Editor's note: This article was originally published on Brooke Romney's blog, Mom Explores Michigan. It has been republished here with permission.
Moving can be tough on adults, but it is really hard on kids. From the time my kids were in school, my moving worries have all centered on how they would adjust to a new place, if they would find friends and how we could ensure their happiness.
While getting comfortable takes some time and adjusting, these 13 tools have helped my kids transition to a new area relatively well and quickly.
1. Be positive
When you tell your kids about the move, try your best to emphasize the up side. Tell them about the cool things they will find in their new city, people they might know there, sports teams they can root for. Show them pictures of their new area and help them get excited about it.
2. Be honest
As our kids got older, it was important for them to understand WHY we were moving. When we moved for my husband to attend grad school, we talked about the importance of education and why we had chosen the University of Michigan. When we moved for an area change, we discussed how there were schools that we liked better in our new area and how we felt with more kids we needed more space indoors and outdoors. When we moved for a job, we talked about why the future job was better for our family than the current job. Kids can process more than we give them credit for and it feels so good when your family is united.
3. Be real
While most of my efforts during a move are concentrated on being positive, I also think it is important to show your kids that it is OK to be sad and miss people, places and friends. When we told our kids about our last move, I started excited and ended bawling. It is healthy for them to know that you can feel sad and excited at the same time. When my son was having a hard time making good friends after our last move, I commiserated with him and told him I understood, because I also felt like people were being really nice, but I didn't really have friends yet. There are going to be tough times, so it's OK to be sad together for a minute.
4. Start fresh
One of the best things about moving is getting the chance to reinvent yourself and start out in a new area as the person you would like to be. I always emphasize during a big move that my kids have the opportunity to go into their new school and neighborhood as anyone they want to be. If one child was known as the "grumpy kid" he can now be the "happy kid." If he used to be "the goof off" now he can be "the polite one." If he used to have a hard time keeping friends, now he can be the "good friend." In a way, it can be really fun to start fresh and magnify your good qualities while you work on those that aren't so great.
5. Get settled
The physical act of moving is one of my least favorite things, but the sooner you can get your house, and especially the kids' rooms put together, the smoother the transition seems to be.
6. Meet with the principal
This is CRUCIAL. If you know the school your kids will be going to, try to visit before your actual move so you can fill out all the paperwork and get registered, but most importantly, make an appointment with the principal. Take the opportunity, without your kids present, to ask for her help in easing this big transition. Tell the principal what type of learners your kids are, and be honest about their strengths and weaknesses. If you have them, bring your children's test scores and grades from their former school with you. Let the principal know the type of teacher your child has historically done well with. This step is so worth the extra few minutes in making the rest of the year easier!
7. Meet with or email the teacher
Once you know your child's teacher, take the opportunity to meet with or email him. Introduce yourself and your student and inform him about anything that embarrasses or worries your student and also what motivates your student. I would suggest you let the teacher know that your child is brand new to the area and knows very few people, so anything he can do to help is very much appreciated. My boys have all had teachers who helped them assimilate into the classroom well. They often helped them make friends and kept me up to date on how things were going. We were so grateful!
8. Visit your doctor
If you are moving states and your children are in school, be sure to get a list of the required immunizations in your new state and make sure yours are up to date. It was a huge hassle during our last move to find out we were short an immunization when we arrived. Because we had already received our yearly well check in our previous state, in order to get the one extra immunization, we were going to need to find a doctor, pay in full for an additional well check (not covered by insurance more than once per year) and also pay in full for the immunization. Such a pain! Check it all out before you go because they won't let your children stay in school without the shots or a signed waiver.
9. Keep all your paperwork together
You will be needing EVERYTHING when you move, so keep it all in a safe folder that is easily accessible. We needed proof of residency, social security cards, birth certificates, immunization records, and the names, addresses and phone numbers of former physicians and schools. Keep it all with you at all times!
10. Have a party
After a summer move to a neighboring city, I realized I had a Groupon for a bounce house party. So, before school started, my boys invited all the boys in their Sunday School classes to come to a party at the bounce house. It was an awesome way for them to make a few connections before the beginning of school. This can't always happen, but if it can, it's a fun way to get to know some of the kids in the area.
11. Host play dates
After a move, it is hard to want to have people over, but I've found that it is so helpful to have my boys' friends over as soon as possible. If a child is talking about a specific friend, we try and get their number and invite them over. Sometimes they come for pizza and a movie, other times is it just to come play outside after school for a bit, but it seems to help forge friendships. On the other hand, don't bother them about making friends ... check in but don't be incessant. They have enough pressure to make friends without feeling like they are failing you if they don't make friends.
12. Involve them right away
I think it is generally a mistake to let kids "ease into" a new spot. When we move it usually goes best if we just dive in. Right away my kids are part of the things they love. For us that is sports and music, so before we even arrive in our new hometown, they are signed up and ready to join a team and start music lessons. I have also found that people are usually willing to make room for a new kid in an extracurricular activity, so even if things look full, try. It is another great way to help kids feel a part of a new community.
Once we are in our new home, we like to really explore our new area as a family. We love being outdoors enjoying nature, so we will find great hikes, parks, rivers or lakes to enjoy. It has also been fun to follow the local high school or college sports teams and to keep up on cool festivals and town traditions we can take part in. Physically getting to know our area really helps it feel like home.
Brooke Romney is the author of Brooke Romney Writes, where she shares favorite travel destinations, great books, parenting ideas, food to eat and food for thought. She has a weakness for fall, sunshine, date night, nature, good reads, adventure, gummy candy and all things boy. After living in 5 states and 9 different cities, she now resides with her husband and 4 little men in Utah.