Helping a preschooler who's about to move!
April 15, 2014 6:45 PM   Subscribe

Helping our preschooler move from one home to another: we have lots of flexibility, so we want to plan the best transition we can as he leaves behind the school and friends he loves.

We'll be moving from a house to a same-sized condo a 45-minute drive away. No other transitions such as new jobs; we'd just been looking for a better fit. And the condo was a really lucky find, earlier than we expected, so we have some prep to do in our house before we put it on the market to sell.

We have one kid who's about to turn 4. 2014-15 will be his last preschool year, then he'll start public kindergarten in fall 2015.

Not clear how well he gets the concept of moving. He did at least love the condo in general and his room in it, as playspaces, both times we toured it. (And when I said, "If we lived here, this would be your room," he said brightly, "Okay, you go away now and I stay here!" and settled down by himself on that room's carpet to look at his books.)

Possibly big issue for him is that he loves his preschool, where he's gone since he was 6 months old. He's had mostly the same friends there for 3+ years and he really loves them.

So we need to decide how to time the various transitions. (We should get the condo keys first week of June, then we'll have both homes to use as we clean out our house and prep it for selling.)

We could:
1) keep him in his current school's summer program (early jun - late aug) while living in and prepping the house, then start sleeping in the condo in late aug when he'll start his new preschool; or
2) start sleeping in the condo soon after we get the keys, finding him summer care in the new neighborhood and periodically sending one of us back to the house to do prep work; or
3) do some hybrid where he goes to, say, the first half of his current school's summer program -- making periodic trips to get him used to and excited about the fun things in the new neighborhood -- then move and start him in new summer care in, say, mid-July.

There are plenty of grownup considerations (such as wanting to get our house staged and on the market during prime summer selling season, and not knowing yet whether we could get any refund if he ended up not doing the summer program he's registered for).

But just considering his perspective, I'd love any input -- whether specific to our issues or general thoughts re. making this a good experience for him.
posted by kalapierson to Human Relations (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This depends on your kid, in terms of anxiety. My kid is really anxious and he did totally fine in the move (cross country too.) We had some familiar snacks and toys at the new house. With the closeness of your move, you can not hard pack his faves no problem.
We did buy some kids books about moving (amazon should have them but if you can't find them I can give you titles).
Also I tried very hard to pack his stuff last as to not disrupt him. We also put all boxes in the basement so it didn't bother him.

But friendships? As the parent of a 5.5 year old that moved when he was 3.5, those friendships are not deep enough for it to be problematic when you move. You can still meet up with those folks for weekend play dates, but don't worry day to day.
Take some photos of the kids to remind him I guess. But honestly now, my kid never talks about his old friends.

As far as summer, do what makes most financial and logistical sense. The transition to a different day care might be a bigger deal than friends.
posted by k8t at 7:08 PM on April 15, 2014

We moved on my son's 4th birthday. They daycare aspect wasn't an issue for him as the new place was a block from his daycare and the old place was the 45 minute drive. We actually did the move while he was at daycare and the very first thing we did was unpack his room and get everything in place so that his room was done when he came home (to the new home) that evening.

From our experience, I'd say a clean transition is better. You live at one place one day and a new place the next. It likely won't be easy on him, leaving friends and caretakers behind that he's close to. By all means involve him in the process of packing and getting ready to move (there are several children's books about moving, but I can't remember any specific ones that stood out). Always talk positively about the new place and if possible start him looking forward to kindergarten in the new neighborhood too. Build it up, and then once you're in the new place, don't look back (from his perspective). Don't bring him back to the old house as you prep it for staging (we did this somewhat, and I think it was confusing for him).

Basically, I'd say, ramp up to the move as gently as possible, but once you actually move, make the move final.
posted by Morydd at 7:09 PM on April 15, 2014

If you tell him too much ahead of time, it can create stress for him. Be very clear and concise and give him information on an as needed basis. Do not discuss any of this in front of him. Decide what will be easiest for you and then do that. He's a kid. He will adjust. And you are a parent which means that, whatever you choose, it will be the wrong thing and you will beat yourself up about it. :)
posted by myselfasme at 7:09 PM on April 15, 2014

My opinion and my experience would be that whatever transition is most convenient for you will make your lives easier, which will make it easier for you to be positive and upbeat and fun as you move. If you choose a "transition plan" that would be "good for him" but that ends up being a total pain for you, he'll notice how you're stressed out. We're humans and we can't hide that sort of stuff that well.

But if you just go with what's convenient for you, it'll work great for him too.

He's so young that as long as you're positive and upbeat about moving, he'll adapt really quickly. That's the most important thing. And if he's negative or bent out of shape, he'll get over it quickly, especially if you make a clean break.

I moved four times between the age of 3 and 7. Each time I had to meet new kids in a new neighborhood, leave behind my old ones, and start a new school. Each time it ended up working out great, because my parents were encouraging and looked for was to make moving fun. To be honest, I never made any real friendships until at least 5 or 6, and even then, I was still young enough to be flexible and get over it quickly when I moved. I would imagine most kids are the same way- 2 or 3 is not old enough to develop some kind of friendship that will be shattering when it ends.

So try to have a good time yourselves, don't worry about it too much, and do what you'll enjoy most... and he'll have a good time too.
posted by Old Man McKay at 8:05 PM on April 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

I work in a preschool that offers summer camp as well. Some parents new to our school choose to send their child for the last few weeks of summer camp, the ones right before school. It seems to work well as a transition period, and although the camp and school programs differ, the building and many of the people are the same, so it works.

Which is to say, I would go with option 2, and see if his new preschool offers summer camp, so his transition to the new school is more gradual.
posted by booksherpa at 8:56 PM on April 15, 2014

Happy update, FYI: this was the biggest non-issue that ever non-issued. He is delighted with all aspects of moving, the transition, and the new place. We stayed in the old place for the summer to prep it and to let him finish out his summer program, spending most weekends at the new place. And this fall we'll drive back to the old area for some playdates and birthday parties. Thanks everybody!
posted by kalapierson at 2:53 AM on August 29, 2014

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