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How to support your child through the stresses of moving

by Kate Burn

Moving house can be a stressful time for families, but one that is common and often cannot be avoided. Although there can be a great deal of excitement and anticipation associated with a house move, it can also be very unsettling for children involved. It’s important to make time to prepare your child for such a big change, even though it may seem like the to-do list is already endless.

Whether your move is to a different country or just down the road, your child or children will have a response to it and will need a space to process and to adjust. 

Just like with any other transition, it can be really helpful to involve your child in the process. Go to visit the new house/school/neighbourhood. Allow time to answer any questions or concerns they may have. Perhaps consider making a list of what is different about their new living environment and what stays the same. Of that list, which differences feel positive, and which ones come with feelings of anxiety or trepidation?

Involving your child will offer them a feeling of agency within something which is largely out of their control. Will they get a bedroom of their own? Can they have a say in how this is set out or decorated? Maybe an activity ahead of the move could be for them to design the layout of their new room; where will their current furniture fit? Are there any particular pictures they might want on their walls? 

Could this activity be taken even further? Could they make something (bunting, artwork, a sign for their door) to take to their new bedroom? Have they got any ideas for the family home as a whole? Where should the sofa go?

Helping them to see how their current life can adapt to fit into a new space will help them to see what the changes will look like. It could help them to reflect on what might be lost, what could stay the same and help them to visualise the opportunities that the future may hold.

The idea of things getting lost in the process of moving might be a very scary prospect for your child. They may be worried about practical things like losing their favourite teddy or their important clothes and possessions. They may also be worried on a more psychological scale about themselves becoming lost in the stressed minds of those around them – left behind and forgotten in the chaos. 

On a practical front, it can be useful to support your child to pack a bag of their valuables and essentials to take with them on moving day – ensuring that nothing of value is lost but also that nothing they will need on their first night is hidden in a box somewhere. 

Emotionally, the most helpful thing you can do for your child is make space to listen to their concerns. Show that you understand it is a worrying time for them. You can explain you have your own commitments in this busy time, to ensure the move goes smoothly, but assure them that their needs are just as important. Ensure that anyone taking care of your children on moving day is also prepped to be emotionally available to the needs of your child and that your child is aware of the process they are to expect on the day itself – a visual calendar can help with this.

Making the space for your child’s emotional journey in the moving process is time consuming but hugely beneficial to ensure that your new home can build into a secure and happy base from which they can thrive.

With thanks to ‘My New House’ by Tom Easton for the inspiration for this blog.

If you need emergency support right now or feel a crisis building please remember you are not alone. You can find more helpful resources below.
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