4 Steps to Prepare Kids to Move: NYC to CA

Preparing kids for a move…honestly I feel a little silly writing this because even though this is our 5th move with kids in 6 years I still don’t feel like I have answers.

Moving is hard.

I’m a grown up and moving is still really hard for me.

That being said, since this is the 5th time we’ve moved with kids I do feel like I have learned some things that make me feel more prepared this time around. Hopefully they will be helpful for your family too.

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The Move

Are you thinking “Wait, you’re moving…again?”

Then yes! – we are moving! My husband got offered an awesome job in San Diego so we are headed west to sunny California in January.

It will be really hard to say goodbye to New York City – especially so much sooner than we had planned. Living here has been a completely unique experience and I’m so grateful we’ve had the past year and a half to explore one of the greatest cities in the world.

More than anything, it will be hard to say goodbye to the fantastic people we have met. You hear so many awful things about rude New Yorkers and while yes the pushing on the subways during rush hour and the alarming amount of honking for little reason is hard to explain, New Yorkers in general are wonderful, welcoming people. We have made great friends here and that makes moving away so sad.

However, moving we are so we need to prepare.

4 Steps to Prepare Kids for Moving

Does anyone have the perfect answer to this? I still struggle with how to prepare myself and generally exist in a state of denial for much of the prep time, but I do try hard to talk to the kids about what is coming up and how they are feeling about it.

Here are the things we have found to be helpful in easing the move for our kids.

1. Children’s Books about Moving & Conversation

I have found reading books about moving really helps start conversations about their fears and other emotions involving our move. This is the list of books I use.

Asking open ended questions also helps to open a dialogue about the move and what they are concerned about. Some questions we have found helpful are;

  • What are you wondering about (new city)?
  • How are you feeling about our move today?
  • What are you going to miss the most about this home?
  • You seem sad today. Can you tell me about it?
  • How do you think we could stay in touch with {insert important friend’s name}?

2. Here and There: Mapping Our Move

mapping our move with kids

A dear family friend heard about our move and sent us a huge map and guidebook about coastal California from AAA. I paired this with our 50 States book.

  • First we found New York City on the map and San Diego California.
  • We found San Diego in The 50 States Book.
  • As we figured out the route we were going to take to CA we started mapping that and also read about the places we would be stopping.
  • When their Dad went out to San Diego to hunt for a home we also mapped his trip. We found their new school and home on the map and added little dots. We talked about other things like where the closest library is, how we might drive to the zoo, and best of all the shortest route to the beach.

Family Road Trip Activity Tips

3. What to Pack in the Car

If you are moving across town or in a U-Haul then your belongings are all coming with you – but in our case our things are getting put in a huge semi and then disappearing for somewhere between a few weeks to a few months.

With this type of move in mind, here are the things I recommend packing in the car although I think some of it would be comforting to a kid no matter how short or long your move.

  1. Clothes. I pack like we are going on a week long trip. This gets a little more complicated when you’re moving from Winter in New York to warmer weather in San Diego, but I try to cover a week’s worth of clothes and pajamas and such and then plan to do laundry. (Bringing some detergent is also helpful – a few of these pods is easy to pack!) Don’t forget swim suits – there is at least one perk of living in a hotel for a while!
  2. Activities for the car. (In this case a LOT of activities for the car)
  3. A box of children’s books to rotate through over the next couple of months.
  4. A box for each child with their absolute favorite stuffed animals and toys. I let them help fill this up. This is whatever is most important to them so they are comforted by the fact that it is in the car with and not disappearing onto a truck. The box stays in the car until we get to the hotel or new home and tides them over until the rest of their toys arrive.
  5. A backpack of a few things they want to use in the car and then I sneak in some other surprises the night before.
  6. Food. Snacks for the car and some basics to start our pantry stocking when we arrive. I also pack a case of water.
  7. Pillows, blankets, and sound machines. We find it comforting to have our own pillows and blankets with us when we’re living out of a hotel for a while.
  8. Scooters, soccer ball – some kind of active outdoor gear to pull out of the car and get in a little gross motor on long car days.
  9. License Plate Game – if there was ever a time we might get all 50 I think this is our shot!

4. Saying Goodbye to People & Places

This is the hardest part. I hate goodbyes and I’m generally pretty terrible at them. I am however good at staying in touch with people after we move, so I feel like “see ya later” is a pretty truthful statement and I prefer it.

Make a list with your kids. What do they want to do one more time before you leave?

What’s on our list this time?

Places and People to Say Goodbye to in New York

  • Playdates with friends.
  • Central Park. Narrowing down which playground to play at was hard!
  • Play at the playground down the block.
  • Ride their bikes on the Coney Island Boardwalk again.
  • Fingers crossed – getting to see snow one more time.
  • See their uncle one more time.

4 Steps to Prepare Kids for a Move

And here we go…

We will be leaving for San Diego in a few days. To say we’re ready would be a stretch, I don’t think you ever really feel ready for something like this but we are as prepared as we can be.

Follow me on Instagram to keep up with us as we cross the country and I will share more details here when we’re settled in San Diego.

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