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It's Time for My Kids to Say Goodbye to Their Home

Photograph by Kristina Wright

I’ve moved several times in my life, but this is the first time I’m moving with my children.

My husband and I are thrilled to have found our dream home and to be relocating to an area that is a better match for our family, but I know this is a profound change for all of us, including our kids. This move has been over a year in the making, and as we get closer to our moving day (next month!) it is consuming much of my energy. It’s easy to get distracted by the very practical and necessary to-do lists of a big move and forget the emotions. But I have two young kids to remind me the emotional part is just as big and important as mortgages and closing dates.

How do I navigate my own mixed emotions while also helping my kids say goodbye to the only home they’ve ever known? Here are the things that are working for us:

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1. We talk about it. A lot.

We’ve been talking to the kids about this move for nearly as long as we’ve been talking about it to each other. And now that it’s a done deal—a house found, our house sold—we keep talking about it. Every day, there are conversations about what we’ll miss (the trees in the backyard, our next door neighbors) and how they want to decorate their rooms ("Star Wars" and "Avengers"). Talking about it helps make it real.

Maybe all of these things I’m doing allow me to mourn the home where my children took their first steps and babbled their first words.

2. We show them the house.

We took them to see our new house on the day of the home inspection and had a picnic on the floor. I have over a 150 pictures on my phone so I can show them everything from the windows in their bedrooms to the view from the back deck. They ask to see the house, and I oblige, as hungry as they are to know what our new life will be like.

3. We include them in the process.

“What do you want to take to the new house? What should we give away? How many boxes do you think we’ll need to pack up all of your stuff?” Their answers are typical for 4- and 6-year-old little boys, but like other big events in a young child’s life, it’s important for them to feel like they are a part of the moving process and that it isn’t just happening to them.

4. We’re doing all their favorite things before we move.

Cookouts with friends, visits to the park and the zoo and their favorite ice cream place—the move coincides with the end of the school year, so in between cleaning out closets and packing boxes, we’re getting in one (or two) more trips to favorite places and visits with favorite friends.

5. When we can, we’re doing things in our new city.

Our new home is two hours away, so when we’ve been in town for things related to the house buying process, we’ve added a few things with the kids in mind. We took them by the elementary school they’ll be attending in the fall, visited a popular local doughnut shop and spent an afternoon at the city’s science museum. The boys are nervous about leaving their favorite places here, but they’re discovering that a new house also means new adventures.

6. We’re taking our time.

Our move won’t happen in one day. We’ve arranged it so that our move will be done over three weekends. So we’ll close on our new house at the end of the month, and move as much of the non-essentials as possible over Memorial Day weekend, but then we’ll have until mid-June to get completely moved in. It will allow them to finish out the school year as well as visit their new house with some of our stuff in it (and have a few more picnics on the floor) before we move all of their furniture and toys. It might be hard, having one foot in the old house and one foot in the new, but my hope is that by easing them from one house to the next, they’ll feel like our new home is their home by the time we are unpacking the last box.

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7. We’re bringing the old house with us.

I have plans for craft projects involving tree branches from our yard and the door of their fort. We have thousands of pictures and a few favorites from the house will be printed and framed, as well as made into collages by the kids. I’ve asked them if there is anything from here they want to take with us and my older son is adamant about preserving his art work that is currently taped to his bedroom walls, so I’ll be buying poster board soon to move his art to a safe place. My younger son wants to bring some plants from our yard—and thankfully most of them are already in pots, though I’m not above digging up a favorite flower from the garden if that’s what he requests.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m overthinking the whole process and that moving will be harder on me than it will be on my kids. Maybe all of these things I’m doing allow me to mourn the home where my children took their first steps and babbled their first words. Maybe my attempts to make the move easier on my kids is really an attempt to make the move easier on me. And maybe that’s OK.

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