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The Complete Guide to Moving Out of State

Moving Out of State with Kids

Planning a move out of state can be daunting, whether you're moving for work, family, or other reasons. Our Complete Guide to Moving Out of State answers all your biggest questions about moving out of state, from creating to-do lists, planning, and budgeting for your move to downsizing, packing your belongings, and settling into your new home.


Moving out of state can be particularly disruptive to kids of all ages. Not only are they forced to leave behind their best buds, but they’re also thrown into an unknown environment filled with uncertainty – new teachers and classmates, new playgrounds and rec centers, and a whole new house. It’s a lot to take in. 

The key for parents moving out of state with kids is to provide a sense of routine and predictability to make the transition as stress-free as possible. 

In this section of the guide, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most important things to consider when moving out of state with kids, including:

  • Custody arrangements
  • Overcoming packing challenges
  • Changing schools
  • Making new friends

Things to consider when moving out of state with kids

If you have very young children or babies, moving is less about how they’ll handle the transition, and more about how you’ll deal with the logistics. Babies aren’t able to understand what moving means. Packing and unpacking boxes is irrelevant to them as long as their daily routine remains intact. 

As children grow up and begin to understand what’s going on around them, the transition becomes a little more complicated. If you’re moving with older kiddos, here are some considerations, tips, and tools for moving long distance:

Custody arrangements

If you share custody of your children with a former partner, you’ll have an extra hurdle to cross to move out of state. 

According to divorcenet.com, “if both parents consent to the child moving and can agree on a new custody arrangement that considers the new location and provides the noncustodial parent a sufficient amount of time with the child, a judge may approve it if it meets the child's best interests.”

Of course, the best scenario is when both parents can agree on the details of an out-of-state move. If this is the case, each parent will need to sign a written agreement (known as a stipulation and consent agreement), which a family court judge may turn into a court order.

If, however, both parents are unable to come to an agreement, a custody mediator may be able to help them find a resolution. If that doesn’t work, the parent who is moving out of state will have to file a "petition" (or "motion") asking the court to grant the request to relocate. 

Overcoming packing challenges

Whether they’re 5 or 15, kids of all ages will face their own set of unique challenges when it comes to packing for a long distance move. Younger kids may struggle to downsize their toy collection while teens may blatantly refuse to pack as a way to protest the entire move.

Involve younger kids right from the start by introducing the move as an exciting new adventure. Young children take their cues from adult behavior, so keep your mood positive. When you make packing and unpacking seem like a daily game, young kids will focus on the routine and the fun rather than their fear of moving. Plus, allowing your toddler to help pack up some of their toys gives them a sense of control over the move, which can ease stress levels.

TSI TIP: It’s best to involve your kids as much as possible, but if your children are especially attached to their toys and are having trouble letting go of items they haven’t touched in weeks or months, you may need to stealthily declutter and donate the toys they don’t use often. 

Older children, particularly teens, have been known to dig in their heels when it comes to a major move. Control (or lack thereof) is a huge part of moving out of state for school-aged kids. Here are some tips to encourage cooperation as you prepare for the move:

  • Empathy is critical to a smooth transition. Kids and teens may seem angry when they’re feeling frightened and insecure. Remember to listen to the meaning behind their words, not just the words themselves. 
  • Encouragement goes a long way. Guide your kids through their feelings by relating to and validating their experiences by saying things like, “I’m excited about moving to our new house, but I’m going to miss my friends. How are you feeling?” This will help them find the words to express their emotions in a healthy way.
  • Time flies, especially when the clock is ticking down to a nerve-wracking moving day. Give your kids plenty of time to adjust to the idea of an out of state move. 
  • Control eases fear. Give your kids a sense of control when packing for the move by letting them choose which items to keep and which to donate. Don’t force them to start tossing away all their prized possessions in an effort to declutter—instead, work with them to decide which items to keep and what to do with the ones that don’t make the cut. You can also give them full control over how they want to decorate their new room.
  • Participation in the move can really give your kids a sense of confidence and control. Older kids can map your route on the GPS device, or help you choose and book overnight accommodations online. Younger kids need important jobs, too. You can put them in charge of making sure the family dog is feeling safe and secure on moving day, or perhaps they’ll be in charge of snacks and water for the movers. 

Changing schools

Whether they’re in preschool or high school, changing schools can be scary for kids. After all, they’re being uprooted from their daily routine, forced to leave behind their favorite friends and teachers. Worst of all, they have no say in the matter. Let’s look at some ways to ease the transition for kids of all ages.

Preschoolers & toddlers

This may be the easiest age for kids to move, since they likely aren’t fully aware of what’s happening. At this age, kids are more likely to be concerned with whether or not they can keep their toys than they are concerned about whether or not they’ll see their classmates. 

Toddlers and preschoolers tend to rely on immediate family, pets and personal belongings to give them a sense of comfort and structure. As long as you can reassure them that these pillars are not changing, they’ll probably take the move in stride. 

Keep your conversations short and focus on the positive. For example: 

“Do we have to bring my baby brother?” “Yes, we’re all moving to a new house where you each get your very own bedroom!” 

Create a list for your young ones about all the exciting new things they’ll have after the move, such as:

  • We can decorate your bedroom any way you want
  • We’ll set up a swing set and sandbox in the backyard
  • Our new yard is fenced, so you can play fetch with Rex without a leash

School-aged kids

Don’t underestimate the impact a long distance move will have on school-aged kids. It’s a time when they’re developing their social skills and learning all about the world around them, and moving out of state means leaving behind favorite teachers, friends, teammates, and maybe even some relatives. 

Saying goodbye gives kids a sense of closure, which will help with their transition. Consider hosting a going away party that focuses on all the ways everyone will keep in touch, like email, online games, and video chats. Thank goodness for modern-day technology!

Use local resources to help your child transition to a new school. Keeping an eye on your child’s behavior during a long distance move is important, but you don’t have to do it alone. Check in with school counselors to see how they’re adjusting socially, talk to teachers to make sure they’re adapting to the new curriculum, and don’t hesitate to engage a therapist if you see your child struggling to cope during this stressful time. 

Making new friends

Sometimes kids need a little help making new friends – no matter their age. It’s up to you as the parent to get them involved in your new community. Sign them up for:

  • Team sports
  • Music lessons
  • Art classes
  • Gaming groups
  • Dance lessons

Check out the local dog park, participate in church gatherings, or invite the neighbors (and their kids!) to a housewarming party. 

Dedicate time for daily outings to scope out local museums, art galleries, science centers, aquariums and zoos. Attend parades, fairs and festivals. Explore farmer’s markets, national parks and cultural events.

Not sure where to begin? Pop into your local welcome centre to uncover all the community has to offer. It’s one of the quickest ways for the entire family to meet new people and make new friends. 

Conclusion

An out of state move can be overwhelming for kids (and parents!) both emotionally and physically. After all, you’re leaving behind the comfort and familiarity of your entire life. Remember, you will get through it, and so will your children. You can take comfort in the fact that kids are particularly resilient, and it won’t take them (or you!) long to settle in and feel at home again.


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