It has long been said that moving home can be more stressful than redundancy, divorce and even bankruptcy. Throw kids into the mix and the whole process can seem overwhelming, with parents dealing with added anxiety about the effect the move will have on their children. Of course, planned and managed well, distress needn’t necessarily be the outcome.
So what can you do to reduce the stress of moving home on your little ones? We speak to the experts for their insight and advice:
Why is moving house stressful for a child?
Deciding to move house is a major upheaval for everyone involved. But while you will tend to be absorbed with the practicalities of the move, a child will instead focus on the losses that the move causes; for example the loss of a safe and familiar environment, leaving their friends behind, being exposed to their parent’s stress and feelings of loss of control and powerlessness over the decision and moving process.
TV personality Trisha Goddard, a family resolution and mental health expert, knows about this only too well. “Not only have I moved house with little ones, I’ve also moved them from one continent to another. We moved from Sydney, Australia, to the Norfolk countryside back in 1998, when my girls were eight and four.” she says.
Rachel Humphreys is a mum of two and a local estate agent for fixed-fee estate agent, YOPA, with over fifteen years of experience helping families move in the West Country. “I have moved house a lot,” says Rachel, “I relocated to Somerset when I met my husband five years ago. My biggest challenge at that time was making sure my son understood what was going on and getting him settled into a new school. He was eleven at the time so the experience was a bit traumatic for both of us.”
First things first, look after yourself
Trisha is quick to highlight the major impact a parent’s stress can have on their child during a move. “One thing you cannot afford to do is not take into account the potential impact moving will have on you,” says Trisha. “It’s listed as a major life stressor for good reason. Be kind to yourself and realise that sleepless nights and worry before and after a move is normal.”
“Accept all help offered: it’s not a slight on your organising capabilities. If folk offer to help, give them something concrete to do; a proper task that you can cross off your list. And if people are slow to offer help, damned well ask for it! If you get yourself into a state where you are overwhelmed and distressed, your kids will be the first to pick up on it.”
Rachel’s also noticed that many parents moving home struggle to ask those closest to them for help. “Call in as many favours as possible,” she says, “and get friends and family to babysit for you whenever you need a break.”
Preparing your children for the move
Trisha says discussing the move with your kids as early as possible will make things easier for everyone. “I found it invaluable to prepare my children for the move using books as a discussion point,” she says.
“What I realised afterwards was, that by using those books almost daily for several weeks leading up to our move, they actually helped me too. It made it okay for me to discuss worries like new friends and schools in a child-friendly way instead of bottling up all my worries and guilt… Parents always feel guilt at moving kids from their friends and home.”
Trisha also recommends visiting the new home as much as possible ahead of the move, both in person and online. “I would advise using good old Google street view for the whole family and explore your new area in advance that way too.”
Give them a sense of control
Feeling out of control of your own life can feel stressful for anyone – but this is especially true for children who can find it difficult to express how they feel. Estate agent Rachel recommends giving the kids a sense of control over the move by giving them some of their own responsibility.
“Get the kids involved by letting them choose colours for their new bedrooms and give them little jobs to do such as labelling and packing their own belongings,” she says. “Turn the packing into a game. By encouraging the children to help you rather than just trying to ignore them while you pack, they are more likely to stay out of mischief. You won’t get anything boxed too quickly though!”
Trisha agrees. “Getting your children to pack up and box their own possessions and mark the boxes gives them a sense of control in a situation that can seem like they’re being forced to leave what’s been the sanctuary of home for a significant amount of time,” she says.
On moving day
One thing is certain when you’re moving with children in tow: planning ahead will make the process a whole lot easier. “Get a few activities put to one side ready for child entertainment emergencies,” Rachel advises, “There’s nothing worse than bored children causing mayhem when you’re trying to get those last few boxes packed! And keep a box of snacks and drinks handy for moving day, there is nothing worse than hungry children.”
“If you can’t find anyone to take the kids for you, hope for good weather on moving day,” Rachel continues. “I took my youngest to the park while the furniture was being loaded in the van, and it was really great to have them out of the way. It also gave me a moment of peace. In bad weather you could always take them out to a soft play area for a couple of hours.”
Settling in to your new home
And once you’ve arrived in your new home, no matter how high the stress levels are, it’s very important to create a positive first experience for all the family.
“Order in a takeaway for your first night,” says Rachel. “That way, everyone can eat together and relax in their new home without bothering about cooking or the washing up.”
Your estate agent
If you are thinking about selling your home, you can visit www.yopa.co.uk to book a free, no-obligation valuation with an estate agent local to you. YOPA will sell your home for a fixed-fee of £780, rather than the usual estate agency commission, and their online platform gives you full visibility and control over your sale.
YOPA are offering StyleNest readers a £100 discount off their fee with the promo code:
Trisha’s recommended books for moving home with young children: A Kiss Goodbye by Audrey Penn, The Moving Book: A Kids’ Survival Guide by Gabriel Davis, The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day by