Moving makes it to the top ten list of life’s most stressful events. When we feel more in control of a situation we can often feel less panicked. Now put yourself in the shoes of your children when the “we are selling the house!” announcement is made. Kids are not generally the chief decision makers of the household (as it should be) and therefore have little control of this major change in their lives. This can make a move exceptionally hard for children, leaving them feeling powerless and resentful but there are a number of strategies that can help them feel secure and even excited about the process.
First, please, sit down as a family before you call your REALTOR® in to assess your home and list it. Don’t surprise your son or daughter one morning with a FOR SALE sign on the front lawn. At each child’s level of understanding share with them why it’s time to move and let them ask all the questions they have and also ask them what their biggest fear or concern is regarding changing homes. In this way you can address each child’s individual emotions without having to assume how they are feeling. There are also a good number of children’s books on the topic that can help kids process and serve as conversation starters. Check out What About My Goldfish? By Jennifer Plecas.
A word about timing. Many people tend to think that moving during the summer is best but we disagree. Moving during the school year has several advantages. The house is easier to keep clean and showings are less complicated when the little ones are away for the majority of the day. More importantly, changing schools mid-year means that Suzy will be the special new girl, generally assigned a buddy to help her fit in to the new environment, something that won’t happen on first day of school in September.
Next, include them in each step of the process. Introduce them to your family’s REALTOR®, and let the kids conduct the tour of their own rooms and plays areas pointing out all the best features of their spaces. If they are old enough, your agent can discuss with them preparing and keeping their rooms ready for showings, even giving the kids checklists for showings including the staged pictures of their rooms so that they can re-set the bedroom as shown. In our experience kids often really loved their staged rooms and take pride in keeping them neat.
Then, get them excited about what moving to a new home will mean to them i.e. more yard to play in, their own room, or living closer to Grandma and Grandpa. Look at the MLS® listings online together and let them tell the things that they like about the homes. This will build some anticipation and be a motivator for them to help out with the house while it’s on the market. If they are old enough, take them to open houses or the first home viewings. However, we don’t suggest that you tell them which home you have offered on until the deal is firm. Kids can’t always rationalize that ‘you couldn’t come together on price’ or that the inspection failed, and we don’t need to take them on that emotional rollercoaster ride; it’s hard enough on us adults! Once you have secured a new home then take them out to see it, show them their new rooms, bring paint chips, etc. Also, tour the neighbourhood, go play for awhile at a nearby park or schoolyard and let them get ramped up about the new digs.
Moving as a family can be an enriching experience as long as we pay attention to every member’s needs. Throughout all of this engage your REALTOR®’s help in making your children feel empowered and important, because they are!