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How to Tell the Kids You're Moving

You've landed a new job in another area and hopefully negotiated an attractive relocation package. Now comes the hard part: breaking the news to your family.

Moving is a major upheaval in children's lives; they'll be leaving what may be the only home they have ever known to move to a place they may know nothing about. Even if your family has moved before, and you know what to expect, uprooting yourselves again won't be easy. That's because the older the kids are, the harder it is for them to say goodbye to their friends.

One of the first considerations is when to tell your family – particularly your children. Lori Collins Burgan, the author of "Moving With Kids: 25 Ways to Ease Your Family's Transition to a New Home," says this depends on many things, including their age and whether they have any say in the matter. "With older kids, parents sometimes let them have input; in that case, you need to talk [about it] right up front. Let them know it's a possibility," she says.

On the other hand, you don't want to tell children too soon. After all, there's no point in them worrying about something that might not happen. Burgan says there's one big stipulation, however: If the word is getting out and there's a possibility the kids might hear about an impending move from someone else, don't take any chances: Tell them yourself. "It's so important that they hear it from you first," she says.

The author says this shows that you respect your children and their feelings. Also, children trust their parents to keep them apprised of important things that affect their lives. This trust is damaged if they hear about a move from someone else.

Burgan says it's surprising how often parents put their children in this position. Many times, her friends have casually mentioned that they are planning to move, and when she asks how their children feel about it, they say the children haven't been told.

Once you've decided when to break the news, you need to think about how you're going to do it. The announcement is likely to be traumatic, so pick a private setting. 

Also, make sure you won't be any interruptions. Turn off the telephones, cellphones and the television. Ignore the doorbell.

Burgan says that when she and her family have moved in the past, she and her husband generally set aside an evening for a "family meeting." They let the children express their feelings about the move, and then have a general discussion about the new place.

"When the kids were younger we would list all of their questions. We could answer some and we'd commit to get answers [for the rest]," she says.

Children take their cue from their parents, so it's important to set the stage: Yes, the place where you will be moving is different, but you will make it through as a family.

Remember, it will take time for everyone to get used to the idea. 

Allison Bisbey Colter is a freelance writer in New Jersey whose work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal and American Banker. She is a former editor at TheStreet.com and a former reporter for Dow Jones Newswires.

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