'We're Moving:' How To Tell The Kids
Advice to parents of young children.
Although we are still bundled up, we are only hours away from March 1, and this IS the beginning of the highly anticipated spring real estate market. Inventory is trickling in, storage pods are popping up in driveways all over town, and sellers are purging everything that they don’t want to pay to move.
The spring market is a popular time to move for many reasons. One of most common is moving children in time for a new school year. Whether it be a new town, a new school, or the same school — if you sell your house and buy anytime between March and July, you will move in time for the new school year.
For many parents of young children (younger than age 10), the process of selling, buying, and moving can take on a life of its own. Whether you are moving to or staying in Sudbury, or moving to Atlanta, there are ways to explain the moving process without driving straight to your therapist’s office:
- Do we tell the kids?
- What do we tell the kids? Is it OK for the kids to visit houses with us?
- Do we put a sign in front of the house?
- When do we show them the house we bought?
- What if they don’t like it?
- Should we let our kids have a say as to what we buy?
- How do we move without completely disrupting their world?
Each child is different, and each child deals with major life issues differently. There are some points of value that may be helpful for you when you are explaining the move. You know your children the best, and just like any advice offered it’s important to adapt the advice so that it works for your own children.
“Children ages 2-7 years are in the 'pre-operational' stage of development," says elementary school guidance counselor, children’s development expert (and my sister) Kimberly M. Daniels. "In this stage, children often believe that everything that exists, including toys, clothes, houses, etc, are just like them, and therefore everything has feelings and consciousness. Ask your child how they feel about moving. Some children may actually feel bad about leaving their room and house behind, as if their feelings might be hurt. It is important to reassure them that the house will be well-cared for by another family. There may be some fear that their toys and stuffed animals will be left behind or will be sad to leave. Make sure your children know that all of your belongings are moving with you and that their stuffed animals and special toys will love your new home! Most importantly, have an open discussion with your child. Answer any questions they may have to alleviate possible fear or anxiety around moving. You don't have to have all the answers. Just be sure to validate their feelings by reiterating what they are telling you and letting them know that you understand.”
I am fortunate to have worked with hundreds of families during the buying and selling process. It is very possible to do this peacefully, and without promising a puppy, or telling them that I am their Auntie Gabby and will be seeing them every weekend. From experience, and as a parent of young children, I offer the following tips to parents wondering how to tell their children they are moving:
- If correct, reiterate constantly that your family is moving together. This may seem logical to you, but it isn’t obvious to the kids.
- You don’t always have to tell the kids that you are leaving your house for an afternoon/evening because it is being shown to buyers – they don’t understand that concept. Go do something fun and focus on that.
- If you have sold your house and have not bought another house, do not tell your kids that you don’t know where you are going. They will imagine themselves homeless. Keep the conversation about not knowing where you are going to a minimum. They can hear you when you are on the phone.
- Let them know that almost everything in the house is going with you – make it fun, play guessing games and apply stickers on the items staying (stairs, doors, toilet) .
- Tell them how excited you are that you will find a new house that everyone will love and that you can decorate it and paint it with your favorite colors
- Give the kids a box (or two, three, four) to decorate and pack for themselves. They will be so excited to see that same box arrive at the new house.
- There are many reasons why people move – some because of a new job in a new city. This is stressful enough for the parents, and kids are smart – they can pick up on that, don’t add to it.
- If you bring the kids with you to look at houses, don’t ask the them their opinion of the house. If they don’t like the toys (or lack thereof) in the house, they wont like the house. They could care less about the appliances, counters, hardwood floors, layout, garage and yard.
- Your kids will talk. If you are moving because of financial reasons or divorce, or because your house seems too big or too small, it’s not important for your children to know this. They will go to school and tell their friends, who will tell their parents, who will then tell their friends, and by the end of the day, your personal business is now public knowledge.
- Never let them see you sweat – unless it’s while packing!
Moving is a new beginning. If you view it positively, it will become a positive experience for everyone involved – most importantly, your children.