Moving with Kids

Parent Q&A

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  • Hi folks,

    We are moving to bay area around the middle of May this year. We plan to start looking for apartment and schools after getting there. It might be too late for the current school year by the time we make up our mind. So, will it be okay if our 9yo starts school only in Aug/Sep rather than May. We have read about the super strict truancy laws in California and do not want to be on the wrong side of it. So, any opinions on that are most welcome.



    Can your kid finish the year with his current school by doing independent study after you move? When my kids were younger, there were a few families who did this when they needed to be away for a month or two.

    School ends in May in many Bay Area districts, so I don't think you will even be on their radar until the fall. (Do be aware that school starts in early-to-mid August if you're coming from a post-Labor Day state!) In general, the truancy laws come into play if your child is enrolled but not attending school. If you are new to the state, the district won't even know you're here until you show up to register. (That said, registration for next year is already underway and you will be a late applicant if you apply in May, so depending on where you are moving, you will want to be aware of which schools you may still be able to get a spot at--in most East Bay districts, it isn't solely based on where you live. You'll want to get an application in as soon as you have a confirmed address, and if school options play a role in where you'll decide to live, you'll want to talk the districts you're considering first to see which schools potentially have space.)

    I suggest that you get permission from your current school to do an "Independent Study" for the time your child will be gone. Even if that time is the last month or two of their school year. That way, (1) your child can stay current with their learning, (2) their other school (assuming it's public) won't get reduced money due to your child's absence, and (3) the transition to the new school will be easy. Just be sure to give them a couple of weeks notice so the teacher has time to put together the learning plan and the materials needed. Good luck!


    The replies are very helpful. We will explore the "independent study" plan from the current school.

  • Preparing child for a big move

    (6 replies)

    We’ve bought a house across the country and will move in the spring. Can anyone offer advice for how to share this with a 4-5 year old and ease the transition? They’ll be starting k in the fall in the new state.

    How far in advance would you tell them? Good books that helped your child adjust to the idea? Any other tips or lessons learned? Thank you.

    No advice, but following because we may be in the same boat this summer 

    I haven't moved with my own kids, but as someone who moved a lot myself between the ages of 4 and 12, including cross-country the first time (probably the reason I've stayed put as an adult!), here's my advice: Talk about the move early and often. Get some books about/set in your new town or show them pictures online (at that age my kids liked to "drive" through Google Streets and explore places, so that might be an option) of the town, house, school, etc. and get them invested and excited. Let them help plan and pack a little, so they feel like they're part of the process and in control of a little bit of it. For my first move when I was your child's age, my parents did some things wrong (sending me to the babysitter and when I came back everything was packed up and shipped out - I freaked out) and some things right (letting me choose a bedspread and decorate my new room so it felt like my space). Frame it as an adventure; be ready to address their concerns, but also try to make it positive and fun whenever you talk about it. This is a good time to move; most of my angst about later moves centered on leaving my friends behind and having to meet new people, but at 4-5 it was mostly about the unknown, so getting them comfortable with your destination and what's not changing (parents will still be there, toys are coming with you, etc.) will help, I think.

    I am 70 so maybe I see this differently.  In my childhood, you just did it…it was what it was.  Military kids expected it.  Not a big deal.  I’d suggest presenting it as an opportunity (better job, big house? An adventure? Etc). We should all be as resilient as kids.  

    We just did this last year! Same timeframe relative to kindergarten. We started preparing our son around April, including a visit to the new neighborhood so he could see what it would look like. We asked him frequently how he was feeling about it to invite any discussion. Honestly there was minimal issue and he was very excited to arrive and start his new school.

    I moved from the Bay with my family which includes a 5 year old and a 2 year old (at the time of the move 4 and 1), almost a year ago.  My son was in a preschool we loved, and all things being equal we would've stayed in the Bay if we could have. When we knew we were really going to be making the move we chose to be very open about it with him. He'd look at houses with us on Zillow and we'd talk all about what cool things the move was going to bring (a backyard, being close to family, etc.), plus his preschool teachers incorporated the idea of the move appropriately in the class so it cushioned the blow when the time came and no one was surprised; they looked at a map and talked about geography and then even sent us a letter to and used that as an excuse to talk about mail and the post office and how we can stay connected.

    He showed both sadness and excitement about the move in the time leading up to the move and I'd always reassure him that having those feelings was normal and that I was experiencing them too. I tried to take an Upside Down (movie reference) approach and make space for the sadness alongside the joy and anticipation. I'd also talk to him about my moves as a kid and he really seemed to like hearing those stories. It's been nearly a year and we still talk about the Bay all the time, what we miss, what reminds us of it, what we want to go back to visit. We also talk about how it's not the same place we least 2 of his friends from preschool are no longer there and it's a good lesson that change is constant.

    I wish you lots of luck with your move. 

    I feel very qualified - our kid is a pro at moving! We have had I think 7 moves (Oakland, Hayward, Berkeley, Berkeley, Berkeley, out of state, out of state) since he can talk and understand us and he's not even started 1st grade yet.  The most important thing for him every time was that ALL of his stuff is coming, nothing (not a stuffy friend, not toy, not even a cardboard box) is getting left behind. For the last two moves, we had to put some stuff into storage, and he understands that, but he is involved with the packing and boxing up of stuff, and we start talking about the new location as soon as we know and show him on the map, show him pictures of fun things to do there, so he can start to warm up to the idea. We made sure he knew that it's just the house and location that is changing, but we the family unit, will all still be together. Leaving friends is sad, but he understood that we can always visit them and they can visit us. And we emphasize the new friends he can be making, and new foods to try, etc. 

    One thing I did before our last big move was to make a photobook of his friends from school. This was in the early part of the pandemic so he missed his friends already, and so when we go to the new place, we had this photo book that he could look at when he missed his old home.  

  • Hate our house. Should we move?

    (12 replies)

    We are hoping to hear wisdom from community.

    We have never liked our house. The minute we bought the house, we had a huge buyer’s remorse. The things we dislike are difficult or impossible to change — size and shape of the lot, the internal layout, direction of the house, surrounding buildings, the particular street where the house is, easement, etc. We made a mistake... a terribly expensive mistake.

    We have been here for 3.5 years, and we really tried to like the house. We added a bathroom and remodeled kitchen. We landscaped, painted, and decorated. I still dislike the house. It needs a bit more space and light and I really want a house that faces Southeast and not northwest. 

    I would love to move from Oakland to Pleasant Hill or Concord where we can get a bigger house with trees,  a nice flat yard and a pool at the same price point. Spouse desires the same. 

    Even before the pandemic, our family outings and hang-outs were to drive to Walnut Creek or Concord.  

    the problem is kids love this house. They want to stay. We asked them if they wanted to stay even if the new house was twice as big with a big play room, swimming pool, hot tub, and swing set. They say they still want to stay here in this cozy house and close to friends. With the pandemic, we wonder if the familiarity and stability are more important for kids than daily comfort for us adults. 

    Parent in me thinks we should stay here and weather the pandemic to provide as much stability to kids as possible. But, I desire a bigger space and my own office instead of a make shift office in the hallway next to kids bathroom. It would be nice for kids to be able to bike around the house instead of us having to drive kids to a place where they can bike and run around. 

    We feel our neighborhood is too urban, and we thought we were urban people but are learning that we are really suburban people who like the option of being able to get to the city within 30-40 min. like to live in a quiet house with a lot of trees and flat grassy lawn and not next to a bunch of boxy apartment buildings where new people are constantly moving in and out.

    Sometimes I wonder if we stay here long enough, kids will grow up and they will think this house is cool  because it’s in an area that seems popular to young people (lakeshore/grand lake). 

    The parent in me is sympathetic to the idea of doing what your kids prefer, but even though I'm pretty mushy about stuff like this I would say follow your and your husband's heart and just move to where you want to be. You don't say how old your kids are, but they will adjust -- and you have given it a real shot to try to stay. For a little context, my third grader is in a new school this year, which has especially sucked for making new friends with remote learning, but they will survive. I think any moving around, at least before middle school years, ends up being no big deal for most kids.

    You should move, no doubt about it.  This is about your happiness and mental health!

    The kids will get over it.  They never want to leave what they know.  If you go house hunting with them and they can see the pool/outdoor space/etc for themselves, they will get plenty excited.  Seriously, this is about you and your needs, and they will be happy in the end.

    Well, it is definitely "cooler" to live in Lake Shore over Concord or Pleasant Hill! ;) That said, you are the head of your family and your happiness matters. It doesn't sound like you are happy where you are and that may continue to chip away at your well being over time. Factor in your kids preferences but ultimately make the decision that makes the most sense for you and your family long term. You can keep working on your kids to get them more on board. It might help to explore the new neighborhoods with your kids and include them in looking at open houses. They might start warming up to the idea.

    I'm not sure how old your kids are but, generally speaking, kids hate change. Ask them if you can throw away that 5 year old toy they haven't touched once in 4 years and they will scream and cry and say they NEED it. Yet, kids are so much more adaptable than even we are. They adjust to new childcare situations and new schools (usually) pretty darn easily.

    For what it's worth, I think happy parents = happy home. They may just not be able to imagine the benefits of suburbia right now but, more than likely, they will adapt and love it. And meanwhile, if you and your husband are much happier, that'll flow down to them too. I think all of us parents have stressed so much about providing stability during this pandemic, but really having joy and happiness is equally or more important. And change can be a really great thing - you just have to reassure them they can still see their friends and the new house will be even better than the cozy one!

    I think you should move. It sounds like you are both really unhappy, and the sooner you move the easier it will be for your (younger) kids to make new friends and adjust. 

    One thing you haven't mentioned is whether you can afford to move. Every time you buy/sell a house you lose 3-6% of the house's value to realtor costs, plus all the costs of the move, renovations, and repairs. A bigger house in the suburbs might also cost more, and the market is kind of crazy right now with everyone trying get more space. But if you can afford to move--go ahead and move! I have friends who love renovating and flipping houses, and they move every few years. It's expensive but not unusual. You are also not the first one who has faced buyers remorse with their house. You shouldn't base your decision on what your children want. Your children are too young to understand all the factors in this decision, and they are also not the ones spending the money. Kids also love familiarity, so it is completely understandable that they wouldn't want to move. I would stop asking your children if they want to move because it would just frustrate them if you ask for their opinion and then seemingly ignore it by moving. Instead, find the house you really want and make it really exciting for the kids, and work with them if they are sad and miss their old house. That said, the fact that you are posting on this forum and asking your kids to make the decision for you suggests that you are really conflicted about moving. Shop around and see what's out there, and make sure this is something YOU want to do, not something your kids want you to do, before you buy your next house. Good luck!

    How old are your kids?  I would humbly suggest that kids have a very narrow view, and is based on what they can see right in front of them, whereas part of our job as parent is to see the bigger picture.  We moved our kids at 7 and 10 halfway around the world (literally).  When we told them we were moving, they cried.  A lot.  I spent many sleepless nights wondering if we were making the right decision - taking them so drastically away from the only home and environment and culture they'd ever know.  The first few months had some really low moments but only a couple that I still remember three years later.  Little people are much more resilient then we usually give them credit for.  And you're only talking about 20 miles - they can still meet their super duper close friends.  I vote move - parents need to be happy too.

    Suburban (West Contra Costa) parent to 4.5 and 1.5 here -- we have a bit more space than it sounds like y'all do, both indoors and out, and our starting situation was different (we bought our home intending for it to be our ForeverHomeTM). But in some ways, I still feel like I could have written your post. Over the last year, as plans for our family have evolved, we have come to the conclusion that it's very likely we will "outgrow" our house.

    We've decided to basically wait on thinking seriously about any changes until things have settled down a bit more with the COVID situation. We're self-aware enough to know that it's hard for us to weight "normally" the pros and cons of our neighborhood -- we've got a great community, lots of friends for us and kids within walking distance, and the fact that we haven't played with them AT ALL in months or socialized "normally" in almost a year is definitely skewing our thoughts on the matter. Our working plan right now is to ride things out here for at least another year or so and then assess. FWIW, if we moved, it'd likely be a "big move" (out of the Bay at minimum, at least 50/50 out of state), so things might feel less momentous if we were "just" looking to move to a different part of the Bay.

    Hi. You didn't mention how old your kids are, but in general, I would say, "Yes, definitely move!" The kids will be upset at first, but they will adapt and they will probably love having a house with a bigger yard, possibly a pool, ability to bike the neighborhood, etc. We moved from SF to Berkeley 3.5 years ago largely for the same reasons -- bigger house, yard, better weather. Kids were 6 and 8 at the time. The kids didn't want to and said they missed SF at first. But now they love it -- they have more freedom here, more space, a yard. We even got a dog. If you parents think you'll be happier there, then go for it. Your happiness matters to the whole family, and the kids will adjust. (I would be a little more hesitant if the kids were in middle and high school since peer groups are so important at that age, but since you mentioned a play room and swingsets, they are probably not.) Good luck!!!

    I grew up in San Francisco, have always lived in urban areas and couldn't imagine that I would like living in suburbia as much as I do now. Oakland was a great place before we had kids. We lived in a small house in Oakland for 10 years, even added an extra room to have some breathing room with 2 small kids but it just never felt right. After years of hesitation, we finally pulled the trigger and moved to walnut creek last year, no regrets. We have a large yard, safe and quiet residential streets where kids can ride their bikes without adult supervision. There are so many open spaces and playgrounds near by. My kids were reluctant to move but they both agree now that they like the new house more than the old house. We do miss our friends back in Oakland but it's not that far to drive for visits.

    This seems like a no-brainer to me.  You're the parents, the adults.  You should make the decision, and not base it on the desires of children.  This statement comes with the understanding that yes, children do have a say in family matters, and children like stability and don't necessarily like change, and they don't want to leave what's familiar, and their friends, etc.  BUT, if you and your partner are unhappy with the house and the street and the town, and you can afford to move, you should MOVE!  Go!  Life's too short to live in a house that you've tried so hard to love, but don't!  Your children are probably picking up on your unhappiness, and if you stay unhappy, that will hurt them in the long run!  The kids will adapt.  It may be uncomfortable for a while, but they will find new friends, and learn to love their new town.  You obviously care about what your kids think, and you will find a new home that works for everyone.  GO!  Find happiness!  

    If the kids are still in elementary school, I'd say go for it. If they are in middle or high school, suck it up for a few more years and once they graduate high school go where you want.

  • We plan to move to a bigger apartment in about 3 weeks—a sorely needed change since we’ve been squeezing into a one-bedroom with a 4 year old and a 6 month old. I’m wondering when and how to tell our 4 year old about the move. Is it best to tell him as soon as possible, so as to give him more time to get used to the idea? Or better to delay, so that he spends fewer days anxiously anticipating a leap into the unknown? 

    I also wonder whether it would be a good idea to start by just saying we’re looking for a new place...then a few days later announce that we found one. But maybe this would just give him time to go on the record as opposing any move (he tends to resist change rather fiercely, even smaller things like moving furniture around). Any insights appreciated!

    At that age, he'll take a lot of his cues from you and your attitude. If it were me, I'd present it as a done deal right away, and an exciting one - "We're going to be moving to a new place! It's going to be fantastic! Life is a dashing and bold adventure!" Maybe he'll have his own room at the new place, or be close to a park, or something else happy you can promote that he can get excited about? When my family moved when I was that age (and we moved roughly every year during my childhood, so I speak from experience), my mom let me choose a new bedspread for my bed in my new room, and it totally sold me on the change - sometimes it doesn't take much! Make space for him to voice concerns and ask questions - there are bound to be things he's unhappy about, but focusing on the positive can help a lot. You might also see if you can find a library book or Sesame Street episode or whatever his way of absorbing things is that deals with moving - my own kids liked to process things through stories and pretend play when they were that age. It can also help to have him help pack some of his own things in a box or suitcase before the move so he feels invested and part of things - the move where my parents sent me to a friend's house and I came back to find everything in boxes was the worst of all of them.

    We've moved twice with our daughter. The first time when she was 3, then again when she was 4.5. Both times we talked openly about it, explained to her what's happening and why we're doing it and pointed out the highlights, e.g. having a backyard she can play in, a better room, neighborhood playground,.... I also read some kids' books with her about moving.

    She had a few, minor moments where she didn't like the change. Whenever that happened, a good strategy (as with all disagreements or tantrums) is to acknowledge and re-direct. Then after some time we'd come back to point out the highlights.

    Overall she managed very well and it was a non-issue, as she always discovered new and interesting things about the new house.

    Kids are highly adaptable. Don't be too concerned about sharing the logical process behind it (first looking, then finding), that's likely over their head. Just tell him it's happening and what to look forward to.

    Good luck!

  • Advice for moving with 9 year old

    (8 replies)

    After a few years of considering a move to the northeast, we have finally decided to do it for a variety of reasons - job opportunity, closer to family, better schools, etc.  My husband and I are very sad, though, about all that we will be leaving behind, and I'm dreading telling our older child who is 9 and will be in between 3rd and 4th grade when we move this summer.  He is an extroverted kid who makes friends pretty easily, but also is very engaged and happy with his school, friends, and extracurricular activities here.  He also tends to have intense emotions, and I want to make sure we make the transition as easy as possible for him.  I'd love advice or experiences of people who went through this.  How far in advance did you tell your kid the news, how did they work through the sadness of leaving, how did you help them make friends and get settled in the new location?  We won't move until mid-summer so we have a full 6-7 months to prepare.  I never moved as a kid so this is new territory for me.  Thank you!

    I suggest that you involve your child as much as possible in the moving process. Look at possible places to live together. Discuss the pros and cons together of each place together. Pack his stuff with him and ask him what he wants to keep and what he wants to leave behind. Talk together about how to arrange furniture in his new room. Unpack together. 

    In the new place, go to neighborhood parks, libraries, etc and make friends with the people you meet. Work on the front yard and be friendly with those who walk by. Get him a bike or skateboard and let him use it on your block. Have a housewarming and invite all your neighbors. 

    Good luck!

    hi!   I guess I think differently from the other responder.   I don't think you need to tell your 9 y/o early in the year.   And I don't think they should be a major part of the decision-making process for a house or a neighborhood since you need to think about a lot of factors some of which are way beyond what a 9 y/o can fathom.   He should definitely be involved in packing and in figuring out his room lay-out but only if that interests him.   I agree with the rest about checking out the parks, library, shops, etc., once you move there.  As for a bike, it will depend upon your street and neighborhood.  Good luck! 

    We just moved last summer from Hayward to Maine. We had mixed emotions about leaving, but we are SO glad we did! We own a great home on a river with a yard in a nationally ranked school district where it's so safe people leave their cars unlocked in the driveway with the keys in them- for less than half of what we were paying in rent in a not so good district- my commute has gone from 1.5 hours each way to 8 minutes (literally... in rush hour traffic), etc., etc. There are lots of people and things we miss (the food!), but we don't regret the decision one bit.

    Our child was 10 when we left California, between 5th and 6th grade. We actually started talking about the possibility of moving two years before we moved. We started talking about why we would move and when. We took a sheet of poster paper and taped it to the wall behind our dining table, and had a family discussion about what's important to our family in where we live (home we can afford, close to church, jobs for both of us, time to spend with family, good schools, weather, activities we enjoy, etc.). Everyone contributed, including our then 8 year old. At this point, he was NOT wanting to move, but I took the things he said and added them to the list in a constructive way that kept the heart of what was important for him- "I don't want to leave my friends"=good friends, "but I could be on the basketball team next year"=school with basketball team. Later, once we had picked where we were going, we brought out the paper and talked about how we had come up with this list as a family, and how the place we found met most/all of what was important to us, including him. We did NOT involve him in the choice of what state to move to or what house we were going to buy- he contributed to what was important to our family, but the final decisions are for the adults.

    As we made decisions, we let him know right away- what state/area we were moving to, what date we were leaving, what city we were moving to, what house we were buying, what school he'd go to, etc. He did not know when I interviewed for jobs, but once I accepted, he was informed when we started looking at things and when we made a decision. 

    Things we did to work though sadness of leaving:

    • Told his teachers, friends, and therapist we were moving as soon as we knew
    • Collected contact information for friends (and we've videochatted with friends after moving)
    • Had a goodbye party he could invite all of his friends to, a sleepover at our house. We bought margarita glasses at Dollar Tree and he decorated one for each of his friends, which we all used as ice cream bowls at his party, and his friends worked together to make him one that we kept and brought with us
    • Lots of pictures and videos of his friends, church family, etc.- we made a goodbye California photo book
    • A "goodbye tour" of where he was born, the house he lived in as a baby, other important places from his entire life where he could formally say goodbye and he could get pictures
    • On his last day in the house, he went and said goodbye to each of the rooms in the house.

    Once arriving at our new home, basically just got started with activities and exploring the area right away, and kept in touch with friends back in California. Major bonus- he now says he LOVES school (in middle school, no joke!) and how much better it is here than in California, but he does miss his California friends and wants to visit.

    Oh this is so challenging, and something I can really relate to having gone through this two years ago. I honestly feel we are still adjusting and there really is no easy way. What worked well for us--telling our child several months before the end of the school year so that they could start to adjust, be a part of the moving plan, etc. Trying to come up with as many positives as we could about our new location (also Northeast) while allowing space to be sad about leaving California. We moved just a few weeks after school ended, giving enough time on the other end of the move to allow for a few camps, etc in our new area and not to spend the whole summer in CA only to be pulled from that.

    I'm not sure if your decision is definite (sounds like it might be) but I just wanted to offer that I felt that way (sad, conflicted)  (my partner was more for moving) and I honestly wish in my heart we had stuck it out. The sadness I felt about leaving hasn't gone away. Things are getting better but leaving the Bay Area has been much much harder than I thought and I still miss it greatly. I've brought my child back to visit friends and though I wasn't sure if it would help or hurt, I really do feel it has helped him to see it is possible to have friends in both places. We send notes and silly text messages to close friends and talk about how great it is having friends in multiple places we can now go visit. We keep a running list of both places about things we love about our new spot and things we really miss about CA. I have had to suppress some of my own feelings about our move to keep things on a more positive note for my child but I do acknowledge missing CA as well to help normalize those feelings for him. I second the advice someone else gave about getting settled and having a house warming party, inviting neighbors, etc. That helped a lot to quickly meet neighbors and they loved it too! We also immediately got to work on setting up our child's room when we arrived--painting, setting up furniture from home in CA, choosing some new things for their room once we got here. I think this was another important step. We had many nights and months of our child crying nightly and it was heartbreaking--we let those feelings flow openly and put a lot of effort into exploring our new home while also allowing much down time to just get settled. You mentioned you have family in the northeast and I would really recruit them to help with the adjustment as well--special outings, time at your new home, just being there.

    To end on a positive note--slushy frozen lemonade, amazing foliage, beach dunes and soft sand, warm summer nights in flip-flops and fireflies, sleigh riding and snow shoeing, crisp air, new signs of life in spring, and magical first snow falls await! :)  We meet folks often who also recently moved so please know you are not in this alone and you will find your CA people on the east coast.

    Wishing a smooth and happy journey for you and your family.

    We just moved to the Bay Area with our 10 and 15 year old this past summer, and even though we talked about this move WAY in advance (we started making plans 1.5 years prior) and tried our best to involve them in every step, it was still really, really tough, especially for our little one.  He missed his old school, his friends, our big family get togethers with all his cousins.  My husband and I both moved at around 4-5th grade so we knew what it felt like to all of a sudden have to deal with a new environment, school, culture, etc.  So what I would recommend is to involve him in the decision-making, but also know that no matter what it will take a good 3-6 months until it starts getting better.  And to reassure him that it will get better!  It also helped that we got him a long-awaited pet a week after our move.   :)  

    Best of luck to you and your family!

    When my daughter was 10, we moved 4 blocks. It was actually really hard for her. She slept on a mat on the floor of my room for a month before she acclimated to the new house and was not scared in her own room. Also, my daughter has two friends who moved to the Bay Area after 2nd grade, and now more than 10 years later they still go back to visit their old friends every year, and sometimes the old friends come here to visit. Both of these friends joined activities outside of school as soon as they moved here to make friends, and it is also good in the long run to have friends outside of school. My advice is to research in advance a team or activity he can join right away when you arrive at your new home, and see what you can do to stay in touch with his current friends after you move such as weekly video chats.

    Hello, I'm moving with my 8yo daughter from the Bay Area to the Midwest/East this summer. I started by telling her it was a "maybe" and engaged her in dialogue around "what would it be like?" and what all the pro's were. Then, we spoke about some of the things that would be different. She was able to express some fears and we talked through them. I'm a single parent and she knows being close to family will be so much better! We are both pretty excited and can talk about things as they come up. Good luck!! I know, I'm scared too and will miss so much of the joys of the Bay Area, but this will create so much more of a life (and we can come back to visit any time!).

    Many Child Life Specialists are moving into this sector. They have the tools, skills, and experience to help families navigate challenges, including moving.

    Their accrediting body is here:

    I adore the Child Life Specialists I've worked with and think it could really be worth some internet searches to find someone who could help you all navigate this change.  

  • We may be moving from Oakland to Ohio in a couple months and I'm trying to plan out the best way to tackle this with a 2 y/o and 4 m/o in tow. I think flying with the two kids (and with my mother) while my husband drives the car out, would be the easiest way to tackle this, but he thinks us all driving together would be a better option. Anyone have an personal experience with a big move like this? Would love to hear experiences/advice on what worked and what to avoid. We will most likely be paying for a moving company to do a full pack for us to avoid that major hassle. Thanks in advance for any advice you can give!

    I think trying to drive all that way with kids in restraints will be a nightmare.  You'd have to stop every hour at least to let them out.  And the little one will have to be fed frequently too, so that's a stop as well.  Flying with the children and letting Daddy drive, maybe with a companion so he doesn't get lonely?  Much wiser option.  Take it from one who knows.....

    When we moved x-c with young kids I got one piece of advice that was helpful. It doesn't involve the physical moving but the 'what happens when you get there' part. We had a box marked for the things we needed the very first night and then the first couple of days - mostly getting the kids stuff up and running immediately. Ours were 3 and 5 so they had more needs in terms of toys, routines, etc but I think it still applies. A box with paper towels, a few dishes, sip cups, toys, stuffed animas, sheets, trash bags, anything you can use to make their room (especially the two year old) feel as close to "normal" and the same routine and comfortable as possible was a huge help. We were prepared to live with take-out and clothes in boxes and disarray for awhile but it was easier for the kids to have routine. And, be prepared to go slow. We couldn't just do power days of major unpacking and organizing but had  to create a semblance of a regular day for the kids and work unpacking in around their schedules. One of the nicest gifts we received was from friends who scooped up the kids and took them away for the day and came back with pizza and kids at the end of the day. Can't do that with a 4 month old but if someone can watch them leaving you to unpack (and nurse when needed) it would be super helpful. Happy moving! 

    Hi Gina,

    We just moved from Pennsylvania to Albany with our son who was 9 months old. My husband drove our car with the dog and my son and I flew later. It was great because he could take the things we didn't want to put in the moving truck in the car with him. Flying was quick and avoided constantly pulling over to feed, change diapers, or give our little one a break from the car seat. I think the advice is to pull over every 2 hours for infants and give them a break from the seat. 

    Good luck!

    We are getting ready to do a cross country move as well! Much as I love the idea of driving out together, it simply isn't possible right now. We are shipping our car (about $900 coast to coast) and all flying together. 

    All the best to you and your family! 

    Hi there! We moved last summer with a 2 and 3.5 year old - so, yes, some experience with this! You are on the right track and that’s what we did. I flew out with the kids, actually left the kids with family, then flew back out to NY to finish packing for like 2-3 days (we did a pod). I then flew back to get settled in to the new place, etc.  my husband then drove the car out and his dad joined to help.  

    It’s a long haul out and after just doing another move with the kids 2 weeks ago, feel like the clean cut with flying out, etc, was much easier on them and us.  Moving is exhausting for everyone and flying out with them made it a little less painful - at least for all of us! If you have any questions, just let me know! :) 

    We did a cross-country move from Boston to Oakland a few years back when our kids were 2 y/o and 4 weeks (!!) old, and I’m happy to share our experience. My sister and I flew with the kids, and my husband drove our moving truck and brought his dad along. This setup worked really well for us, because then it was just one day of traveling for the kids vs. 4+, and they were able to get settled back into routines and sleep pretty quickly. My sister’s presence was invaluable, particularly with my 2 y/o, as she was able to help take care of my daughter not only on the plane, but also helped ease the transition to a new place. For my husband and his dad, it allowed them to get as much driving in each day without having to worry about the various things that come with a long car trip with kiddos (especially really little ones): potty/diaper and nursing breaks, poor hotel sleep, fussiness in the car, etc. And they made the most of that very long drive to talk and catch up, which both of them found to be meaningful.

    I asked my husband, after reading your post, if he would have made that trip (driving) with all of us, and his answer was “nope!” for the reasons I mentioned above that could make the trip way longer than anticipated, and because of the kids’ routine/sleep being disrupted for longer.

    Either way you do it, best of luck on the journey and on your new adventure in Ohio!

    We did the opposite move - Pennsylvania to San Francisco in 2015 with a one year old.  My husband's brother and sister flew out to Pittsburgh, my sister-in-law and I flew with the baby and as many pieces of luggage as we could handle - free shipping!  and my husband and his brother drove across the country with our belongings.   We shipped a few boxes and only took what could fit in our suitcases or car and gave away most of our other belongings.   Read such terrible reviews of cross country movers that it didn't seem worth it.  I wanted to drive across country with my husband, but am glad that we flew in the end, not sure how fun it would have been with a one year old. 

    We did a similar move last year from East Coast to Oakland. We flew from there. We shipped the car. It is tiring to drive by himself all the way. We got rid of all of our furniture, junk stuff, baby related big toys. We had very little left and we shipped them as well. The size of the houses/apartments is small here. Don't bring everything. Get rid of as much as possible. With kids, flying is much easier.

  • Helping a 5th grader through a move

    (2 replies)

     We recently moved from the east bay to Marin for a number of reasons.  My 5th grade boy is having a harder time w/the transition than I thought.  He loves his new school and teacher and has never been more interested in school than ever before.  However, he terribly misses his old buddies and says they are “his forever friends” and the kids here are nice but are different.  He has a few boys he has made friends w/at schools but he’s not interested in having any “play dates” w/them outside of school and does not want to do any of the extracurriculars they do.  I don’t want to push him too much but I am very sad for him and want to help him through this transition as best I can.  He was quite liked at his old school and our house was the hangout house and now it’s not.  He talks to some of his old friends online everyday and that cheers him up but I am not sure if it’s making worse for him.  Academically, he’s doing better in school than he has ever done.  Any advice?  I am worried how this will all go in middle school next year (which fortunately is a small middle w/only his school and 1 other feeding into it).  I am all ears!  Thanks!

    Moves are hard when you're a kid (or adult). (I've moved countless times.) He's mourning the loss of the closeness he enjoyed.  Truthfully, around this age kids do develop new interests and go in different directions as they explore. Even if you lived there he'd be experience a version of this over the next few years. (But probably it won't help if you say that to him, just bear it in mind.)

     But rather than curtail his interactions with old friends, I suggest you look into some non-academic activities or programs where he can keep busy and interact with new kids to allow time for bonds to build. Rather than one-on-one playdates, look for activities through the school or outside.  Some ideas: Boy Scouts, a swim or baseball or soccer club, band, 4-H (yep, we have 4-H), a martial arts class, parkour.  That's just off the top of my head.

    There are lots of groups that work with animals : Wildcare, the Humane Society, the Marine Mammal center are just a few.  Maybe some of them have children's programs.

    I don't know which town you are in but lots of cities have Parks and Recs programs. 

    And here is a link to the Marin Mommies website:

    My heart goes out to him.  Maybe he will keep his old friends forever ... but he could make some new ones he'll keep forever, too!

    I don't have any advice for now, but I would expect middle school to help. With two elementary schools feeding into one middle school, it will be natural for relationships and social dynamics to shift. All the kids will be on unsure footing navigating the larger student body, which will level the playing field for him (instead of him being "the new kid" among kids who have been together for 5 years). I went to a small middle school with 3 feeder elementaries, and by high school I had an entirely different circle of friends than I had in elementary school. I think that was true of most kids.

  • I am currently interviewing for jobs in Sacramento and will hopefully get something by this winter. The idea is to eventually move our whole family to Sacramento to improve our overall work/life balance. My husband's job is based in Berkeley but he plans to work remotely and just come in to the Berkeley office occasionally. My biggest concern is that I currently have a 3 year old (preschool) and 7 year old (2nd grader in Berkeley USD), and I am starting to panic about the idea of moving during the middle of a school year, particularly about the impact it would have on the 2nd grader. I started to talk to the schools in Sacramento and it is not 100% certain whether my 2nd grader would be able to go to her neighborhood school if we started mid-year. I would rather commute from Berkeley to Sacramento for six months than make her transition to TWO different schools within a year, so we would likely only move during this school year if she could start at the same neighborhood school that she would be at next year. I'm optimistic that we will be able to get her a space and move mid-year, but now I'm starting to wonder if I shouldn't just commute for six months regardless, and make the transition during the summer. I'm just afraid that doing that commute for six months will be miserable and will defeat the purpose of moving for a better quality of life and to have more time with my kids. But is it really hard on kids to move mid-school year? Either academically or socially? I am actually less concerned about her ability to adjust socially. She makes a new friend every time we go to a restaurant or park, but I'm more concerned about her academic success, because she has had a lot of difficulty with reading and is just now (after a lot of outside tutoring) getting to the point where she can keep up with her peers. She likes her BUSD class, school and teacher and is learning a lot. Though I have talked to her about moving to Sacramento to be closer to her grandparents and she is really excited about the prospect, so that's a plus. If anyone has advice or experience regarding moving mid-school year, please let me know.

    Having moved my then preschool and third grade kids to Hong Kong mid-school year several years ago, I can assure kids can handle mid-year moves. Anywhere. I worried about so many things, not least of all this very thing, but as my therapist at the time said, "You and your husband are the faces of this move. If you embrace it, they will too."  She was right. 

    We moved 3 times -- twice in between years, and once during the year. In my experience, if you move mid-year, you're "the new kid," and that spotlight can be a little intense but also fun. If you move in between years, then you're just the random person who doesn't know anyone, which feels a bit more lonely. Also, if you move mid-summer, then on the "pro" side, she has the summer to adjust to the house and neighborhood, but on the "con" side, she won't have her friends to play with so it could be really boring.

    Whether commuting is sustainable will really depend on what your employer will allow and whether you want to drive or take the train. The train is very comfortable and a nice way to commute. But because it comes once an hour, it depends on whether it works for your schedule. Most likely, taking the train means leaving the house around 6:25 AM and getting back around 7:45 PM (if you take a lunch break) or 6:45 PM (if you don't, or if you can make up your lunch by working on the train). Driving gives you some flexibility and shortens the day a bit further, but it is more dangerous and takes away a huge number of hours that you could spend on the train working, doing your taxes, writing your holiday cards, etc. etc. If you can work from home a few days / week, then commuting for six months really starts to be viable. Good luck! 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


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