9 ways to prepare your preschooler for a move
My family is in the midst of preparing for a cross-country move. While we are very excited about this, we’ve also wanted to prepare our 3.5-year-old son, since kids can process a big move so much differently than adults. Here’s a list of things we’ve done that we hope will make the transition go more smoothly.
1. Talk about it. A lot. Rather than spring a huge change on your kid the morning the moving truck shows up, prepare your child early. For us, this has meant talking about our move for the past few months and working it into everyday conversation. We’ve talked about how our things will be packed up but will all be there in our new home, and how even though we are moving away we can still stay in touch with friends via phone calls and visits. Give your preschooler credit – they can understand the big picture to some degree!
2. Use books to help explain the process. I am a huge fan of using books to explain new concepts, and moving is no exception. Some favorites have been “The Berenstain Bear’s Moving Day” and Frank Asch’s “Goodbye House.” There are many other good ones out there too, and they serve as a great way to show how even though the characters may be sad at times, it all works out in the end.
3. If possible, show them pictures of your new home. If you can get some photos of your new house, this can be a great way to show your child exactly where they will be living. You can discuss ideas of how to set up their room, and get them excited about aspects of the new house that your current one may lack. If this isn’t possible, you can always use Google Maps Street View to show an exterior photo and the surrounding neighborhood. That way when you pull up, your child will already have some familiarity!
4. Make plans to explore your new neighborhood. Your child will likely feel sad over leaving their favorite park or museum, but you can lessen the blow by making plans to explore new places in your new neighborhood. Look online at some outings you plan to do as soon as you move in, whether it’s checking out the new library or getting a membership at the local children’s museum. This can be something concrete that your child can look forward to.
5. Maps. You may think preschoolers can’t really grasp the concepts of maps, but I‘ve experienced otherwise. I made up a map with our route outlined and with pictures of who we are seeing and where we are stopping along the way. My son can now say, “And in Colorado we get to see Uncle Brian!” While he probably doesn’t grasp the concept fully, it helps organize our route in his mind—and hopefully makes the trip go more smoothly!
6. Give them some control. At times, moving sucks for everyone, no matter your age. Understand that your child is going to feel some of the stress, especially as you start to pack up his or her things and they feel like they are losing control. Try to keep their corner of the world as untouched for as long as possible, and then when it’s time to pack include them in that. We’ve let our son “help” with packing by letting him color on the boxes so he can “label” them for us. It makes him feel important and included (and hopefully the movers don’t mind!).
7. Preserve some routine. As moving day gets closer, your routine will definitely start to change as your furniture is disassembled and you have to deal with last-minute tasks. Try to keep some sense of normalcy for your child, whether it’s regular mealtimes or continuing with favorite outings. The routine will help them feel more secure (and give you a break, too!).
8. Eat healthy. It’s tempting to just eat out when you are about to move. However, if your move is going to take a few weeks (as ours is, given the distance), you should try to eat as healthy as possible at home before you hit the road, where the options might be more limited. Some ways to make this easier on you include buying whole roasted chickens at the grocery store or making freezer meals ahead of time in disposable containers; that way cleanup is minimal afterward.
9. Let them be sad. It’s OK for your child to be sad when moving day comes. Rather than tell them to just be happy and try to change the subject, sometimes just letting them be sad for a bit and giving them some cuddles is all they need. Wouldn’t you want that, too?
What are some tips that have worked for you when preparing to move with a young child?