Moving is one of life’s most stressful events, but for many families, it’s often unavoidable. Families with children typically chose the summer to make the transition, so that everything is in place for the school year. If you are planning a move, read on for strategies to help make a new house, a new neighborhood or a new town easier for your family.
Saying good-bye provides closure
1. Explain to your children why it’s necessary to move and the positives of your new destination.
2. Throw a farewell party to give you and your family an opportunity to officially say good-bye, exchange contact information and take pictures. Keep refreshments simple (think delivery pizza, or sandwiches and refreshments).
3. Help your kids say good-bye to close friends by hosting a slumber party. Have your child’s friends doodle and autograph a keepsake pillow case for your child with fabric markers.
4. Contact your physicians to find out the procedures for transferring medical records to a new doctor. Also, it doesn’t hurt to ask if they have any recommendations for medical care in your new community.
5. Ask each member of the family to choose a favorite location to visit before departure day. Whether it’s a park, zoo or local eatery, take a moment to honor the places your family enjoyed most.
6. Create a memory book for your kids. Include pictures of your children with their friends and on fun outings. Ask their friends, teachers, coaches and other people they’ll miss to sign it.
7. Use technology to stay in touch, including phone, Skype, a blog, email and/or text.
Begin a new chapter
8. Ask the movers to load your children’s rooms last so their things come off the truck first at your new home.
9. On the first night in your new house, organize a “Family Fun Night” with pizza and games to celebrate a new beginning together.
10. Unpack your children’s rooms first. Help ease any initial anxieties by surrounding them with their personal and familiar belongings.
11. Collaborate with your children on how they would like to decorate their new rooms.
12. With your lives in upheaval, return to the comfort of old routines and schedules as soon as possible.
13. Take breaks during unpacking to get outside and walk around your new neighborhood. Not only will exercise and fresh air help relieve stress, a walk will familiarize you and your children with your new surroundings.
14. Get outside on nice days. Chances are you’ll meet a few neighbors.
15. To minimize the stress of finding medical care at the last minute, gather recommendations immediately from co-workers, neighbors and families you meet.
16. If you are religious, join a place of worship.
17. Relocation stresses pets, too. For dogs, continue daily walks. For both dogs and cats, offer treats in their new home and provide a quiet place for them to retreat, like a crate or a favorite pillow. Also, update their collar identifications with your new address. For more tips on moving with pets, check out www.petswelcome.com.
Prepare your child for a new school
18. Before the first day, make an appointment for you and your child to tour his new school and meet his teacher.
19. Double check with the school to ensure you submitted all necessary paperwork.
20. Shop for required school supplies and go over the school day schedule with your child.
21. Discuss the logistics of getting to and from school. If your child walks (and depending on his age), tag along the first few days or practice the route together a few times and scout out a neighborhood group that walks together. Bus riders should know when and where the bus picks up and drops off. Car riders should only go with their designated driver and know the agreed-upon pick-up locations.
22. If possible, connect your child with other children her age before school starts. A few familiar faces can help ease the transition to a new school.
Integrate into your new community
23. Once you’re settled into your new home, invite the neighbors over for a meet-and-greet backyard barbecue.
24. Many churches and some schools hold newcomers events. Take advantage of these opportunities to connect with fellow parishioners and families.
25. Volunteer in your neighborhood, your child’s school/daycare, your church or other community organizations.
26. Fight isolation and depression by connecting with others. Many moms groups, including working moms groups, meet for play dates, community outings and mom’s nights out. Check with your library, your children’s preschool/daycare or online to find the parenting support networks in your area that fit your personality, needs and parenting philosophy. (If you are moving to the Bay Area, Bay Area Parent is a great source. There are three geographically-zone editions. Check out BayAreaParent.com.)
27. Devote at least one weekend day each month to explore and discover a new restaurant, museum, park or attraction in your area.
28. A transition can take at least six months. If your child isn’t adjusting well and exhibits signs of depression, consult your pediatrician. Signs include changes in appetite, social withdrawal, a drop in grades, irritability, sleep problems or changes in mood/behavior.
Raised in an Air Force family, freelance journalist, wife and mother of two Christa Melnyk Hines moves less frequently now, but will always be a bit of a nomad at heart.
Books for the Move
Alexander, Who’s Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move, by Judith Viorst (Antheneum, 1998)
The Moving Book: A Kids’ Survival Guide, by Gabriel Davis (First Books, 2008)
Moving With Kids: 25 Ways to Ease Your Family’s Transition to a New Home, by Lori Collins Burgan (Harvard Common Press, 2007)
We’re Moving, by Heather Maisner (Kingfisher, 2004)