Helping Young Kids Adjust to a Move

7736032314_5c69699f36_qIt’s funny, growing up I didn’t really move at all. I lived in the same house in a small midwestern town from age 2 to 18. But, since leaving home for college I’ve had my share of moves. Seventeen different abodes in now three states. I didn’t really mean to turn into a nomad, it just sort of happened. You get pretty good at paring down belongings and change of address notifications.

But, moving with kids is a whole different ball of wax. Our little family recently survived a cross-country move. Although I knew it would be a big adjustment for my husband and I, the person I’ve been thinking about most is our four-year-old son. Knowing that kids thrive on routine and familiarity, and given his love for his nanny and fondness for his preschool, I worried. Would this be a traumatic experience for him?

So, I asked around and read and thought a bit about how to help our son adjust. I’m still no expert, but now that we’re on the other side I thought I’d share some things that we did that seemed to help, as well as a few written resources that I liked. These suggestions are most relevant to young children, but perhaps not surprisingly, I’ve found that many of the strategies transcend age- those that seem to have helped my son get through this change have also helped me.

Sometime (not too long) before the move occurs, talk your child through what will happen. We made sure to explain that we were all going together, that all of our belongings were coming with us, and showed him pictures of our new home. My son and I searched for fun things to do in our new city and saved them on a Pinterest board. He frequently asked to look at the “fun stuff pictures”. We were also honest with him about cherished family and friends who wouldn’t be coming with us and answered (many!) questions he had about why we had to move in the first place.

Let kids make some decisions. This was one of the great suggestions from our son’s preschool teacher. Even small things, like allowing him to decide which toy trains to keep with him in a suitcase and which to send with the moving truck, seemed to make a difference.

Keep a routine. Moving is, by nature, chaotic. At various points we were without our belongings, staying with friends, and we had a few weeks away from his dad. But, both during and after the move we tried to keep some things constant. We kept the same sleep schedule. We ate dinner together. And, after the move, we signed up for daily swimming lessons. I think it really helped ground us in our new city to have a month of going to the same place each morning to swim (not to mention how much he learned. . . perhaps more on that in a future post on water safety).

Find the familiar. I think it has really helped our little guy to see that, although some things are different, there are a lot of things about life that will remain the same. For us, this meant an early trip to the local public library to get our library cards and check out some books. The building is different, but the process is the same. He and I were both excited when we found a Trader Joe’s* close to our house- all of the same favorite foods we were used to (and with Texas-size free samples to boot).

Celebrate the new. In addition to finding comfort in the familiar, we are enjoying the excitement of the new and shiny. We are cultivating gratitude for the things in this new chapter of life that might even be better- the favorite new park (with a splash pad!), the great science museum, the house with a yard (and air conditioning!), the reasonably-priced gym (for us) with a playroom (for him). Each day we are exploring a little bit and having fun finding the places we had seen in pictures and talked about.

Make new friends, but keep the old. We have been so blessed with supportive friends, family, and neighbors on both sides of the move. We continue to talk about our “California friends” and stay in touch via Skype. A trip to see extended family at the familiar “Nonna and Opa’s house” shortly after the move seemed to help my son feel connected. And, we’ve been lucky enough to have a wonderful welcome from new friends here in Texas.

Allow and validate feelings. It’s a good idea to go in expecting strong feelings from even young children about a move. They get it and are completely aware of big changes, probably even more than we realize. Tantrums, crying, and mood swings are all pretty common (all true for the grown-ups too I guess). Our son coined the term “sad-icited” (= sad + excited) for how he was feeling, which I thought was actually a pretty good description of how most people feel about moving. It helps to tell kids that however they are feeling is okay and normal.

Be kind to each other. Be a little flexible. Let small things go. Change is hard. It won’t be perfect. But, maybe with the right combination of finding the familiar, enjoying the new, and maintaining connections with supportive friends and family, it just might be okay.

Other helpful resources:

Preparing Your Child for a Big Move from Science of Mom
Helping Children Adjust to a Move from

*No stock in Trader Joe’s, just love them.

Has your family survived a move? Any tips to share?

Sleep, Mama, Sleep

IMG_1658When my son was an infant (and not the greatest sleeper), we’d rock and listen to lullabies. We listened to one CD so many times that many of the songs are seared into my brain. I remember one song in particular. “Sleep, baby, sleep. It is time to close your eyes.” I’d sing along, willing the words to come true. Continue reading

A Doctor’s Heart

photo (1)In just a few days I’ll be leaving the clinic where I’ve practiced pediatrics for the past six years. The last months have been a flurry of last visits with families, paperwork, and tying up loose ends. There have been many, many goodbyes. I’ve been deeply moved by the expressions of gratitude and affection that many families have shared with me. It seems it is always in these times of change and endings that we are most open with each other. Continue reading

Book Review: Mama Doc Medicine

mama doc medicineFirst a disclosure- I am an unabashed fan of Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, aka Seattle Mama Doc. I have long followed her blog and twitter feed and so appreciate her work. A pediatrician and mom, she writes clear, evidence-based blog posts in an open and transparent manner. She has an unmatched ability to break down emerging science around child health into relatable, practical tips. I’m excited to report that her book, Mama Doc Medicine, combines many of her best blog posts with new information creating a fantastic new resource for parents and all who care for kids.

Continue reading

Copy and Paste Medicine

I’ve been working with the latest electronic medical record (EMR) for almost a year now. You know the one. There are many positive changes, to be sure. It has helped me more than a few times with calculating doses for kids’ medications. I can now easily check in on my patients’ progress when they are admitted to the hospital. And, of course, the notes are far more legible.

But what do the notes actually tell me? Sadly, sometimes, not much. Continue reading

The Perils of Distracted Driving

distracteddrivingI gotta say, the daily commute has been feeling a bit hairy lately. Seems like I’m passing accidents more frequently. Watching a bit more weaving. I can’t be sure that it’s all related to distracted driving, but sure seems like a lot of it is. Every day I witness drivers looking down at phones at stoplights, missing the change to green. I even saw a smartphone mounted to one car’s driver side dash and the driver scrolling through websites during rush hour traffic on the freeway. Scary stuff. Continue reading

3 Words for 2014. Focus. Accept. Sleep.

IMG_1401Over the past few years, in leiu of goal-oriented New Year’s resolutions, I’ve chosen words to serve as a guide for my year. Inspired by a few writers I admire, I’ve found this practice to be very meaningful for me. And setting it in writing here on the blog last year was quite powerful. I found that the words Decide, Attend, and Play stayed in the fore throughout the year. I went back to the post a number of times to gauge how I was doing. And, although I can’t say I always succeeded in meeting my own expectations, I do think that setting these intentions did affect the flow of my year. So, here are my words for 2014. Continue reading

Book Review: Quiet, and Its Implications for Parenting

IMG_1446“Why shouldn’t quiet be strong? 
And what else can quiet do that we don’t give it credit for?”  -Susan Cain

*A while back in clinic a nine-year-old’s mom came in concerned about her son. Turns out that at the parent-teacher conference, her son’s teacher had said, “Your son is very quiet in school.” Even though her child was excelling academically, had great behavior, and truly enjoyed going to school, this statement stayed with his mom. She worried about it. Because in American society, being quiet, or “shy”, is not often seen as a positive quality. I hope that will change. Continue reading