Moving to a new neighborhood is an emotional and often overwhelming experience for many of any age, but can be especially tumultuous when moving with a child – particularly young children who are just starting to form lasting memories in their environment and bonds with the surroundings and individuals they interact with. The transition from a safe place called home to a new house can be daunting, even scary, and difficult to comprehend for a child. To ease your little guy or gal into the idea of moving, use these methods to make the experience one of adventure, excitement, and exploration rather than an anxious uprooting:

1. Don’t leave them in the dark. Just as children are scared of the monsters under their bed, the boogeyman in the closet, and the things that go bump in the night, they fear being left out of the loop. Young children are remarkably intuitive and can sense when there is tension in the home or if a shift in their normative state is occurring. Don’t let what should be excited about a new experience turn to anxiety by waiting too long to start talking to your child about moving.

2. Take a field trip. If you are moving locally, plan an afternoon to take your child to their new neighborhood and explore what it has to offer. Visit a nearby park or their future elementary school playground, a local ice cream shop, or any museums or child-centric sites to create a positive correlation between this “special day” and the new home that will soon bring them closer to all of these fantastic experiences.

3. De-clutter and rummage. Kids are rapidly growing and changing before our eyes, and as they do they quickly outgrow their clothes and toys as their bodies and interests expand. Odds are, you have very little interest in packing and moving all of those toys your child barely plays with as is. Organize a rummage sale and designate a table for your child to man. Give an incentive to your child by explaining that if they sell their old toys, clothes, and books at the rummage sale, all of the money they earn in their piggy bank can go towards a ______ of their choice. Meeting the people that their belongings will be going to at the rummage sale and feel involved in the process of letting go of their goods will give your child a sense of pride and reinforce the important concept of sharing.

4. Encourage their imagination. A new home is a blank canvas, and although the rule of no drawing on the walls will still apply, allow your child to feel involved in the decorating process. If you have floor plans, make copies and present them to your child as coloring book pages – ask them to draw where they would like to put their bed, bookshelf, or dresser in their future room. Commission your child to craft, draw and color works, especially for the new home and host a “gallery opening” one evening once the bare essentials have been unpacked and placed in the new home so your little one feels involved in the finishing touches that make a house a home.

5. Enlist their help – no matter how small. Your child may not be able to handle any heavy lifting and they very well may get in the way when you’re trying to organize and orchestrate your move, but discouraging their involvement only serves to drive a rift between them and the process. Kids love being a mommy and daddy’s little helper and what may seem like a simple task to you like tearing off sections of packing tape or running from one room to the other to grab small items can easily turn into a riveting game for your child when presented with enthusiasm and an emphasis on how essential their help is to you – even if you do wind up having to redo a few of their… “contributions” at the end of the day.