How to Make Big Moves and Goodbyes Easier For Kids
Inside: Favorite children's books about moving and how to make a move easier with kids.
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I love packing and getting ready for a big move, said no one ever. Yet in my circle of friends, I'm the one who bounced around for more than a half dozen moves in 7 years, with two small children along for the ride and the chaos.
That means seven times we've packed up and unpacked the toys. Seven times we've set up the kids' sleeping space for good nights. And seven times we've said goodbyes. We've now finally settled in one spot (phew!).
But before finding our sweet little home in Maine, I learned a few proven tricks for moving with toddlers, dealing with moving anxiety, and how to help prepare kids for a move and saying goodbye.
First, moving to a new place is tough on you as a parent and it's tough on the kids.
But tough stuff doesn't go away or get easier by pretending it's not happening.
The first thing you want to do when your family preps for a move:
Talk about the elephant in the room with your kids.
Even a young toddler understands that something big is about to happen.
Caution: If you don't talk about the move, that can create moving anxiety for kids.
You feel anxious when you don't know what's going to happen next.
Build in some simple chats with your toddler around..
Why are you packing away stuff.
Where is the new place you're moving.
What will moving look like.
For chats about tough stuff with my kids, I look to children's books (since I'm a classic overtalker if I don't have a guide to help me). Picture books also give kids a visual guide that helps with tough topics and feelings.
Here are 12 favorite kids books about moving house, change, and saying goodbye.
Don't miss! Below my book list, I included my best moving home tips and strategies for moving with toddlers, plus reminders for helping potty training toddlers move to a new place.
1. Bella and Stella Come Home
This book about moving to a new home seems to be out-of-print, but perhaps you can find a used copy or one at your library. It's simply the sweetest book about moving to a new place that I've come across. My kids attached to this picture book and it was a comforting familiar read before every move. The way it's written, you see the moving process through the child's eyes...how children notice the small but meaningful details of a space that they call home.
Moving Home Tips: Ask your child a detail about the house you live in now. How many steps are outside your door? What color is your kitchen? And talk through what will be different in your new house. Soon it will feel like home once you and your things are inside.
2. Bad Bye, Good Bye
This children's book about moving validates how your child may be feeling at the beginning of the move. There may be some anxiety about moving. Change is hard. And sometimes having to say goodbye can feel like a Bad Bye. By the end of this book, we see how surprises in a new town can turn change into something new that feels good.
Moving Stress: Point out the emotions you see in the characters in the book, and how different they look at the beginning and end of the move to a new place. From angry and sad, to curious and happy.
For helping your toddler with big feelings, we also love to use the game Animal Chat. This game has turned into an easy way for me to crack the code on what my kiddo is feeling. I'll sometimes hold up one of the emotion cards, and without saying much of anything, the gesture signals are you feeling worried/frustrated/sad/lonely?
It's much easier to have a chat with your child by first highlighting whatever emotion they're feeling. Feel what you feel, and then it's easier to move on.
3. The Berenstain Bears Moving Day
When my kids were in Montessori preschool, I'd sometimes see some Berenstain Bear books rotate onto the bookshelves. They're classic children's books on reading about a specific topic or problem that kids face. And we found stickers in the back of this book!
Moving Home Tips: Moving often involves saying goodbye to friends. Even if your family move means you'll be staying in the same area, it may not be the same neighborhood or same street as your friends.
I liked to use that Girl Scout motto with my kids of how we'll make new friends but keep the old.
4. A Kiss Goodbye
If you're not famliar with The Kissing Hand, that's a sweet story to check out for talking to toddlers about how your love stays even when you're apart (like starting school). This book in the series (also with Raccoon) focuses on how moving to a new place is hard on kids. Raccoon has to say goodbye to his old home, but he discovers a special reason to love his new home.
Moving Anxiety: The Kissing Hand books illustrate what's so hard about a goodbye. To validate your child's feelings, the first step is being true to what the child is feeling. This tender book starts from the place of recognizing the tough stuff before moving on.
5. Build Me a Home
Whether you're building your new home or just want to spark your child's imagination, this beautiful picture book shares all kinds of homes you could build..from a tree house to a castle...and what living in that home would look like. The sweet message at the end shares how no matter the size of the house, where you live together is the best home of all.
Prepare to Move: Make an activity out of the idea of building a home that could look like anything. Your child could build a fort or a home for her stuffies. Talk through ways to make this house or fort feel extra cozy to start preparing kids for your own move.
Related: If you're building a home, there's a board book for babies and young toddlers all about trucks working to build a new home.
6. Gotta Go, Buffalo
Turns out, there are so many playful ways to say goodbye besides the standard, see you later, alligator. This silly lift-the-flap book of fun goodbyes is one to pull out for any goodbyes, whether it's a goodbye to friends when you're moving to a new house, or goodbyes at the start of daycare or preschool.
Prepare to Move: Find out which silly goodbye is your child's favorite (and share yours.) And use your fun goodbye with each other before the big move or a big goodbye, so it feels familiar.
7. You Go Away
This picture book helps with moves or any shift in family life (like a parent traveling, start of school or a separation) in highlighting how people you love sometimes go away, but they always return. The repetition of words acts like a refrain that's comforting for toddlers. The illustrations show different family dynamics and situations where someone is going away and coming back.
Moving Home Tips: Point out the illustration that feels most like the going away you're about to experience with your child. Roadmap how your goodbye is going to look, and reinforce that whoever is going will come back. If your whole family is going away in the move, you can reinforce how you'll come back to visit friends.
8. I Am So Brave
For young toddlers, this board book shows kids overcoming their fears with bright, retro-cool illustrations. It's part of an empowerment series of picture books that I love and read often when my kids were 2 and 3-years-old. There's even a page that shows the child having a tough goodbye at school, followed by a happy drop-off.
Tips for Toddler Worries: Name a fear (from the book or another you think of) that your child has faced and how they overcame that fear. Moves can bring up changes in school and meeting new kids at the local playground. Trying new things is what helps us feel brave.
9. Ruby Finds a Worry
This perceptive storybook illustrates how worries can start small and grow bigger and bigger. I love this book for preschoolers and school-age kids. Talking about worries and how to get rid of worries helps them feel less scary during a move.
10. Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster
Another great picture book for helping with worries. Written to show the classic way kids go through all the what-ifs hanging around.
Moving Stress: Name a what-if that your child has shared about moving, the new house, new school, or whatever you're working through. Imagine together that what-if turns out to be something good, really good.
11. Scaredy Squirrel
In this silly picture book, Scaredy Squirrel doesn't want to leave his nut tree. He's happy where he is until he discovers new routines can be way more fun.
Moving Worries: Some people (and kids) are natural homebodies. So moving house can be especially hard if you're attached to your home base. This book brings on giggles with its message that new can be fun.
12. Things That Go Away
For preschoolers and school-age kids, this playful picture book uses vellum pages to show the illustrations changing or transforming with each message. While this book is not specifically about a move or a goodbye, the core message shares how everything in life moves on.. except one thing (your love).
Everything Changes Except One Thing: Some moves coincide with a shift in family dynamics. Or you may be moving away from living by close friends. After sharing so many playful changes that happen (even lice going away!), the book ends on a cozy note...but the author doesn't say in words what one thing doesn't change. Ask your child what they think that one thing is that will never go away.
Here's how to make a move to a new place easier (plus how to handle potty training toddlers during a big move!):
1. Prep your child emotionally for this big move.
You'll want to talk about the elephant in the room (the big move) before your home gets swallowed up in boxes. Jamie shares tips on how to prep your child for a big transition in her podcast episode Transitions Big and Little. Remember that prepping your child for transitions helps bring down anxiety, so they know what to expect.
Plant the seed on what's coming next.
Soon you'll be brushing your teeth in our new bathroom. That bathroom will be yellow. What color is this bathroom?
2. Give your toddler a job: packing some of their toys.
Young toddlers will see everything getting packed away and think they're losing their toys. So it's important to share with your child how everything getting packed will come with you.
Give your child a feeling of control with all the unknowns of moving house:
Set your kiddo up with the task of packing their own toys.
Keep the packing task simple and failproof (blocks, books, stuff that doesn't need bubble wrap or careful packing), and then give your kiddo space to take over the job.
Make sure your toddler knows that their favorite blanket, lovies, and special stuffies won't get packed away. The special stuff stays with your child in the car. (Yes, I know you know that, but make sure your kiddo knows that, too.)
3. Use plastic bins for moving when possible.
I realize this tip may not be practical for every family or every move, but if you think there will be another family move in your near future, this trick saved me so much time and energy. Using big plastic bins makes the packing (and unpacking) cruise by so much faster. And if there's another move in your future, you can reuse the bins.
Why do I love to make a move with plastic bins over boxes?
By choosing lidded plastic bins, you don't have to tape up boxes (or carefully cut open boxes after the move).
With see-through plastic bins, you can see what's inside, or you can use solid color bins and color-code by room. (I also put Christmas supplies in green-and-red bins so they were easy to spot and I could push aside as non-essential bins.)