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They say that the only constant in life is change, but try explaining that to an eight-year-old.
In the midst of the pandemic, moving to a new city with your family might feel more intimidating than ever before. Moving with kids is already a challenge—how will you help your kids adjust to all the changes of relocation on top of social distancing, homeschooling, and mask mandates?
The challenges of moving with kids might be different than they were a year ago, but that doesn’t mean helping your kids cope with moving is impossible. In fact, once you know the things to consider when relocating with children, you’ll be able to tackle the extra challenge of moving during this time.
Communication is key
When it comes to helping kids cope with moving, everyone needs time to process. Long before you pack your first box, talk about the big move with your kids. If they’ve never moved before, explain what a big move entails and describe the challenges they might expect during the process. Answer any questions they may have, and make sure they know you’re available if more come up. You know your kid best and know how much time they might need to gear up.
When your kids are in the loop on the overall moving process, they’ll feel more confident and comfortable with the idea of moving, even if they’re not thrilled with the idea. As they become more invested, you can problem-solve together when fears or problems arise, like deciding what old toys to get rid of while packing, or choosing new extracurricular activities once you arrive. They’ll be more invested in making it all go well—and more excited about building a life in a new city.
Find a kid-friendly spot
You’ve heard it before: location, location, location. You wouldn’t be moving to a new city if you didn’t have a good reason, like a job, family, or a desire for adventure. What can be appealing about this new city for your child? What will your kids need in their new neighborhood or home? When deciding on an area, neighborhood, and home, you can keep what might make them happy in mind. Does your potential apartment complex have a play area or a pool? Does the neighborhood have public transit? Is it walkable? Are there schools nearby? Taking time to factor in your kids’ need (and wants) while relocating will make the transition go even smoother.
Another thing to consider is whether you already have friends and family in your city of choice. Friends and family aren’t just a good reason to relocate—they’re a life hack for the big transition you’re about to make. From helping with the kids, to being there to unload boxes, to answering the questions you can’t Google, local relationships in your prospective city will make a big difference in your moving experience.
With coronavirus affecting our ability to congregate indoors, getting fresh air is more important than ever, especially for kids. While considering new cities, research nature preserves, parks, and greenways near where you’ll be living, as well as what school sports and extracurricular activities are available under the circumstances.
Staying active, getting sunshine, and spending time with family, as well as other kids, are key to helping kids cope with moving. COVID may force you to be more creative about it than you would have otherwise (socially distanced bike ride, anyone?), but it’s a worthwhile effort no matter how you slice it.
Manage stress proactively
Self-care may seem like extra hassle during stressful times, but this is when it’s most important. Continuing to do things for your own mental health, like therapy, meditation, and getting enough sleep, will help you manage your own stress, giving you more time and energy to support your child’s mental health, too. By taking time for yourself, this models for kids that they can do the same, even during a stressful time.
Don’t forget one one of the most important, yet simplest, ways of managing stress with a family: Being intentional about quality time with your kids. This doesn’t just mean playing, going to the park, or treating them. Quality time can also mean doing household chores, homework, and, yes, the nitty gritty of moving together. Packing and unpacking boxes and setting up your new home with your kids is a great way to bond and settle in at the same time. Even during social distancing, when a lot of us are spending more time with our families than ever before, intentional quality time creates opportunities for fun and connection.
Even with good stress management, it can be tough to stay positive when the inevitable challenges of moving with kids out of state pop up. While it’s fine to let your kids in on some of the stressful parts of moving, burdening your child with your fears about finding employment or securing the perfect home isn’t going to help.
When you talk about the relocation with your child, be mindful of the good things, and try to focus on those. Are you moving to a bigger home, or a city with better weather? What things does your child have to look forward to at school and in their activities?
Research local guidance and how schools are responding
Depending on your new city and your kids’ ages, there may be different options for how their school year will look. Some schools are 100% virtual, while others are back to in-person school or have a hybrid model. Within a specific city or school district, there are different plans depending on each school’s individual needs. This is an important consideration for your kids as you transition and might have already informed your choice about where to move and what neighborhood to live in. This can also help you set realistic expectations with your child about what their school year will look like in their new city.
Get plugged into your new community
One of the hardest parts of relocating is having to leave close friends behind. In terms of impact, older kids and teens can tend to feel more isolated after moving somewhere new. Breaking into new friend groups can be difficult, especially during the teen years.
While COVID is limiting how much face-to-face interaction we can have with each other, there are options. Sign your kids up for extracurricular activities that can be done remotely or online, like pen pals and online classes and camps. Some cities are allowing limited outdoor activities for kids in small groups or with social distancing, and this can go a long way to helping them settle in.
And don’t forget about their older friendships. Set up virtual playdates with kids from your former city, or encourage them to have video chats and write letters.
Establish a new routine for your new home
A cross-country move plus the emotional chaos of COVID is enough to make normal priorities, like getting enough sleep and eating regular meals, go on the backburner. But these are important to maintaining physical and mental health, especially for children. Even if it’s different from your routine in your old city, it’s a crucial component of a kid-friendly home.
“Younger kids in general thrive with routine and predictability,” says Dr. Jamie Howard, director of the Stress and Resilience Program at Child Mind. While uprooting them—and you—makes a routine harder than usual, creating one and doing your best to stick to it will not only benefit your kids, but make it easier for them to settle into their new home.
Consider temporary housing
Many people relocating find it difficult to decide on a neighborhood or a place from afar. It’s difficult to get to know a neighborhood when you’ve only visited (or if you’ve never been there) and making several trips to a new city is difficult in normal times, more so during this pandemic.
Temporary housing can give you the peace of mind to move, knowing there’s a home waiting for you. Walk in, put down your bags, and you’re ready to start living. Then you can take your time scouting out different neighborhoods and finding the perfect permanent place.
With kids, this makes the transition easy, letting them settle in immediately, and transition gradually. They can be involved in choosing your permanent home and deciding on a neighborhood, something that will help them feel invested in the decision too.
We have a wide variety of homes at Zeus Living that are perfect for a transition, whether you want a flat in a neighborhood you want to check out, an apartment complex with lots of amenities, or a single-family home in the suburbs with a big yard. Kids love us (and parents do too)!