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Making Move to New House Easier for Toddler

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Dear Susan:

My son is 2 ¾ and we are in the process of moving to a different place, an in between place while we’re building! He is very angry with this move. He has been yelling and saying, “This is my house!” When I try to take anything out of the house he tells me not to take it. I think once he sees that we’re all moving together he’ll feel better, but in the meantime I’m concerned about the stress he’s feeling.


Dear Tammy

Thank you for writing and visiting the site.

Older toddlers need lots of help when moving twice, much less once. They only think from their point of view. It doesn’t reassure them that everyone will be together. You’ll have to realize that he is a concrete literal “what-you-see-is-what-you believe” thinker! So start drawing pictures, showing him houses, etc. of exactly what his two houses will look like: House @1 temporary; House @2 permanent.

Don’t touch his “Stuff” without his help! He must have control over what he thinks is going to disappear from its familiar surroundings. He’s afraid “his stuff” will never be seen again. Out of sight is out of mind. So give him plastic boxes that are clear in which to store favorites he can take to the temporary house! Make shelves that are open on which he can put his books, cars, trucks, etc. in the temporary house. All the things that must be packed, let him help and make a calendar that tells him concretely and visually how long it will take to store them before the permanent house is ready. If there are “people” issues involved, like a new person is moving in with you and the toddler, the your son has a completely different set of needs, and it would be wise to give me more information.

Best advice? Tell him these are your clothes, bed, lamp, dresser, toys. We will take this much to the temporary house – mark it label it – let him put the stickers on (colorful) and tell the movers to “let him help.” The items he takes with him need to always be visible and clearly identified so that no one will touch these things and he can arrange them in his temporary house and feel safe and feel OK.

Share all the planning with him. Don’t surprise him with dates, sudden changes or new people he doesn’t know. Get books at the library on moving and videos and act it out “pretend to move.”

Good luck…write more if you need to!

Thanks again,

Susan H. Turben, Ph.D.

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