Together with tips and checklists, this article has been written to help facilitate moving with preschoolers and younger children including:
- How to tell younger children about the move
- What reactions you can expect from them
- What can your child do to help and be actively involved
- Packing and moving day to-do lists
An earlier article, ‘’Moving with children’’ provides general advice on helping children cope with a move and helping them to adapt. Leaving behind familiar activities, places, and friends can create anxiety for the whole family – kids included. However, moving can also be exciting – for kids, it’s an opportunity to make new friends and maybe a chance to discover new parts of the country or the world.
Younger children may be the easiest to move, but your guidance is crucial. They will be curious about moving, and the concerns they may have will likely revolve around being left behind and getting lost. It is important that parents pay attention to those concerns and not treat them as trivial.
How to tell younger children about the move
1. Explain where and why you are moving
- Be clear and simple
- Use a story with words they can understand to explain the move – “Daddy got a promotion at work and we’re moving to where his new office will be”, or “Since your grandfather got sick, Grandma needs our help. We’re moving to be closer to them”, or also “We need a bigger house and we’ve found a place that has what we all need.”
2. Highlight benefits of moving that your kids can understand.
- Saying that that you are moving because the schools are better will not likely have much meaning to younger children.
- Telling your children that their new school will have more activities are reasons that your kids can comprehend and look forward to.
3. Use maps and pictures as illustration to make the move more concrete.
- Young children are usually visual
- Show them pictures and maps of where you will move to
- Use toy cars, trucks and planes to show them how you will travel
- Help children trace the distance and even plot out a route you might take when moving from here to there.
- If possible, have photographs of the community and your new home that your kids can appreciate.
4. Reassure them that their life will not change dramatically.
- Point out the things that you know will be basically the same in their new home and community, such as having a backyard to play in and going to school.
- Explain that pets and favorite toys or belongings will go with them. When you pack their toys in boxes, make sure to explain that they are not being thrown out.
- If there are lessons or other activities your kids enjoy now, assure them that you will find new instructors or similar programs for them in your new community.
What reactions you can expect from younger children
Moving to a new place can affect children’s behavior and emotions. Younger children need routine, so throughout the moving process, try to keep your child’s schedules and routine normal. Even as familiar surroundings change into boxes, starting breakfast with the same cereal in a favorite bowl and having the same bedtime rituals will help your children cope better than you might expect.
Younger kids in the family are likely to be the most eager members of the moving team. You will see more positive emotions and behavior associated with moving from younger kids. They will also look forward to the chance to assist you any way they can. Let your kids help by assigning tasks you know they can handle.
Even in their excitement, young children will feel sadness at leaving familiar people, places and activities. Keep note that the unknown increases anxiety. Sharing and reading children’s picture books about moving is a great way to prepare younger kids for what is ahead and voice the range of feelings they may have.
What can your younger child do to help and be actively involved
Below are suggestions as to how your younger child can be involved in the move. Print the list and give it to them to use as their own checklist.
√ Make a list of all your moving questions. What do you want to know about the new place to where you will be moving?
√ Create an Address Book. Who are your best friends, the ones you want to stay in touch with after you move? Make a list and get their phone number, home address, and e-mail address.
√ Say your Goodbyes. Who do you want to say goodbye to before you leave? Your neighbor? Your babysitter? Your dentist? Make a list of all the people you want to say bye to or give a farewell hug.
√ Make a last visit to your favorite places. Think of your favorite places (the park, the library or the ice cream shop). Make a list of the ones you want to visit one more time before you move. Talk to your parent(s) about when you can go.
√ Plan your new bedroom. Draw a picture for a really cool bedroom in your new home. Think about the colors you want, the decorations, where to put your bed and toys.
Packing and moving day to-do list for young children
The actual process of packing up and putting things away in boxes may be emotionally trying for younger children. They are not always able to understand the concept that what is being packed will be unpacked in the new home – all they see is that their favorite toys and belongings are disappearing. For this reason, try to pack their belongings as late in the moving schedule as possible, and reassure them that their belongings will be going to the new house.
If you have pets, remember that moving is tough on them too. For a young child who is attached to the family dog, cat or bird, the pet’s discomfort can heighten the child’s anxiety. Talk to and share with your young child how the family pet may react to lessen unhappy surprises.
A good way to keep your child involved is to provide them with the to-do list below and go over it with them. This list will give them a sense of purpose and ownership throughout the moving process.
√ Packing – Time! Time to Sort Your Stuff!
Moving is a good reason to get rid of things you do not want anymore – it also make room for new things you might get in the future!
Go through your toys and games and make three piles:
- Things you want to take to your new home
- Things to toss out (broken toys and games with missing pieces)
- Things you do not want but could be given away to other kids.
√ Mark Your Stuff as “Yours”!
Design your own personal “seal” for marking your boxes as YOUR property! As stuff is packed, draw your “seal” on the outside of each box. Be creative and use lots of colors and pictures!
√ Ask: “what else”!
Ask your parents what else can you do to help with all the sorting and packing that needs to be done. They will appreciate your help!
√ Get ready for your first night!
Your first night in your new home is very special. Be sure to have your favorite pajamas, blanket, stuffed toy, or your favorite book packed in your suitcase or backpack. You are in charge of transporting this piece to your new home and getting ready for your first night in your new home!
√ Pack a moving day bag
Do not forget to take some things to do on the plane or in the car, such as books, video games, action figures, or crayons and paper. You might also want to pack a snack and a drink in case you get hungry.
Check our article on ‘’Settling in advice for the whole family’’ for more ideas.