“I’m worried about the kids.” It’s the first thing parents tell me when I talk to them before or after a move. I’ll tell you what I tell them. It’s going to be hard. There will be tears. Moving can be an exciting adventure, but moving also means leaving loved ones behind. It’s understandable that your child feels sad about moving. Allow her to feel that way. It’s just as important to mourn the loss as it is to look ahead to the good times in the future.
Recognize that Each Child Reacts to the Move in His Own Way
When Brooke’s parents broke the news about moving from Rochester, NY to Montreal, Canada, she reacted with joy. “Great! I’m outta here.” No, Brooke wasn’t miserable in Rochester. She loved living there and playing with her friends on the cul-de-sac every day. As Brooke remembers it now as an adult, she felt excited about the move and didn’t give much thought to the fact she would be moving away from her friends. Amazingly, Brooke still remains friends with the neighborhood kids decades later.
From the many families I’ve interviewed, this optimistic response isn’t the most common reaction to moving. Many kids burst into tears. Others calmly state, “Okay. You can move, but I’m not coming with you.” And many more slam doors and yell, “I hate you. You’ve ruined my life.”
Some children may go through all of these reactions at different times throughout the move. If there are multiple children in your family, the kids might feed off of each other’s emotions. You may also be surprised by which of your children has the most difficult time with the move. Whatever your child’s reaction may be, it’s natural. Give it time and allow your child to mourn the loss of your home, his friends, his school, and his activities.
Outline What Will Be the Same and What Will Be Different
What happens in a move is second nature to us as adults. We understand that we pack our things, put the items in a truck, and they’ll be waiting for us at our new home. Kids don’t play video games about moving. They don’t read books or watch TV shows that go through the logistics of moving. If this is your child’s first move, the process will be foreign to her. Your child may not understand that the family pet will be moving with you. These types of misunderstandings can lead to unnecessary worry.
Explain to your child what will stay the same and what will be different after the move. This will help your child make sense of things in a world that feels upside down right now. To make it visual, create a board that shows “Same” and “Different”. Draw pictures together or make lists. Try not to feel anxious about including differences or what may seem like the downsides of moving. Maybe your new place will be smaller because you are moving to a more expensive city or perhaps your child will be taking the bus to school for the first time. Your child wants to understand what is going on and it will help her feel prepared for the future.
Provide Extra Reassurance at Nighttime
Children handle emotions differently than adults do. As adults, we talk about having a good day or a bad day. Kids live more on a good minute or bad minute basis. I’m exaggerating slightly, but as parents we’ve all seen it. The hysterical cry over a fall on the playground quickly converts to squeals of joy when the ice cream truck pulls into the park. The lesson isn’t that you should give your child ice cream or a new puppy to make the tears go away. Instead, recognize that your child feels sad about moving even if he doesn’t always show it.
Your child’s feelings about the move will be most pronounced at nighttime. Be ready for the questions or tears at this time of day. Schedule twenty minutes with each child at night to provide extra snuggles or to read a story. If you can, try to do this for the first few weeks after a move. I know you have a lot going on right now with the new job and unpacking. Nevertheless, these nighttime gestures will go a long way in showing your child that everything is going to be okay.
Your Child Feels Sad Now, But The Future Is Bright
Parents in the midst of the moving process worry about their child’s feelings. When I talk to parents one year after the move, they all describe how the move increased their child’s confidence and self-esteem. In addition, the number of happy memories created in their new home soon outweighed the unhappy thoughts about the past. Because your child lived through a major upheaval and survived, she’ll know that she can conquer any challenge that comes her way. That’s an impressive life lesson to teach your child at any age.
Moving also creates special bonds between family members. Whenever we moved, my kids only had each other, so they would play together and look after one other. Gilbert Ian-Rueda moved as a child and he describes how this strengthened the bond with his sister even into adulthood, “I know what it’s like to move from your home to a new neighborhood where you don’t know anyone as a child. Luckily, I had my older sister with me, who’s always been by my side. She showed me that moving to a new place isn’t scary, because it’s a new start and you get to be whoever you want to be.”
The Kids Will Be All Right
Try to put your guilt aside. Your child will be fine. In fact, your child will be better than fine. In the meantime, it’s okay that your child feels sad. Be there for her, give her hugs, and be optimistic about the move. Also, ice cream never hurts.
Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your experiences about moving.
We move from one place to another; then we feel uncomfortable especially our children feel very sad. You’ve posted a great blog. Nice to read your blog. There are so many developers working on this part but, this is one of the best innovative post ever. Thanks for such post.
This article was good but I am getting a divorce. I have my kids half of time basically. I am planning to move about 30 min away and my children are already feeling the pressure. “It’s to far from our friends, school, mom says we don’t have to go because it’s to far and might be a dangerous neighborhood”. How do I deal with that. First off I work in the area kids school so getting them to school is not an issue. I also have great support near by which can help. I know they will make friends in the area I want to move. What are some good tips, advice??
Thank you. We had an award move without a lot of lead time thanks to Pandemic and other complications. “I hate it here” “Im running away” Dreams and nightmares about friends. MASSIVE GUILT no instant answers. Process. Article helped much!
I’m glad the article was helpful, Chloe. I hope things settle down for you now that the move is over. Stay safe.
I thought I might lend my perspective on the situation as a 29 year old whose family moved across the country when I was 16 from Ohio to California. Let me start by saying, it was very hard. But I look back now, and I’m glad it happened. Moving that far in the middle of high school was difficult. I’ve been prone to pretty bad anxiety my entire life, and I’ve always been an introvert. If you have kids like me, be on the lookout, especially when it comes to a new school. I had a pretty significant depressive reaction to the move, and I ended up in therapy and on medication (I still do both to this day). And honestly, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I had been experiencing difficulty with anxiety and depression before we moved, but it had gone undiagnosed. It was not possible to ignore after we moved. This galvanized my mother to actually take me to therapy and get help. In the thirteen years since then, I have made massive progress in my mental health and confidence that I know would not have happened if the move had not forced me to make my mental health a priority. I know mental health can be a very scary thing for parents, and mine had no experience previous to my difficulties. But for the love of god, take your child to therapy if they experience difficulty adjusting. I was always so worried before the move, and then I was forced to take a careful look at my mental health afterward. It made the transition to college immensely easier. I wasn’t as intimidated by having my life uprooted, and making new friends no longer felt impossible. The transition in high school was pretty tough, but it made me more resilient. I’m in law school now (see, it all turns out okay!), and honestly, the skills I learned while dealing with my transition in high school are still incredibly helpful to me, especially in difficult and stressful times. Basically, a move can be a really good thing for a child, but just make sure that you lend your child extra support and patience during and after a move, especially if they tend to be a little more on the anxious or introverted side.
I just found this blog based on a Google search of “Child still upset about move years later”.
This bolded line was, especially, a bummer. “When I talk to parents one year after the move, they all describe how the move increased their child’s confidence and self-esteem.”
You can change that “all described” part now to “most described”. My 6 year old still cries about our move nearly 2 years later at least twice a month. We’re looking to renew our lease in our new town, and are having guilt about it, as she still references her friends back in our old town more than the town we’ve lived in for two years. Your use of “all” makes me feel even more hopeless and isolated now. We’ve called out the hundreds of positives from the move, but 2 years later she still is bitter about it.
We just moved from Texas to Georgia six weeks ago, and our 11 year old is miserable. Throws up daily, but stays in school all day, and sleeps all night. It’s almost like he has morning sickness. It breaks my heart that he has said that he is lonely, but we can only suggest things to help him out of his funk. This is our third move in eight years and by far the toughest, mentally. Georgia is home base for us, but we moved out of here when he was three, and it really isn’t home base for him. I’m so worried about his mental health, but frustrated, too, (I keep that to myself), I’ve contacted his school counselor, but she assured me and him that his feelings are valid and that trying new things would help. I moved as a kid and remembered it being hard, but this is my baby and I’m feeling very heartbroken and totally lost for him. I just tell him to try to look for one good thing a day and that it’ll get easier. And to pray!
Hello, I myself am going through the same thing I recently moved to Oregon from Las Vegas and my son hates it he cries so much because his dad stayed behind and my daughter seems to be ok with the move but my son keeps saying he misses his dad and he cries and I get frustrated because he was exited at first and now that he’s out here he hates it.
His dad was not a good roll model and didn’t have a bright future going for the kids so I got a better job opportunity and decided to leave state with my kids and now I just feel horrible I get sad and depressed and I just don’t know what to do.
My father moved our family several times during our childhood and it was very traumatic to move away from loving relationships. Children are humans and not extensions of us and our needs. This article is a bit misleading because it does not interview the children. Children often don’t want to diassapoint their parents so many will not reveal their true feelings. Our parents might be the center of our universe but that is the case whether they are decent parents or not. Established friendships, grandparents, cousins and others are important parts of loving and nurturing social networks and when those are removed it is traumatic no mater how happy the parents are for the move. This is especially the situation when being raised by self absorbed parents.