It doesn’t matter how outgoing or funny or charismatic your kids might be, the possibility of uprooting their little lives and relocating to a new city is terrifying for any parent. Add a global pandemic into the mix, and it’s an idea that feels almost insurmountable.
But when my husband got a job offer we couldn’t refuse, we packed up the car and drove our two kids (eight and four) west from Pennsylvania to the great state of Arizona. The decision weighed heavily on me, and I wasn’t prepared for the avalanche of mom guilt that followed. But as I’ve learned, kids are more resilient than we give them credit for.
Eighteen months after our move to Phoenix, I’m so grateful for our decision. My kids are not only adjusted, they’re happy. I sometimes wish I didn’t spend so much time worrying about how things would work out.
To other parents going through this: You are not alone. Every family is different, but these three strategies helped my family navigate the transition—and gave me some peace of mind.
Offer constant reassurance.
My oldest is confident, outgoing, and full of life. But when we told him about the move, I could see right away that there were a number of new emotions going through his mind—sadness, anger, grief. Instead of downplaying these emotions, we slowed the conversation down. We took the time to acknowledge how he was feeling and validated his concerns. We tried to help him understand what to expect by looking at photos of our new city, reading books about moving, and letting him participate in the home-buying process.
We continued to provide reassurance after the move, too. With both our kids, we made an effort to schedule one-on-one time with my husband and me, to make sure they continued to feel loved and nurtured throughout the transition.
Create opportunities for familiarity.
During big changes, kids find comfort in the familiar. For us, this meant finding ways, both big and small, to bring pieces of Philadelphia to Phoenix. We always shop at Target and Whole Foods, so I made sure both were in close proximity to our new home. We moved right before the holidays, so we stuck to our typical holiday traditions—watching our favorite movies, playing our favorite games, and baking our favorite desserts. All of our friends and family were back on the East Coast, so we found ways to keep the kids connected and help them socialize.
Going into this experience, I was so afraid of my kids feeling lonely. I didn’t know how they would adapt or how quickly they’d be able to make new friends. But Messenger Kids has been a game-changer for us, creating continuity between our old life and this new one. Every Sunday, my son uses Messenger Kids to video chat with his best friend, and it’s like they’re together in person, laughing and playing games. I’m able to keep an eye on their conversations through the parent dashboard, and it’s like they haven’t missed a beat.
Make it an adventure!
On the 2,000+ mile drive to our new home, many of my parenting rules went out the window. We stopped for McDonald’s (more than once), and the kids blew through their typical screen time limits. It was a long trip, and my husband and I wanted to amp up the excitement. We kept it going when we arrived, too. That first night, we pitched a tent in the living room and slept together as a family.
No matter how you look at it, moving is a chaotic process. You have to be patient with your children, and yourself. Slow down when you need to. Really listen to your kids. But sometimes the hardest decisions have the best outcomes, and this is one I’m so glad we made.