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How to Help Your Kids Fit In

Moving with kids is tough; they have to leave their friends, their school and the familiarity of their routines behind. By helping them get to know their new area, you may be able to help them with any uneasiness they may experience after moving day. You can start helping your kids adjust to a new neigborhood before you even get there.

When Leslie Levine moved to Chicago from Rochester, New York, she wanted to do something special. So she enlisted the help of her real estate agent, who planted some well-chosen toys for her daughter and son, then eight and three, to find waiting for them in their empty closets when they arrived.

"For my daughter, we had an American Girls doll and my son this Little Tykes garage thing," Levine explains.

The surprise worked. "Who wouldn't want to find something wonderful in their empty closets after moving away from everything familiar?," she says.

There are other kinds of advance work parents can do. Lori Collins Burgan recommends explaining to teachers, coaches and any other adults who are going to be part of the child's life that the move is going to be tough on your son or daughter and recommending things that will help with the transition.

"Otherwise, your child might kind of get lost in the shuffle," she says.

It helps to be as specific as possible. The last time Collins Burgan's family moved, her middle child, a daughter, was in the fifth grade. The author explained to her daughter's new teacher that the girl was athletic and asked if the teacher could pair her with another girl with similar interests.

Collins Burgan's daughter, now 16, and the girl she was paired up with became best friends.

"I've found adults to be very willing to help, they just sometimes don't know how," Collins Burgan says.

If your children are too young for school, Collins Burgan recommends spending time outside with them, even in bad weather, so that they are visible to other kids in the neighborhood. Have playground equipment in the yard. Take them on walks.

"If I see a child go in a door, I'll even go up and knock on it," Collins Burgan says.

It's also important to do things that symbolize and give meaning to the fact that you've moved. Levine says she had a goodbye party for her daughter where she gave out ziplock bags with self-addressed, stamped cards. "She got mail [at the new address] for a long time," Levine says.

Another tip: Give your children cameras to take pictures of their old home – as well as pictures of their new home to send to old friends. Levine says this "helps kids makes sense of a move."

Taking some family rituals with you can help make the new place feel like home. "You can also come up with some new rituals, like pizza in the living room," Levine says.

Collins Burgan says it's also important to be positive and keep your sense of humor. "Don't always be comparing the old community to the new community in a negative way," she says.

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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