Surviving the Stress of Moving

family surrounded by moving boxes
Cathy Walters

The last box was unloaded, and the moving van slowly drove away. I felt as though cardboard boxes and moving vans had become a part of our life. All of a sudden, my to-do list became unimportant. I watched our children play with empty boxes in the yard. They seemed so content for the moment, but I knew the reality of change would soon settle in.

In our 10 moves as a family, I had watched my children go through a roller coaster of emotions — from excitement to apprehension to sadness to acceptance to happiness. Getting them connected to our new community as quickly as possible always made a big difference in their adjustment.

To smooth this transition, the first thing our family did together was share something we were thankful for about the move, such as "our home" or "our family being together." This helped everyone refocus on what was really important.

The next thing we did was find a church. This is where connectedness began — with a place to worship, grow in Christ and make friends. A church home gave us roots in the community and a place to belong.

Another important step was to get involved in the community. Each time we moved, I got our children involved in a favorite activity or sport. When we moved to Arizona, we temporarily lived in a hotel, waiting to move into our new home. I looked up soccer leagues in the phone book and registered our son and daughter from our hotel room. Not only did I learn my way around the city by having to find soccer fields, but friendships with other parents were also formed during our first soccer game, and we still have those friendships today. Our family motto quickly became "join up and join in — that's the way to make a friend!"

When our children were small, I would walk our new neighborhoods and look for bicycles, swing sets, toys — any sign of where children might live. It was fun to slip an invitation in their door for the moms and kids to come over for a playdate. When our children were older, I let them invite some of the kids in their classes to our house for pizza and popcorn so my kids could get better acquainted with them.

If you've recently moved, you may be thinking, What about me? How will I begin to put down roots in this unfamiliar place and start all over again? Make an intentional choice to do whatever it takes — whether it is joining an aerobics class, getting involved in a Bible study, volunteering to help with a worthy cause or reaching out to someone who, like yourself, needs a friend. In time, your last box will be unpacked, the world around you will become familiar, your family will settle in, and you will begin to call this new place your home.

Susan Miller is the author of After the Boxes Are Unpacked. She's also a speaker and the founder of Just Moved, an outreach ministry for women and families who are relocating.
This article first appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of Focus on the Family's Thriving Family magazine and was originally titled "Unpacked Boxes and New Beginnings."
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Copyright © 2011 by Susan Miller. Used by permission. From the Focus on the Family website at

Next in this Series: What the Kids Are Feeling

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