Child Development: Moving to a New Home with Young Kids

One of the things I love about BabyShrink is the ability get to know some of my readers over time. Tim had questions last year about his son's distaste for haircuts. But I recently heard from him again, with questions about an impending move. Tim is clearly very tuned-in to his kids' developmental needs and seems like a great Dad! I was thrilled to get a couple of updates from him on how things went: Hi Dr. Heather,

I sent you a question last year:

Thanks to some of your suggestions (and, perhaps, the passage of time), he no longer fusses like he used to...although he doesn't necessarily look forward to haircuts.

A new issue that we are dealing with for both my son, now 4, and our 2-year old daughter is our impending move to a new town.

We currently live in a row home that is just around the corner from their daycare center and my place of employment. In three weeks, we are moving about fifteen miles away to a single-family home in a new town. From our perspective, this house offers the kids larger bedrooms (my son's room does not currently allow enough space for a twin bed), a play/family room, a park and playground right across the street, a bigger yard with room for a vegetable garden (something we did last year at our local park) and a short walk to their future elementary school.

Of course, we realize that none of this may matter initially as we turn their world upside down. We've been preparing the kids for months, our son especially, and he's only shown fleeting cues of this upsetting him. He has been acting out a bit more, but we can't tell if it's just part of his normal development or related to the move (or even picking up on our own stress over issues related to the move).

Luckily, they will continue to attend the same daycare, so a big portion of their days will offer a familiar routine. And, both do fairly well when we travel staying in unfamiliar environments or spending weekends with grandparents.

Any advice you can give on making this transition as smooth as possible would be great. Two specific questions I have:

1. The kids will spend a weekend with my mom while we do the bulk of packing and moving, but we plan on spending our final night together in the house. Any thoughts on something special we can do to give them some closure?

2. Should we immediately set up my son's new bed or allow him to keep his familiar toddler bed?

Thanks, Tim

Hi Tim!

Sounds like you have carefully thought through many of the issues. At the ages of your kids, moves can really be fairly simple. You may have a few days of adjustment, but overall, young children do pretty well with moves. They can't understand much in advance, but that's OK. They will base their reaction on YOUR reaction. They'll look to you as parents for how to handle this. If you are organized, confident and excited about the move (and understanding that they may have some reaction), they will likely pick up their cues from you.

In terms of "closure", stick with something simple. Waving "bye bye" to the new house, saying a few simple things like "thank you for being a wonderful house for us!" would be fine. Then really talk up the excitement of the new place.

In terms of the toddler bed, if you have the space, why not give him the choice and set up BOTH beds for awhile? Let him decide where to sleep each night. Some kids need transition time, but others are fine from night one. Experiment and see what works for him.

Did you catch this post from last year about moving? Check this out.

See if that helps, and let me know if you need some more suggestions.

Congrats on the new home!


Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Here's Tim's first update:

Dear Heather,

Thanks! And congratulations on the new baby!

I'm already feeling better about this. He took pictures of both our old and new house in to school today and seemed to enjoy showing his friends. After school he wanted to take more pictures of the old house "to make a scrapbook." We have some friends who live near the new house, but we don't get to see more than once or twice a year. I'm going to see if we can arrange a playdate so that the kids can see how close they will be. I'm thinking that will give them something else to look forward to.

And Tim's second update: Now that we've been in our new home for a week, I wanted to give you an update. Both my 4-year old son and 2-year old daughter have adjusted nicely, even after throwing in a vacation over Memorial Day weekend.

Before the move, we arranged a play date with some old friends who happen to be new neighbors. The kids had a great time, and Delton eagerly told everyone the next day when he was moving. We explained to Julia how we were packing things to move on a truck, and she kept saying "move" and "truck" over and over that week.

They were fine, other than a few tears the night before our move:

With lots of help from family and friends, we set up their rooms first. New linens and easy-to-reach bookshelves were a hit. And my son went with his new big bed right away.

One surprise awaited them at our new! We are on a corner lot, and both our neighbors have preschoolers who were very eager to meet and play. In fact, they seemed to get together in the adjoining backyards every night after work, and we were all to happy to help their new friendships along.

Now all we need to do is get those boxes unpacked!

Thanks again, Tim