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How do I Talk to My Child About Moving?

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  • Post last modified:December 11, 2020

This is a common question from new long distance parents. You’ve agonized over the decision. Now you need to talk to your child about moving away. There is no one size fits all answer or conversation template but these steps should get you moving in the right direction.

Plan Your Conversation

Positives, Negatives, Remedies

If you’ve already done a pros and cons list, that’s a great place to start. First, make a list with three columns : the positives, negatives and remedies. Next, for each negative, write something in the remedies column… a few things that you can make it a little better. The remedies will NOT completely solve every negative but they will go a long way towards making it better – so do make sure there is a remedy for each and every negative. Try to get past the very basic ‘more time with dad, less time with mom’ aspect.

Plan for long distance parenting

Next up, put together a plan for how you will stay involved in the child’s school, support the other parent on discipline and school issues, support the child in events or even financially. Go crazy researching long distance parenting ideas. Research internet visitation, letter writing kits, family plan cell phones, things to do together online like neopets or club penguin, scavenger hunts that can be done in their location or online. Enroll in frequent flyer programs, and explore webcam or video chat app options.

Think about the conversation

Consider you child’s age and how they communicate best. Are they visual or do they prefer verbal communication? I find that it is best to be totally honest with kids – but in a way they can understand. How can you express this in a way that works best for them?

There are some great children’s books available about moving, and some related to divorce that could be applicable, if they are younger kids that might relate to a story. In particular, The Invisible String by Patrice Karst comes highly recommended from a long distance parent. Additionally, you might check out one of these two books about how to talk to your child or teen so that they can hear you :

The product links to amazon products I recommend in this post are amazon affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  If you purchase the advertised products on this page, you won’t pay any more for the product and I will earn a small commission, which helps support the site.  Win win!  

And finally, consider some of the questions you might get when you talk to your child about moving like : Why are you moving away? Will I still see you? When will I see you? Where are you going? Other questions might depend upon their age and understanding or your personal circumstances.

Get Your Co-Parent On Board

The other party in all of this is your co-parent. Although not all co-parents are cooperative, it is imperative that you take the initiative to make it as constructive as possible. When you have your ducks in a row, before you talk to your child about moving, talk to your co-parent.

To prepare for that conversation, put together a statement of intent for how you would like to see the two of you work together. What is your vision for how you will co-parent? What would you like your co-parenting relationship to be like?

And finally, have the conversation with your co-parent. Talk to them about what kind of co-parenting relationship you hope to have and explain that you’d like to take a positive approach in explaining this to your child(ren). Most of all, listen. Your co-parent might not have had the benefit of planning for this conversation so they might speak off the cuff about their fears or feelings. Hear them out. If you’ve considered those fears and feelings, offer ideas or suggestions for how you might move forward consciously and cooperatively.

Many co-parents of long distance parents feel abandoned in parenting. Do your best to make sure that the other parent doesn’t feel abandoned and they will be less likely to pass that idea on to your child through their actions, moods and other non-verbal communication.

When you actually talk to your child about moving

Kids are smart and they read more between the lines than they actually listen to the lines themselves. If you’ve decided to move, you HAVE to be able to see it as a positive yourself or you are not going to be able to convince your child to see the positives. If you see it as a horrible thing, your child will pick up on that and see it as a horrible thing, no matter what comes out of your mouth or how real your fake smile seems. So don’t have the conversation with your kids until you have your game face on, completely.

Talk to your child about moving together with your co-parent, if possible. If not, go it alone – you’ll be fine! Show your child the fun sides and the positives and your commitment to making it work. Be honest about the down sides. Don’t hide them – and seek out questions and feedback from your child. Your child needs to know that s/he can talk about the bad stuff without being shoo-shooed. End the conversation on high note, and shower your child with all of the reassurance you can.

If you are a total team cheerleader on behalf your child AND the other parent, YOU can make it work.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Tania

    Carrie,
    This is wonderful….thank you so much for posting this and not more than a couple days since we emailed each other. Long Distance Parents is an invaluable resource for which I am monumentally grateful!! Thanks so much to you and everyone who helps make it possible.

    God Bless

  2. Scylla and Charybdis

    My wife and I have been married four, together six. We came together with my daughter who is 16, and her two kids 7 and 9. And almost two years ago we were blessed by a fourth child together. My wife just got offered a big promotion which would move all of us but my 16 year old daughter who would remain with her mother. We would be several days drive away preventing visitation for most of the school year. This big promotion also results in her being able to move close to her family and her children also being closer. How do I tell my daughter without her feeling like she’s been replaced? Forgotten? Left behind? How do I sell this move to my daughter when there is no benefit? I know if I don’t move we will divorce and I’ll see both my children half time. If I tell her we can’t move she will be unhappy because this opportunity is a benefit for her and her kids.

    1. Carrie

      Hi, I’d start with the pros and cons list in the post above. In cons, add how you believe your daughter could feel and really think through the best ways to make sure her needs are fulfilled and in pros, make sure to include the reasons the move makes sense. If at the end of the pros and cons list, there isn’t a compelling reason to move, then you will need to have that conversation with your partner. If there IS a compelling reason to move, it’s really down to coming up for solutions for the cons. Getting a promotion can mean a lot of pros that benefit the kids, depending upon the situation. For example, if you are having trouble paying your bills, your mental health and ability to do stuff for the kids is impacted and a promotion might solve some of that. On the other hand, if the promotion isn’t fixing anything or making the situation for you and your child better, that is definitely worth taking a hard look at whether that makes sense right now.

      As for ‘selling’ it to her… I don’t know that I’ve ever really thought about it that way. Instead, if all signs point to this being a good move for you and your child, spend time planning how you will be a good long distance parent and really digging into the details of what visitation will look like etc (links above). These details might fill in some of your cons list (ldp is more time, money, and a learning curve, for sure). Have all of that done before you have a conversation with your child so that you can show her that you have considered her in your planning and can give her an idea of how it will work.

  3. Scylla and Charybdis

    Thank you. I can see the pros and I see the cons, but there are no good answer for my daughter as to why we’d move away from her. It benefits my wife, and her three children. Our child is young enough to where these changes won’t affect her. My daughter though gets left behind, sees her sister and step siblings seldomly, let alone myself. I have to tell her that the move is happening, but there isn’t one positive thing that comes from it for her. And there is my struggle. I tell my wife we don’t move, you cant have your dream job, and live within an hour from all your family because it doesn’t benefit my daughter putting my marriage at risk and potential ability to see our child, and my daughter seeing her sibling? It just sucks anyway you cut it. And we don’t know how to tell her? There is nothing beneficial for her from this move.

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