Friday, July 24, 2015

When Moving Kids, Ignore the Advice

That's right. The best piece of moving advice is to not listen to moving advice.

As if we’re not guilt-ridden enough when we move our families, we’re sure to do it wrong, no matter how much advice we seek out. I decided after the third time that I had to move a child in high school, I wasn’t going to be winning any parent of the year awards anytime soon.

I wanted to turn to my kids and say, “Hey, this isn’t my idea, you know. It’s all his fault!” and then point dramatically to their dad, who was, incidentally, gliding through our moves like an Olympic figure skater. He was smoothly adjusting to a new job, making eight new friends a day at work without any embarrassing cafeteria incidents, and he could put his hands on all of his ties, which was itself a miracle, because I couldn’t find a single bra except the bright red one that was two cup sizes too big.

The kids had nothing in school colors, nothing for the current weather, all the wrong notebooks, and were having a hard time keeping up with the movie theme days, pajama days, and Dr. Seuss celebration days, without doing it wrong. In fact, they and I were all struggling with doing it wrong. The local customs and culture were a mystery to us. We kept doing it the Illinois way in New Jersey, the New Jersey way in Kentucky, and the Kentucky way in Florida. We were always one state behind. The only way to catch up would be to quickly move back to a place where we had lived previously. And that wasn’t likely, because I couldn’t hear the word move without crying.

If you Google moving children you will see a lot of serious stuff. Men and women wearing suits, peering down over one shoulder, expressions of concern with a hint of optimism. Their names have strings of letters after them, proving that they are stupidly smart and qualified. At least one guy will have a stethoscope around his neck. All will be wearing glasses. So, of course, we trust them when they tell us how to move our kids.

I used to follow their every affected-accent word, until I moved my own children four or five times, and then started to develop my own set of tips. You know, tips that are based in real life with real parents and real kids.

The problem was the conflicting advice. From the beginning of the moving process, the Decision Phase, I kept hearing contradictions. Ask a simple question - like Should I move my kids in the middle of the school year or should I wait until summer? - and you get a schizophrenic answer.

“it is always best for moving during the summer period to start the children in school during the beginning of a new school year . . .” ~ Top Moving Companies, Guide to Moving Families

“By moving a child during the school year, you are enabling them to be immediately introduced to other children their own age. . . Schools help to facilitate introductions to other kids and activities as opposed to leaving that up to parents and children while in an empty neighborhood during a summer move.” ~ MSI Mobility, When’s the Best Time to Move With School-Aged Children?

“Summer represents a natural period of transition between grades and the perfect time to adjust to new surroundings and meet new friends. . . How could this not be preferable to leaving in the middle of things and coming in the middle of things?” ~ Ask Dr. Gayle, Best Time in the School Year for Children to Move? 

“(M)oving during the school year is usually much better for kids than at the beginning of summer, when they're more likely to be isolated and alone for weeks.” ~ Chicago Tribune, The ABCs of Home Moves During the School Year

“Experts agree that it's better to move during the summer.” ~ Great Schools, Necessary Moves: A Moving Survival Guide for Families Relocating in Tough Times.

The experts should settle this debate with a tug-of-war, a series of three-legged races or something equally entertaining for the rest of us.

Based on the nine moves I orchestrated with my family, I would offer the following real-life advice on when to move school-age kids:
  1. Ask the kids. Don’t get their hopes up that you’ll follow their wishes, but knowing what they would rather do will help you in your list of pros and cons.
  2. Make a list of pros and cons. (Duh.) Waiting for the school year to be over might separate your family for a while and that is a “con” that has to be weighed. As is the possibility of your kids spending the summer with no friends yet and nothing to do.
  3. Take into consideration credits that your child might lose if they transfer to a new school district mid-year. If she’s got a half year of German under her belt, but her new school only offers Spanish and Swahili, find out how a mid-year switch will affect her course credits.
  4. If you decide to move in the summer, get your kids signed up for some kind of day camp or class that will get them the social interaction they need to make their adjustment smooth.
  5. And if you choose to make the move during the school year, march yourself right into that guidance counselor’s office and be sure your child’s transition is taken seriously and he’s treated right.
  6. Know, that no matter which way you go, it will be wrong on some level. There is guilt in your future, so just start dealing with it now. You’re in good company.


If you like Diane's humorous take on moving, you'll love her book Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves.

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