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Tips for a Kid-Friendly Move

by Mary Leigh Howell

There's no denying it. Moving can cause a bit of trepidation in children — new neighborhoods, new friends, new schools. But with a little preparation, you can ease some of that concern and create an atmosphere that is much more about adventure than anxiety. 

When it comes to moving, Barbara Miller, an interior designer for children and busy mother of five, has got it down pat. Whether relocating her own brood of four boys and one girl, or helping other families make the transition from one home to the next, she's gained a lot of insight into what makes things go smoothly.

Do Your Homework Before the Move

Cross-town moves have their advantages when it comes to transitions. Spend as much time in the new area with your kids as possible. Find a new place for breakfast, check books out from the local library or visit the school your children will be attending. If it's summer, make the school playground a familiar destination. 

Subscribe to the school newsletter to find out about student activities. Enrolling your child for a sport or after-school class is one of the best ways for them to make new friends. Sign-up information should be available in both the school newsletter and parent organization communications.

Not sure where to go or what to look for? Miller says there's a fail-safe source of information. “Ask the school secretary what's popular. They know everything!”

If you're moving far away, do as much research as you can online. “Sign them up to start a camp, sports team or school as soon as possible,” says Miller. Make a map of the area with parks, ice cream shops, libraries and sports facilities. Then discover them with your kids once you arrive.

Moving Day

Moving day can be chaos. It's often best if a nearby friend or family member can keep your kids for part of the day, engaging them in a fun activity. Children sometimes want to remain at their old house for a while to say goodbye now that it's empty, but mom and dad can't be in charge of both kids and moving. 

Keep it light. If it's a difficult move for your kids, acknowledge their feelings, but remember,    they'll take their cues from you.

“You don’t want to ignore their feelings,” says Miller, “but try to inject some adventure into the day – a little bit of wonder about what could be coming next.”

And if you haven’t gotten to know the neighborhood just yet, you’ll want to make sure your digital cable and high-speed internet connection is scheduled in advance of your move, so you’ll have entertaining options available inside while you’re still hunting for the plates and cups.

Adjusting to a New Home

Planning a child's room in a new house is really dependent on the personality of the child.

“In general moving is stressful. I like to make the new room look and feel as much like the old room as possible,” says Miller. “You can even paint the walls the same color. Color is a strong sensory trigger and can either comfort or agitate children.”

Older children and teens may want to redecorate their room as part of the excitement of moving. Even in these instances Miller suggests that you keep some elements unchanged.

"How the bed is situated in relation to the bedside table, clock and light – things that would be routine  – should remain the same," says Miller. "It's these little things that no one thinks about until 10 p.m. when the child is in tears because they're tired and don’t know where to turn off the light."

In the new house, physically walk young children from their bed to yours and put night lights along the route. Show them where the cups are in the bathroom for water. Think about their basic needs first.

Meet the Neighbors

Host a small gathering about two weeks after you move in. "That gives you enough time to not be completely stressed out," says Miller, "but it's also too soon for neighbors to expect that everything is unpacked and perfected!"

Within two weeks your child will know a couple of children he or she would like to be friends with. Having a few of the kids over at the same time makes it a little less awkward for everyone. Give them moving boxes to play with and serve snacks on paper napkins. Keep it simple, fun and fairly short. Odds are your child will be invited to one of their homes to reciprocate soon after and you'll have started the ball rolling.

If your children are older, use the same tactic with a different activity, like laser tag. Kids just need an excuse to get together.

Mary Leigh Howell specializes in communications for the home, furnishings and garden industries.