Advice about Moving with Kids

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Moving and Preschool - stay and finish the year?

Jan 2006

My family is moving to Denver in February, which I'm fast learning is a terrible time to move if your kids are in school. My daughter is 3 1/2 and LOVES LOVES LOVES school. She adores everything about it -- especially the stimulation, the friends, and the routine. I'm convinced that the best way to ease her transition to Denver is to get her into a school right away so she can start establishing a new routine and new friendships, but I've discovered that many preschools do not like taking kids so late in the year. In fact, I cannot find a single opening for her. This means she would have to wait until summer programs start (in June -- four months after the move) before she could have a school-like experience again. I'm wondering if my husband and I should be willing to have me and my kids stay here so she can complete the year (with my husband flying back and forth from Denver on the weekends). Or is it okay for her to have such a gap, considering that she is so young? I hate the thought of being separated from my husband for several months, but I also want to do what is best for my daughter. Help! And thanks so much. Amy

I think you should re-read your message, because it sounds like you would turn your life topsy-turvy so your child could stay in the same preschool. It sounds like she would probably make an OK adjustment to something else, and when you get there, something will surely pop up. I think the separation from DAD is more of a concern than the separation from preschool. Anon
I think the most important message you can send your child is that you and your husband and she are FAMILY and that is the most important thing... more important than preschool, or playdates, or almost anything. The strain on your family from being separated -- and from traveling back and forth -- is much too much to pay for the fear of disrupting your little child. Jump in and deal with your new home -- together. Heather
Hi. We were in a similar situation - moved to a totally new state in December 2 years ago with our 3.5 yr old and did not find a preschool slot for him for 3 months. He also loved preschool, and REALLY loved his friends (both in and out of preschool). We finally found something in March that took him until the end of the school year, but then we would have had to start him in a summer program with new kids, before starting him in yet another (much better, in our minds, but different) program in September. (They had no openings until then.) So we opted to keep him out of anything for the summer. A lot of transition - I felt no lack of guilt - but he was totally and completely fine with all of it. Once we moved he got lots of one-on-one time with me (and his little sister), which he loved. We did lots of exploring together, arts and crafts, libraries, etc. And we made (and received) cards for/from his old friends and his old preschool class - that helped a lot. I did decide to enroll him in the one place in March, when they had an opening, because it was clear he'd benefit from more time with other kids - but he wasn't unhappy in the meantime. It took a bit of time to adjust to the new preschool, but he ended up liking it and having fun C and it was great for all of us in that we met new families through the preschool. It was worth it.

Kids adjust very quickly at that age, and seem to find the fun in just about any situation. Moving can be sad, but also exciting. For us it would have been a lot harder to suddenly lose daddy during the week than to go all together to a new place and start exploring, making friends, etc. In one year's time he was in three different preschools, with two ''breaks'' of several months each where he was strictly with family. A lot of change and yet I don't think he was scarred in any way - he's perfectly well-adjusted and happy, and still loves school. The only rather funny aftereffect - he recently asked me what school he was going to next year, because ''I'll have been here (kindergarten) a whole year, and that's enough - don't I get to try another school after that?'' Good luck.

Hello. We are currently in a similar situation. My husband accepted a new job in Connecticut in November. Since our son had just started preschool in September, we decided to stay in the Bay Area until the end of February (coinciding with his 4th birthday). Our son LOVES his school and we hated to move him so soon after the start of the year. He has great little friends, fabulous teachers, and we were concerned about disrupting his ''routine''. My husband left a week ago and the separation has been unbearable for my son. He is crying every day asking when we can ''go on the plane and be with daddy''. We had the best of intentions in staying behind, but he is too young to understand our reasons and only knows that we are here and Daddy is not. I, too, worry about the lapse in time that he will be out of school (4 months) but feel that it is better to be together as a family and miss out on a few months of preschool than to stay here and miss daddy/dh so much. Not to mention, it is exhausting to be home alone with two little ones and get ready for a household move. I say, stick together as a family. There will be plenty of preschool friends and experiences after the move. My .02
We moved to the Bay Area from So Cal when our daughter was 18 months and was in the same school situation as yours. Our daughter was in a Montessori program that she adored and when we moved here we could not find an opening for her in a school for 6 months. It was a horrible disaster. Moving was hard enough on her but my daughter is not good at transitions to begin with. To make matters more complicated, I was 7 months pregnant with her little sister. However, I really think that leaving her school, her friends and her trusted routine was what really made her miserable. Almost 2 years later, she still hasn't really recovered. She is much more angry and mistrustful than she was. When we finally got her into a school she loves again she became much happier. The thing is that I don't know that waiting until the end of the semester would've helped. It was the taking her out of the comfortable, trusted and familiar environment that was the issue for her and that would've happened had we waited or not. She was out of school for 6 months when we moved but I think it was actually better for her to be at home with me because she felt safe with me. Angry maybe but safe. Anyway, I don't know the answer but if you want to hear more aout our experience, feel free to e-mail me off list. Good luck. lynn
This was also an issue for us when my husband & I decided to move from Berkeley to the Sierra Foothills last year. Our daughter was also 3 1/2 when we moved last year. We stressed out over the impact it might have on her and now looking back at it, it was more our anxiety over the move. We talked with several friends who had also moved when their children were at the same age, and the response was the same. The kids make friends fairly easily and the transition can be a very positive thing if present that way. We pulled her out of her preschool, which she loved & had many friends, in April. We were not able to start her in her new preschool until June. During that time she was able to spend alot of quality time with her grandparents & my husband during the weekdays. On the weekends we did a lot of exploring as a family. And it brought us all closer together. Although she would ask if she was ever going back to school. She made friends at her new school within a week and wanted to have playdates and was invited to birthday parties within a month. Through her friends at school, we have now made very good friends with some of the parents. Its my feeling that it might be more stressful for everyone to have your husband move first just to keep her in school. Take the time off from school to explore your area, teach her how to ski, join some classes you can do together, once you start school again its harder to find the time to do all of the fun gymastic/swimming/sports classes. Good luck, A

Books for kids about moving

March 2003

Hi - we're going to be moving in the next month or two and would love to get recommendations for books that may be appropriate to help a 4.5-year-old prepare for the change. We're just moving within the same town and her school will not change. She seems excited about the new house, but I'm not sure if reality will match her excited anticipation once we move simply because she is not great with transitions. Thanks! Lori

We have one about kids moving into a new castle (''We're Moving''), but can't remember the author. Frank Asch (''Goodbye House'')and the Berenstain's have good books too for the preschool set. Happy Moving! anon
When we moved, our real estate agent gave us ''Make Way For Ducklings''. It's a classic - perfect for your child's age. I'm sure you can find it in the library. ellen
One of the best books about moving is: ''Alexander, who's not (do you hear me? I mean it!) going to move'' by Judith Viorst. Good and funny, it will most likely jump-stat some interesting talks. good luck

Helping a toddler adjust to a move

December 1996

We will be moving soon (from Daly City to Novato). We have had the same home day care provider for 4 years. Our youngest son, 27 months old, gets very distraught when he is left alone with someone other than our day care person, my husband or myself. It is better if his older brother (5 years old) is around. When we move, our 5 year old will have to adjust to a new preschool and day care. Our younger son, for the first time, will be in group day care. Any helpful hints for helping them adjust to a new home, new daycare, and new school? Thanks, Janis

We moved when our daughter was about 22 months old. Unfortunately, our daughter was being taken care of elsewhere while we did most of the moving. Because of time constraints we ended up dumping everything into the new place so we could rush over to San Francisco, have dinner and pick up our daughter. By the time we got back to the new place, it was dark and late, and our daughter had fallen asleep in the car. She woke up as we carried her into the house and she was completely disoriented and traumatized by the disorder. She literally cried hysterically for hours. We even got up at 3 in the morning to drive around in the car hoping she'd calm down and fall back asleep--which she did. Only she awoke as soon as we returned and continued crying hysterically for several more hours. Finally, in a state of exhaustion she fell asleep. The next day she was a bit better but when we went out for a walk, on our return to the new house she lay down on the sidewalk and cried about wanting to go to the other house. By the second day she was fine, and shortly after she seemed to have no recall of the former house. We even drove by it a few times but she didn't seem to recognize it. So, to make a long story short, young kids can be very sensitive to change, much more than we ever realized. If possible, you might try to move gradually. Perhaps you could get your child's room unpacked early so she could get accustomed to the new room. Perhaps having your child present when the actual moving is done will help her see what is happening as words alone won't make any sense if she has never moved before. Minimizing the chaos might also help. But on the bright side, it would seem as if the trauma is shortlived as kids are very adaptable. Our daughter quickly liked her new home and the novelty of a new place. Having her parents and toys and routine remain the same meant that only one part of her life had changed. That also helped. Good luck. Maria
Well, I guess I oughta come clean: I am a hanger-on, now living in Austin after moving away from Berkeley in the fall, after my husband's visiting professorship ended. I like participating in this group because 1) a lot of what we talk about are issues common to parents in general, not just parents in Berkeley; 2) we hope to return to Berkeley ASAP, but of course that depends on the availability of academic jobs; and 3) I like the group! In any case, I save all the info that I hope will come in handy some day, like stuff about public schools. And we do visit Berkeley often (just returned from a 3-week holiday visit, where we took your advice re: haircuts and Xmas lights and Fairyland Santa), as my husband's family and all our graduate-school buddies are there.

That said, the rest of this message won't sound quite so odd. I responded in the last digest with some tips on moving; there are a few more below. When we moved in August, Danny (2.5 yo) changed to a much bigger daycare (4 classes of 10-12, instead of one group of 6-12), moved to a new house in a new state, no longer saw the friends that he was just learning to socialize with, and no longer saw his grandparents, to whom he is very close. I was very anxious about how he would adjust. But I think he did amazingly well. Maybe he did so well because he is gregarious, maybe because he had some vague memories of Texas (he lived here until he was 13 months old) and saw pictures of our house and friends while we were visiting in Berkeley.

Plan to spend *a lot* of time with your youngster to help him/her adjust. I was surprised to find that I had to spend two weeks of attending my son's new day care with him, from 2 to 6 hours at a stretch. Also, the first time we stayed through nap time, I lay down beside him 'til he fell asleep, then read in the next room until the kids got up; the next day I told him that I would run an errand while he slept but that I'd come back when he woke up. We kept his days there short until we felt like he was comfortable with the place, but we were careful to take him for at least a part of each day. I suppose I could've spent less time with him, but I just could not bear the thought of him feeling abandoned among strangers. After we started leaving him there by himself, he did occasionally cry when it was time for us to go (the caregivers say he stops quickly), but he never cries when we take the time to make sure he's involved in some activity. Now, he loves the place and won't leave when I come to pick him up early (although he's happy for me to stay with him all afternoon).

You also have to be really clear with yourself that you are happy (and not ambivalent) about the arrangements. I was sad to leave California, and uneasy (at first) about putting Danny in such a big day care, and I think that these uneasy feelings were clear to him and prolonged his adjustment.

In the new neighborhood, we made an effort to go to each new park or pool or special place (museum, zoo, etc.) a few times in a row, and tell him their names, so that he would feel secure in the new places. We also have a regular playdate every Saturday, with the same group of kids. This may be the hardest part to set up, if you are new to a town, but I think it's worth the effort to try to make friends for your child quickly.

And don't be surprised if s/he backslides on toilet learning, sleeping independently, or any of those other milestones! With time, your child will settle in.

We are lucky that the Berkeley grandparents give us a good reason to go back to Berkeley often, so we are able to take him back to see his favorite places and friends. A few weeks ago we visited the house where we rented last year, and he told the 3 yo who lives there now: You know what, Sarah? I used to live in this house, and when this house got old, I moved to Texas! It seemed to us then that he was doing just fine.

Good luck with your move. Andrea