, top or bottom of this post.

Whenever you’re ready to start the search for a new home, or even if you just have a question about buying a new home, I sincerely hope you’ll feel comfortable giving me a call at 757-723-3000 check out & like our Facebook Page or if you prefer email, contact me direct using the form below.

Sherry Martin
Abbitt Realty
Hampton VA 23666


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