Moving with Kids: How to Help Children Transition

Planning a Move with Kids in Mind

Even during a big move with so many things to coordinate, your kids are your priority. It’s an adjustment for everyone involved, but moving can be a major shakeup for children. Between the change in their home to the long trip, you can get them involved in each step and help them cope along the way. Whether your kids are excited or nervous about the move, there are ways to make the process easier for the entire family. 

Family with young son and a dog sitting among moving boxes.


Preparing for Moving with Kids

Getting them connected to the process makes it feel more like something that they’re a part of, and less like something that’s merely happening to them. Here are ways to include children before, during and after.

Things to do Leading up to the Move

No matter what age your kids are, it’s vital to begin this process with clear, open communication. Have a conversation about what’s to come. Even young toddlers will benefit from talking about the move, and older children may need encouragement to process their feelings. 

Read Books about Moving

A book can help them understand what to expect and prepare them for what’s to come. Grab one of these books from a library or bookstore:

  • Moving books for toddlers
    • The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day by Stan and Jan Berenstain
    • The Great Big Move: A Surprisingly Exciting Adventure by Meghan Marie Geary and Brooke O’Neill
    • Moving to the Neighborhood (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood) by Alexandra Cassel and Jason Fruchter
    • We’re Moving by Heather Mainser
  • Moving books for school-aged children
    • My Very Exciting, Sorta Scary, Big Move: A Workbook for Children Moving to a New Home by Lori Attanasio Woodring, Ph.D.
    • When You Are Brave by Pat Zietlow Miller
    • Hey, New Kid! By Betsy Duffey
    • Moving Day (Katie Woo) by Fran Manushkin
  • Moving books for teens
    • 10 Dos and Don’ts When You’re the New Kid by J.C. Tilton
    • The Essential Moving Guided Journal for Teens by Sara Elizabeth Boehm
    • The Year My Life Went Down the Loo by Katie Maxwell

Getting Children Involved

Once you’ve prepped them on the move, let them help. There are age-appropriate tasks for every child. Here are 10 ways to involve kids in a move:

  1. Have toddlers hand you books and toys as you pack them into boxes.
  2. Let a school-aged child label the boxes.
  3. Pre-teens and teens can sort their belongings to decide what to keep and what to donate.
  4. Older children can be (mostly) responsible for packing up their rooms. Give them a quick packing lesson and then oversee the process.
  5. Younger kids can assist in putting garage sale stickers on items before the sale.
  6. Let them help with the move-out cleaning.
  7. Teenagers can serve as the cashier at a moving sale.
  8. Take them to look at houses and schools. Seeing the possibilities can help them get excited about new places.
  9. Create a contact book with information for the friends they are leaving. Gather phone numbers, email addresses and mailing addresses.
  10. Help them say goodbye to your home. Walk through and say goodbye, allowing them to speak their favorite memories in each room. Take pictures or even a keepsake, like a leaf from the backyard tree.

Choosing a Family-Friendly Moving Service

During this time, you’ll also have to determine what you want and need from a moving company. On a tight budget? Then a more DIY option is probably the right choice. Worried about handling your kids and all the heavy lifting on moving day? Then hiring a moving crew can be helpful. Have car seats or a lot of necessary equipment in your car? It might be best to use a service like U-Pack® that handles transportation so you can drive in your own vehicle. 

Related ReadingInformation about putting car seats in rental trucks

Make a Plan for Kids on Moving Day

We recommend setting up moving day differently depending on the age of your children: 

If you’re moving with a baby, check out these specific tips for your little one. 

For toddlers and preschoolers, it might be best to either hire a sitter to take them off-site or keep them safe away from the chaos. When loading belongings, keep crawlers and toddlers away from hazards like heavy furniture and boxes. It’s also likely that doors will be open for a majority of the day, and you don’t want a curious toddler to wander outside when you’re loading.
School-aged kids can usually handle having a job. Can they be in charge of pet care for the day, playing with and walking the dogs? Or maybe they can help color-code boxes to make unloading easier? If they want to help with loading, find lighter (not fragile) boxes for them to carry. Make sure they take breaks and stay hydrated throughout the day. You could even pay them for their help and let them use the money on the drive.

Teens can typically assist with most moving tasks. Be patient, and don’t push them to do more than they’re ready for. If you think they are struggling emotionally with leaving, it might be better to send them with a friend for one last fun day together while you handle the moving responsibilities.

No matter what you choose, take time to be together as a family. Whether you decide to go out for pizza at the end of the day or have a picnic and slumber party in the empty living room, laughing together will be good for everyone.

Traveling to the New Home

If you have a long-distance trip to the new house, don’t stress about traveling with kids! There are ways to avoid the dreaded “Are we there yet?” questions from the backseat. If you know in advance which towns are best along the route for breaks, search for parks or other fun things to do together. And you’ll be the hero of the road trip if you find a hotel with a pool (indoor for winter). 

For younger children, make them a map starting at your home and finishing at the new house. Mark things they’ll see along the way to keep them engaged during the trip. Get even more road trip ideas here to make this move into a memorable family vacation. 

Helping Kids Cope after the Move

Keep an eye on your kids while you’re getting unpacked and settled in. It’s normal for younger children to show disruptions in things like sleep or toilet training, and older children may withdraw or act out while they process emotions and changes. If you believe your child may be showing symptoms of depression post-move, check these tips from Very Well Mind. During this time, it’s essential to establish a routine, work on helping them adjust to a new school and new friends, and have a little fun.

Give them some freedom in decorating their new room or let them have fun with old moving boxes. Build a fort or make a robot costume — the possibilities are endless!  

Have Questions about Moving with Children?

If you have any questions about moving with kids or want to explore U-Pack moving options, leave a comment below. We’re happy to help!