Moving to a new place is a big event for the whole family. We usually pre-plan this event for some time. What about babies and children? We know that babies thrive on a predictable environment, on consistency. However, sometimes we need to travel or move to a new place.
What can we do to support babies and make the transition as smooth as possible?
1. Tell your child about your plans.
When children are young and don’t have much experience moving or traveling, they might not understand everything you say and yet we still want to talk about it. You are setting the stage for future situations like this.
2. Show your child how you pack and arrange your belongings.
Narrate what you are doing – it will help your child process the information.
3. If possible, walk by the new place. This is of course not always possible, especially if you are moving to another state or country, but if there is the opportunity, it can be very helpful.
4. Take pictures of the old place and of the new place. Later, you can look at the pictures together, point at various details and talk about them.
5. Toys and items from the old place will help provide consistency and familiarity.
Magda Gerber suggested in her book Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect, “Plan to take with you many familiar objects – sheets, bedclothes, “blankies”, toys, to recreate the child’s own environment. Keep as many things similar as possible – daily schedules, foods, your own style of interaction with your child, etc. Through these simple routines, a child develops a sense of constancy, security, and self-confidence even in mids of change.”
6. And of course, the biggest source of consistency and security comes from the parents. Children will see you and know they are safe.
Consistency of care and rhythm of the day helps babies feel more confident and calm and therefore makes our lives a bit easier.
Parents often ask me if the move is a good time to introduce a new routine. I would probably keep most of the routine the same. The routine will provide consistency and safety. And then based on your child’s temperament, you can decide to make one additional change at a time.
If you have one routine you want to do differently, you can tie it to the move.
My family moved to a new apartment when I was five years old. I went to my grandma Dora and asked her: “Dora, I will say ‘Goodbye, house!’ Can you please reply, ‘Goodbye, Kira’?” This was my way to have closure – I loved my old place and at the same time, I was looking forward to a new place.
I came across a wonderful book for 4-6-year-old children, “I am NOT Moving!” by Penelope Jones. The book is about a child who is having a really hard time moving. It can be helpful to read this book for older children if they are experiencing strong emotions about the move.
Wishing you all the best in this difficult yet exciting journey of parenting!