Helping Children Cope with a Move: Age-appropriate Strategies

Moving house is often listed as one of life’s most stressful events, and for children, it can be a particularly daunting transition. It’s not just a change of location, but a significant shift in their surroundings, routines, and potentially, their friends and school environment. Understanding the child’s perspective, recognising their concerns, and addressing them thoughtfully are paramount to ensure a smooth transition. Navigating the moving journey is hard enough as it is, and at Norman Ferns, we know that better than anyone.

The purpose of this blog post is to shed light on how children of various ages perceive and react to moving, and to provide you, the parents and caregivers, with practical and age-appropriate strategies to help your children cope with this significant change.

We understand that every child is unique and may react differently to moving. This blog post aims to give you a starting point, a compass to help navigate through the potential challenges that moving presents to your child.

With patience, open communication, and the strategies presented in this blog, you’ll be well-equipped to support your child through this transition, turning a potentially stressful situation into a positive growth experience.

The Impact of Moving on Children by Age Group

Infants and Toddlers (0-2 years old)

Infants and toddlers may not fully understand the concept of moving, but they are highly sensitive to changes in their environment and routine. A move can disrupt their sense of security and familiarity, leading to common reactions such as increased fussiness, disrupted sleep patterns, or changes in appetite.

Pre-school Age (3-5 years old)

Children at this age are starting to understand the concept of change more clearly. They might feel excitement about the move but also anxiety about leaving their familiar surroundings. Common reactions may include questions about the new home and location, concerns about leaving friends and familiar places behind, and possible changes in behaviour like regression or clinginess.

School Age (6-11 years old)

At this age, children have a deeper understanding of what moving means. They may feel a loss of control and a sense of sadness at leaving their familiar surroundings, friends, and school.

It’s common for school-age children to express concerns or worries about fitting in at a new school and making new friends. These concerns may manifest in various ways, including changes in behaviour, mood swings, or academic struggles.

Teenagers (12-17 years old)

Teenagers typically have a well-established social network and moving can be especially challenging for them. They might resist the move and express feelings of anger, sadness, or frustration. The prospect of leaving their friends, adapting to a new school, and adjusting to a new community can be quite daunting. Their concerns may surface as changes in sleep and eating pattern.

Age-appropriate Strategies to Help Children Cope with Moving

Infants and Toddlers (0-2 years old)

With this age group, maintaining routine and familiarity is crucial. Try to keep to their usual schedule for meals, naps, and bedtime throughout the moving process. Bring along your favourite toys, blankets, or other items that provide comfort.

Once in the new home, set up their room first to provide a familiar environment. If possible, try to introduce new caretakers or babysitters after they’ve had some time to adjust to the new surroundings.

Pre-school Age (3-5 years old)

For pre-schoolers, explaining the move through stories or play can be very effective. Use toys to act out the process of packing, moving, and unpacking in the new house. Read books about moving designed for this age group.

Allow them to be involved in the moving process, such as packing their toys or choosing decorations for their new room. This helps them feel in control and part of the transition.

School Age (6-11 years old)

Open communication is key for this age group. Talk to them about why the move is necessary and what they can expect. Reassure them that it’s normal to feel nervous or sad about leaving behind the familiar.

Involve them in the moving process, such as packing their room or picking out a new school. If possible, visit the new area with them beforehand and explore local attractions, parks, and their new school. This helps them visualise their new life and creates a sense of anticipation.

Adolescents (12-17 years old)

For teenagers, being part of the decision-making process can be empowering. Encourage them to express their feelings and concerns about the move. Validate their feelings and work together to find solutions to potential challenges, such as staying in touch with old friends or getting involved in activities in the new community.

When feasible, involve them in choices related to the new home or their new room. Once moved, provide support as they establish new connections and adjust to the new school and community.

Additional Tips for Parents

Understanding and validating your child’s emotions

No matter their age, children may find it difficult to articulate their emotions about moving. Pay attention to their behaviours, verbal cues, and emotions. Make sure they know it’s okay to feel excited, anxious, sad, or even a mix of these feelings about the move. Validate their emotions and reassure them that you’re there to support them every step of the way.

Maintaining patience and positivity

It’s natural for children to have lots of questions or even display resistance during the moving process. Remain patient and answer their questions as honestly and positively as possible. Maintain a positive outlook on the move, focusing on the new opportunities and experiences that await.

Helping your child find the positive aspects of moving

Moving presents an excellent opportunity for growth and new experiences. Encourage your child to explore the positive aspects of moving, such as making new friends, decorating their new room, exploring a new neighbourhood, or joining new clubs or teams. This will help them focus on the exciting aspects of the move, rather than the negatives.


Moving house can undoubtedly present a myriad of emotions and challenges for children. However, with understanding, patience, and the age-appropriate strategies outlined in this blog, you can help your children navigate through this significant transition. Every child will react differently, and it’s essential to respect their unique feelings and concerns during this time.

Remember, while the process might be daunting, it also presents a brilliant opportunity for growth. It’s a chance to teach your children about adaptability, resilience, and the excitement of new beginnings. By involving them in the moving process and addressing their worries proactively, you can turn a potentially stressful situation into a positive life experience.

Above all, it’s important to remember that children take their cues from the adults around them. Your positive attitude, your reassurances, and your eagerness to embrace the new environment can significantly influence how your children perceive and adapt to the move.

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