Moving can be a hard experience for kids, and moving in the middle of the school year is especially difficult. A new school, new friends, and a new home are all major changes for a child. Whether due to a new job, relationship, or other unforeseeable circumstance, moving may be a necessary change for your family. In fact, nearly 36 million people move every year in the U.S., and the average American will move more than 11 times in their life.
This situation is so common that Disney Pixar made the Academy Award-winning movie "Inside Out," which tells the story of a young girl's feelings after moving from Minnesota to San Francisco. You can't always choose when to relocate, and your children may have to transfer schools and make new friends, but usually not without a fight. However, you can do your best to create a smooth transition.
Here are 10 tips to make moving with kids as painless as possible:
1. Contact the new school ASAP
Call your child's new teacher before the first day your child will attend school. Military moms - experts at moving in the middle of the school year - say this is the first thing you should do to acclimate your kids to a new school environment. It will help your child "feel much more welcome if there is a desk, cubby, coat hook, and school supply box" ready for them when they arrive. Plan an early visit to the new school and classroom to ease your child's anxiety.
2. Keep a routine
Kids thrive on schedules, and they need consistency with so much change surrounding a move. While living among boxes during the moving process, do your best to keep up traditions like movie nights and family dinners. Maintain the same bedtime ritual, and serve meals and snacks at the same time as usual. In the chaos of packing, keep a favorite story, toy, or comfort item nearby.
3. Arrange a send-off
You want your child to get comfortable in their new home, but remember to celebrate the home you are leaving. It will hold a lot of memories for your child, and might be the only home they've ever known. Organize a party or get-together with your child's old friends so they can say goodbye. Exchange email addresses, mailing addresses, and phone numbers and take lots of pictures. Encourage your child to stay in contact with their old friends, and help them make a scrapbook to remember everyone.
4. Remember that one size doesn't fit all
A psychology professor at the University of Virginia found that introverts were adversely affected by a move, while extroverts "remained blissfully unmoved." Middle school students struggle more with moving because they are also going through puberty. If your family is moving due to a divorce, foreclosure, or job loss this may also negatively impact your child. Remember that moving will affect your children in complicated ways, and try to treat them accordingly.
5. Involve your child in house hunting
Include your child in the search for a new home. Invite them to tour new homes with you, if possible, or send them photos of the homes you're considering. Genuinely ask for their feedback and consider their opinions. Once you've picked the house, let your child make plans for their room. Let them choose paint swatches, and give them a small budget to decorate their space.
6. Maintain a good attitude
Your attitude can make a huge difference in a tough situation, so it's important you remain positive. When parents are upset and stressed over a move, children pick up on this and their attitude can rub off on them. Instead, focus on the excitement of a new adventure. There will be a new home, city, friends, and school. Encourage and focus on the new beginning.
7. Consider leaving your teen until summer
Moving mid-year can be social suicide for a teenager, and one psychologist suggests that parents should consider letting their older teenagers stay with a family member or trusted friend until the end of the school year. This may be a good option if your child is socially successful in their current school or near the end of their senior year, or if the new school demands drastically different graduation curriculum. This may not be right for your family, but it is worth considering.
8. Immerse yourself in the new school
One of the best ways to immerse your child in a new school environment is to involve yourself. Find a school calendar and attend events, volunteer in your child's classroom, and join the PTA. Try to arrive early at drop-off and pick-up every day so you have time to walk up to the school and spend a few minutes chatting with other parents. Getting to know and building trust with other parents is important, especially if your kids are in elementary school and you plan play dates.
9. Sign your kid up for local activities
Kids moving to a new school often struggle with their social lives more than academics. One of the fastest ways for a child to make friends is to encourage them to sign up for community activities with other kids their age. A club, sports team, after-school program or a church group are all great options. It will give your child something to focus on besides school and common ground to build friendships.
10. Play tourist in your new town
Learn to love where you live. Show your kids how cool your new hometown is by exploring it together and planning fun adventures. Consider visiting a museum, touring a farm, browsing a local store, or enjoying a park. Get ideas of local favorites through Yelp, guidebooks, and community event calendars. Familiarize yourself with local resources, like the public library and post office.
Though uprooting can be difficult, remember that kids are resilient beings who often adapt to change better than adults. Accept that there will be an adjustment period as you guide your child through one of the biggest changes they have faced.