Parenting Tips: Do I Have Childhood "Baggage" About Moving?

Hello Dr. Heather, My husband and I have a 6-year-old son, a 4-year-old daughter, and a baby due in early August. We are moving across the country about two weeks after I have the baby. My husband will be attending graduate school in our new city. We were settled here and I'm having a really hard time with this. The kids are, too, though not as much as me. My daughter threw a penny in the fountain the other day and said "I wish we didn't have to move." My son was really looking forward to starting first grade with his kindergarten friends, and he's quite upset from time to time, although not every day. Currently, we are still searching for a place to live there, and we have just sold our home here, which we all love, and so everything feels so unsettled.  I moved in the middle of second grade and still remember how traumatized I was by it, although my dad had lost his job, so there were some other difficulties going on in my family. I don't want to project my childhood onto them, in addition to the sadness I'm feeling now.

My question is, how do I make this transition go as smoothly as it can for them, and how much does my sadness about this situation transfer to them?


You can call me "Emily".

Dear "Emily",

Did you see my recent post about moving?  I'm getting lots of questions like that at this time of year.

I do understand your concerns; it's a big deal for me too; we moved several times in my childhood, and I am pretty sensitive about the issue. Uprooting your life is no small thing. The familiarity of your routine, the process of making new friends, adjusting to new jobs and schools; it's harder than most people realize. But for young kids, it's a lot easier.

It sounds to me like the challenge is going to be more for you, not the kids. Wow, Mama, you have your hands full! Moving 2 weeks post-baby? With 2 other little kids? Yowza! That's a huge job, physically and emotionally. And your past negative experience with moving is likely to haunt you, to some degree.

YES, your kids totally pick up on your emotional reaction to the move. You (and their Dad) are their main emotional signposts, at least until they get to about second grade. In order to get through this with as little stress as possible, you need to lean on your husband as well as anyone else you can; family? Friends? Clergy?  Don't hold back on asking for help.

Do you have any risk factors for postpartum depression? Please keep that in mind, especially in the 2-week-plus-postpartum period, when PPD is most likely to strike. That much change and stress -- moving and a new baby, with two little ones, a whole new city, as well as your own childhood history of the difficult all raises your risk for depression. Ask your husband to help monitor your mood as well. Make sure you hook up with an OB/GYN as soon as you get to your new city -- and make sure you go in for a checkup. There are lots of resources available online to help you find a counselor if you need one.

Try to look at it all as an adventure. Help the kids see how to handle change in a positive way. Look at this as an opportunity to have a "re-do" on your own negative childhood experience of moving. This is not the same thing as when you were a kid; this is not an unfortunate turn of events that you all have to live with. This is you and your hubby making a decision for the ultimate good of the family. You have a chance to do it again...but different. Better.

Good luck with everything and keep us posted!


Dr. Heather

The BabyShrink