To Move or Not To Move (And What To Say To Your Kids)
You’ve answered my questions in the past with great advice. I’m hoping maybe you can help with this question as well.
I am a loyal reader of your blog and know that you and you husband are thinking about moving. I currently live in Southeastern PA, just north of Philadelphia with my husband and 2 kids (1 & 3.5 years old. We have been here for 4 years and have no family in the area and a limited support network of friends) but am originally from near Syracuse NY. I have just received a job offer that would allow us to move back to NY and live in the same city as my family (yay for a support system!). We are leaning heavily towards going . The job would start the first week in August which would give us just about one month to pack everything and move. We would probably live with my parents for a month or 2 before settling into our own house\apt.
So here come my questions. How do I go about telling my 3 year old and when? Will it be bad to live with my parents and then essentially move again in 2 months? Is that totally going to mess with the kids? How will you deal with it if/when you and your family move?
Looking forward to any advice you have you offer.
-Country road, take me home
I’m sorry this answer is coming so close to your target move date, so close it might render itself officially useless, since I imagine you’ve chosen a course of action by now. And are likely well into the moving process, if not through it completely.
But back when I first received your question I was at a complete loss on how to answer, because we were also flailing around in a “should we move? should we not?” limbo and were DEFINITELY not ready to bring the subject up with our kids. I had no advice to give, other then I think you should take the job, make the move, and let things shake out however they shake out.
Here’s what we did right, I THINK:
1) We reminded ourselves (over and over and over) that kids are resilient. Moving can be a stressful and scary thing, but families do it all the time, for a bajillion million reasons.
2) We avoided talking about the subject in front of the kids while it was still a “maybe” or a “what if.” There was no sense in them overhearing us talk about it in the abstract.
3) This is more applicable to kids older than yours, but once we more or less made up our minds about moving, we took the boys on a day trip to our potential new area and made it an extra positive experience. A DVD on the drive up! Hot dogs with fries for lunch! Playgrounds! Throwing rocks in a creek! Buying LEGO at a funky little toy store, then ice cream cones! They (naturally) were all, “AGAIN! AGAIN!” as soon as we got home. That’s the opening we used to introduce the idea of living there all the time.
Here’s what we did kind of wrong:
1) We had one talk with all three kids, mostly aimed at our 6 and 9 year old. Our newly-turned 4 year old, unfortunately, was not really following the conversation but gleaned just enough to get completely freaked out.
The older boys needed ALL the information. They wanted to understand the moving process and what exactly was going to happen every step of the way. From us getting our house ready to sell, to the stages of the sign in the yard (Coming Soon, For Sale, Under Contract, Sold) — they wanted all of that explained. Our little one did not need this overwhelming amount of detail, and couldn’t understand most of it. (Me describing an Open House = him thinking a whole bunch of scary strangers would come into his house, play with his toys, and NEVER LEAVE.)
We had a redo, though. and NOW I’m confident he understands what’s happening in a less scary way. So with your little ones, go easy. Don’t inundate them with a ton of information about what’s going to happen (especially since there are so many unknowns) and focus on what’s a constant: Mommy and Daddy love you and we’re all staying together.
Once we had a contract on our new house, I created a personalized book for him via TwigTale called “Ike is Moving.” TOTALLY recommend this! TOTALLY wish I’d known about this service for all the other Big Life Moments in their lives, like new babies and schools and potty training!
(Note that I used a promo code for a free book given to me by Isabel of Alpha Mom, not as any sort of sponsorship/ad deal, but just because she thought I might find it helpful for poor little Ike. There was no obligation to recommend or even mention it.)
I uploaded photos of us, our pets, our current house and his new one and tweaked the script of the book (which was written by a childhood development expert) just enough to be relevant to our family’s situation and his particular fears. It arrived super-quickly (whew!) and Ike was absolutely delighted by it. (He’s the star! There’s his room! There’s his new swing set at the new house!) It doesn’t shy away from the fact that moving involves a lot of “goodbyes” but is honest, upbeat and reassuring. I think a similar book would be GREAT for your 3 year old. Get your parents to send some photos of their house and them and incorporate that into the book.
(I’d leave out the part about moving AGAIN in a month or two for now. Again, toddlers and young preschoolers will get information overload. Do another book or your own photo scrapbook once you find a more permanent housing situation and present that then.)
A big move into temporary quarters isn’t ideal, but I certainly wouldn’t turn down a great job and a move back to a support system just because it’ll required a month or two of time with Grandma and Grandpa. Go back to Number 1: Kids are resilient. You’ll get through this. You’re just doing what’s best for your family in the long run, even though there might be some bumps and disruptions in the short term. (I’m guessing sleep with your younger one. With a baby the bumps and disruptions almost ALWAYS come down to sleep. It’s okay. It’ll work out, eventually.)
I don’t know how our move in a few weeks (OMG I SHOULD BE PACKING) will impact or “mess with” my kids. They are leaving behind good friends and great schools and lots of places/things they love about where we live now. We have every reason to believe they will have all of that in our new neighborhood as well, plus their own rooms, a big yard on a cul de sac, a swing set with three swings and a climbing wall, plus a really funky toy store that sells vintage LEGO Bionicle. We have assured all of them that while we know they’re excited and that makes us happy, it’s completely okay to also feel sad or nervous. They can talk to us about whatever they are feeling, and it won’t make US sad or mad. It also won’t change the reality of what’s happening, because I can’t change that. We’re making this move because it’s what’s best for ALL of us as a family, and we’re all in this together. We’ll make it through and things will shake out in the end.
(Also recommended: Pixar’s Inside Out. Probably more for you than them. Damn, did that movie nail the experience of moving away, and the dangers of not letting yourself feel what you feel, when you need to feel it? And not letting your children feel what they feel. Just be prepared to weep copiously.)
So I know we have a LOT of families who have done a LOT of moving/relocating with young children. Any addition (or contradictory) advice for Country Road here?
Published July 29, 2015. Last updated July 16, 2017.