Moving With Kids: How to Talk About the Impending Change

Moving is a big deal no matter how old you are. But for children, this transition can be especially hard. That’s why talking with your kids about the upcoming move early and often is so important.

If you’re not sure what to say or you’re nervous about how your kids will respond to the news, it’s okay. This is a tough conversation for everyone! That’s why we created a short guide to help your family navigate this exciting yet challenging journey well.

So, if you’re moving with kids and you’re ready to talk to them about it, check out the tips, insights, and resources below.

Understand Where Your Child Is At

Every child is unique. Before you break the news about moving, it’s important to think about how you might tailor the conversation to fit your kids’ personalities and developmental stages.

For younger children, simplicity is key. Use age-appropriate language and focus on the positive aspects of the move, such as making new friends or discovering exciting places. Older kids may have more detailed questions and concerns, especially if they are moving to a new school or being uprooted from their existing peer group. Engage in honest discussions, address their concerns with empathy, and be open to hearing their perspective on the changes.

In addition to age, your children’s distinct personalities will also play a big role in how they respond to the news that your family is moving. Some children may take everything in stride and be focused on the excitement of living in a new city or having a bigger yard to play in. For other children, such a big change might trigger a full-on mutiny. Both reactions are perfectly normal. Just being aware of how your children might respond and taking some steps to prepare for that initial conversation can make navigating this transition easier for all involved.

Choose the Right Time and Place

When is the right time to talk to your kids about moving? The short answer: as early as possible. The sooner you can tell your kids the news, the more time they’ll have to process their emotions and anxieties.

In an article on advice for moving with children, Jamie Howard, PhD, trauma expert and clinical advisor to the Child Mind Institute, said, “It’s much easier to deal with something that’s expected than it is to be shocked and unprepared for a stressor.”

But you still want to be thoughtful about how you initiate the conversation and where you have it. Choose a time when everyone can sit down without distractions. Maybe that’s at the dinner table or around the fire pit in the backyard one evening. Some families even consider sharing the news during a weekend away. Intentionally carving out a quiet and calm space gives your children the opportunity to ask questions and process the news more positively, while also allowing you to address their concerns in a thoughtful manner. 

Be Honest, but Positive

While it’s essential to provide reassurance and comfort for your children during this time, it’s equally important to be transparent about the reasons behind the decision. Start by clearly explaining why your family is moving. Whether it’s a job opportunity, a desire for a change of scenery, or family considerations, sharing the rationale behind the move helps your children feel included and valued in the decision-making process.

When explaining your reasons for moving, consider framing the transition as an exciting opportunity for growth and new experiences.

  • “Mom got a new job that she’s really excited about. And she’ll be home with us earlier every day!”
  • “The city we’re moving to is sunny all year, and right by the beach!”
  • “We’ll be super close to grandma and grandpa, so you can play at their house every week.”

This can help your children start to see moving as less of a drag and more as an exciting new adventure for the whole family.

Involve Them in the Process

From kindergarteners to high schoolers, every kid wants to feel like their voice matters and that they’re being heard. Start by asking open-ended questions to gauge their understanding of the situation. Listen actively and empathetically, validating their feelings and reassuring them that their perspective is important.

Consider organizing family meetings or brainstorming sessions where everyone has the opportunity to contribute ideas and suggestions. This not only fosters a sense of ownership and empowerment but also strengthens the family bond during this transitional period.

You can also empower your children by involving them in decisions related to the move whenever possible. Invite them to participate in house-hunting expeditions or virtual tours, encouraging them to share their likes and dislikes. Allowing them to choose decor items or personal touches for their new space gives children a sense of control over their environment, which is crucial when so much is changing around them.

Address Their Concerns

There’s no right or wrong way for children to respond to the news that you’re moving. Some children may not know how to communicate their concerns. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry says, “Parents should be aware of the warning signs of depression, including changes in appetite, social withdrawal, a drop in grades, irritability, sleep disturbances or other dramatic changes in behavior or mood.”

Creating an open and non-judgmental environment is crucial for your children to express their apprehensions freely. If you notice any signs that your child might be distressed about the move, Initiate the discussion by letting them know that their feelings and concerns are valid. Listen attentively, without immediately jumping into problem-solving mode. Sometimes, all your children need is a listening ear to feel understood.

Prepare to Say Goodbye

Your old home played a foundational role in your kids’ lives and their sense of security. The thought of leaving all that behind can be really hard. As part of your conversation about moving, you might consider planning ahead for intentional ways to say goodbye to your old home and celebrate the memories your family created there. 

One idea is a family open mic night. Make some hot cocoa, pop some popcorn, and have everyone gather in a cozy spot. Then take turns going around the room and sharing any favorite or funny memories. Maybe the time dad got stuck in the tire swing in the backyard. Or when your kids built the world’s biggest fort in the basement. Giving space for these memories shows your kids you understand how important the old house is to them, and can encourage them that lots of fun memories will be made in your new house, too.

Another great way to help make saying goodbye a little easier is to order a custom portrait of your old house. (Here’s an example from Etsy.) You can frame your custom portrait and hang it in your new house to remind your kids of how grateful you are for the old home and what it meant to your family.

Additional Resources and Support

There’s no telling exactly how hard moving will be for your children. Don’t hesitate to ask your pediatrician or family doctor for a referral to a trusted child psychologist or therapist. They can help your child find healthy ways to navigate their emotions and anxieties while also equipping you with the skills to support your child well during this period of change.

It could also be helpful to meet with your child’s teachers and school counselors to discuss the upcoming move and explore ways to facilitate a smooth transition academically and socially. School counselors in particular can offer valuable support services like individual counseling sessions or group activities focused on coping skills and building resilience.

If you have younger kids and you’re looking for creative ways to help them understand and process the move, we recommend this list of picture books for children moving to a new home. Stories like these remind children that they’re not alone and help them discover new ways to respond to change.

Hopefully, some of these tips and resources help you feel more confident talking to your kids about moving. Even though the conversation may be difficult, it’s important to remember — and to remind them — that everything is going to be okay. You can do this! There might be some tears and trepidation at the beginning, but before long your kids will find their rhythm. And if there are bumps along the way, your family will be there to support each other.

If you’re preparing to move to the Pacific Northwest and you’re searching for your dream home or want more information about Pahlisch communities, reach out to one of our New Home Specialists today. And don’t forget to follow us on social media for more tips and updates (Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest).


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