Helping children deal with the stress of moving


Kids, moving and stressA couple of months before we were supposed to move, we noticed a change in our children’s behaviour. We’d brought the kids along for the house-hunting and they were excited, exploring all the different houses, possible new bedrooms and fun back yards. It was a fun family adventure – we were moving!

Of course, we were stressed! Even good changes are stressful, what with all the planning and packing, and meetings with lawyers and banks and real estate agents – we were busy! So at first, we didn’t notice the little signs that our kids were not just excited but stressed out too. Being 4 and 6 years old, they didn’t really understand what it all meant.

Our son wanted to stay home all the time – he didn’t want to go to the park, the shop, or out for walks. When we started packing, he got very possessive of his toys and belongings. We then realized that he saw things quite differently than we did. While we were focusing on the move, he was worried he was losing everything. He didn’t understand that the stuff we were packing would be unpacked at the new house. He didn’t understand we were moving as a family; he thought he was going to be abandoned. So we walked through the house with him and pointed to everything, telling him that the couch, the table, his toys, his bed, the books and dishes – all of it was coming with us to the new house. Once we did that, he felt more in control of his world and stopped being so concerned about leaving the house.

Our daughter was more concerned about moving to a new school, a new daycare, and a new neighbourhood. She became quiet and withdrawn and more emotional than usual. As a former military brat, I was very accustomed to moving house as a young child. To me, moving was exciting – a chance to meet new kids and be the new kid in school. By the time I was in second grade I had already lived in five cities in three different provinces. My daughter, on the other hand, had lived her entire life in the same place. To her, moving was an enormous change. Fortunately, we weren’t moving that far away from her friends and we set up a date for her favourite friend to come to the new house. We also set up a couple of days for both kids to spend some time at the new daycare, giving them time to meet the children there and make new friends. Knowing that she wouldn’t lose touch with old friends and introducing her to new ones helped settle her anxiety about moving.

Young children don’t have the vocabulary to express apprehension and anxiety; their only outlet is their behaviour. If you’re thinking of moving house, watch out for these signs.

Signs your child may be stressed about moving house

  • Amplified possessiveness
  • Persistent requests to go back home when you’re out
  • Moody / emotional
  • Temper tantrums
  • Behaving out of character
  • Clingy, wanting to keep you in sight at all times

When you recognize the signs and take the time to look at things from your child’s perspective, you will be better equipped to help them understand what is happening, calm their fears, and turn this big life change into an exciting and positive time for them.

For more tips and tools in calming child stress, contact your Employee and Family Assistance Program at 1 866 833-7690 or visit


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