Relocating can be a hugely exciting experience, bringing a mix of emotions for everyone involved. Yet, navigating the journey as a parent can be especially challenging, posing questions about how to tell your children about the move and how to cope with their changing emotions, as well as your own.
At Icon, we’ve been relocating families all around the world for over 20 years – and some of our staff have, themselves, relocated to a new country. Their wellbeing has always remained a priority to us. Although every family is different and children will undoubtedly react in their own unique way, we have put together some top tips for relocating with children based on our experiences.
When to tell your children that you’re relocating
Your children will need time to emotionally prepare and come to terms with the fact that they will be leaving their home and their friends. Aim to tell them about the move as far in advance as you can.
Be prepared for lots of questions. If, in the early stages, you don’t know key information like your exact destination or timeframes, it may be best to wait for a short time until you have a little more information. However, don’t feel that you need to wait so long so as to be prepared to answer everything. It’s okay to not be able to answer every question they might have. If this happens, reassure them that it’s a good question and that you’ll be finding out soon- but, when you do find out the answer, make sure you share it with them to show them you haven’t forgotten.
How to tell your children about relocating
Not knowing how best to tell their children the news is one of the biggest early concerns of relocating parents. There is no exact formula for how to tell them; every child is different and will react differently. Here are some key do’s and don’ts – but, remember, you know your child best.
- Explain the reasoning behind the move in a way that they’ll understand. If you’re moving for work, explain why you need to be in the new location and what you will be doing.
- Encourage them to express their feelings and listen to them.
- Focus on what they have to gain by moving. Do some research and find out anything you can about the destination that might interest them.
- Be positive, even if you don’t feel positive. Your initial attitude will hugely influence how they feel, so it’s vital to be outwardly positive and optimistic – but not so much that they feel their concerns aren’t being heard.
- Wait too long to tell them that they feel left out of the decision.
- Force them to talk if they don’t want to. They may just need to time to process.
- Tell them on, or just before, something they’ve been looking forward to (such as their birthday or a family holiday). This could ruin the experience for them and make them feel more negatively about the move.
- Tell lots of other people before telling them.
Involve them in the planning process
Feeling like an active participant in the relocation, rather than someone simply being brought along, can really help children feel positive about a move and also fosters a sense of ownership. Show them pictures of any houses you are looking at (even if you don’t bring them along for viewings), ask them their thoughts on key decisions you are making and listen to what they say. They might even make suggestions that you hadn’t thought of before.
Stay positive about the move
Relocating can be incredibly stressful. However, it is important to try to keep any conversations around negative aspects away from the children. If you’re struggling to secure a property, try not to let on – for them, you’re just waiting to find the perfect home! As hard as it can be, remaining positive around your children is so important to keep them feeling positive about the move, or to avoid fuelling any negative feelings they may already be having.
Think about where they’ll be on moving day
Parents often decide to keep children away from the house on moving day for health and safety, as well as purely practical, reasons. However, it can be beneficial for the child to be present so they can feel involved and see what’s happening. If they watch their house being packed up, it’s not so much of a shock to see it empty. This is a decision for you to make, but be sure to weigh up the pros and cons of both before deciding.
Be organised with your packing
Icon uses only the very best professionals who will pack up your belongings as efficiently as possible and communicate with you at all times. However, if you are packing by yourself, make sure that you are organised and know which boxes contain important items so you can stick to existing routines and keep as much the same as possible. Organisation is key to this, so you don’t have to hunt around for your children’s pyjamas or school supplies. You should also pack an essentials box (or multiple boxes) for things that need to unpacked first to allow you to stick to routines.
Pack a moving day bag
Pack a special bag for each child full of everything they might need on moving day. Moving is often chaotic, and having their favourite toys, snacks and entertainment accessible can offer a sense of familiarity and security. This also means that, when you reach your destination, they will have what’s important to them – they won’t have to go the first night without their favourite teddy bear because it’s packed away.
Help them stay in touch with their old friends
Although it is important for them to be making new friends, staying in touch with friends from home is reassuring and can help ease them in more gently. Helping them do this is especially important for younger children who don’t have smartphones. Arrange video calls or help them write a letter or email to their friends back home. Scheduling calls in advance can give them something to look forward to. Of course, try not to let them feel that they don’t need to make any new friends at all.
Throw a welcome party
Shortly after moving in to your new property, consider throwing a welcome party at your home. Invite all your neighbours and their children and make sure you have a few games to help the kids get to know each other. This will not only help your children, but it will also help you get to know your neighbours too.
Not all children will settle into their new surroundings straight away. It can take time. Encourage them regularly to share how they are feeling and help you to understand if there’s anything you can do to help them.
Relocating with children requires thoughtful planning, open communication, and, sometimes, a dash of creativity. By actively involving your children in the process, maintaining routines, and fostering connections in the new community, you can turn the relocation experience into a memorable adventure for the entire family. Try to embrace the journey, and if you need any further advice or support at any stage, speak to Icon.