How to Tell Kids You're Moving

One mom shares how she told her two children they'd be moving and got over her fears of uprooting her family.

illustration of a boy floating and holding onto heart-shaped balloons
Photo: Illustration by Valeria Petrone

The family: Lisa and David Fain and daughters Talia and Emily, of Seattle, WA

We were living in a suburb of Chicago, and I was traveling to Seattle every few weeks for my job. My husband and I never expected to live in Chicago forever—we’re both transplants—and we finally decided that in about eight months’ time, we would move to Seattle. But for our girls, who were 10 and 7 years old at the time, Chicago had always been their home.

We were really worried about telling them because we didn’t want them to feel like we were pulling them away from their life. First, we talked with my cousin, who’s a family therapist. He said it would help them process the move if we broke it down into parts: what was going to stay the same, what would be different, and how they would benefit from moving. So before delivering the news, David and I thought about the things they loved doing that would not change: having Shabbat dinner with our family, taking little adventures together into the city, or going out to eat—we all love food.

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Then, about six months before we were planning to move, we sat them down in our family room after Shabbat dinner and told them we had some exciting news to share with them.

“Are you having a baby?” they both asked. We thought that was hilarious. But after laughing together about their guess, we still had to tell them what was actually happening. We tried to keep it positive: “No, we’re not having a baby, but it’s just as exciting!” I told them that with all my travel to Seattle, we’d had a chance to see how beautiful the city really was and that living there would be great. Plus, it would allow me to travel less.

The tears began.

First, it was my older daughter, Talia. Then Emily, seeing her sister crying, started crying too. We let them shed their tears for a while. Then we told them that they would finish out the school year, would have a chance to say goodbye to all their friends, and could still stay in touch after we moved. My husband and I explained what wouldn’t change once we were in Seattle: “We’ll still have our family traditions. We’ll still go on adventures and try new food!”

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I could see their eyes start to brighten, but they were still sad. Talia and Emily had never thought they would live anywhere else. And then we asked, “What can we do to make you more comfortable with this move?” Talia said she would like to keep going to the same camp in Wisconsin during the summer, and Emily said she wanted to have a big going-away party. “Done and done,” we agreed.

Then we started guiding the conversation to what would be different. By that point, I had started doing some research about where we would likely live, so together we Googled our new zip code. The first house that popped up was an enormous home, and they asked, “We’re going to live in a mansion?!” Of course, we weren’t, but this allowed us to begin exploring the area online together, which helped them get more excited about the future. My husband and I were already really excited, after all: He’s a water guy, and I love the mountains. Our upbeat attitude about the move seemed to help.

Still, there were a lot of fearful conversations and questions that came up over those six months. When our daughters got anxious, we’d tell them that this was a great chance for them to write their own story. They could decide what activities they wanted to do and choose new friends to hang out with. It didn’t take long for their fears to turn to enthusiasm. They really came around to the idea, and by the time we made the move, they were in a good place.

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