Preparing child for a big move

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.

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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 left...at 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.