Random Thoughts: Helping a child feel at home in a different house

I am going to draw on my brother for inspiration for this post.  As my own family has been coming apart at its seams, his family is coming together.  He will soon be welcoming his son and the mother of this child into is home. I won’t go into details, but this reunion has been in the works for quite some time.  So long, that many, probably himself included, thought that this day would not happen.  But it is.   Their Visas are in-hand, and they will be traveling this upcoming weekend to join him in his home, for the very first time, and hopefully for good.

So of course my brother is now freaking out.  He is used to living on his own.  But now there will be a woman there as well, and a 4-year old son.   Imagine this situation from this child’s perspective.  Leaving a country that he has known all of his life, and coming to a new environment and having a new home thrust upon him.

My children actually experienced something similar to this, albeit much less severe.   But there were things I did to help them through the change.  Help them accept a new place as a new home.  Things to make them feel like they had their own space.  And some sense of control in a situation where they actually had no control.

So of course, when I heard this news, I started spewing out all of these ideas for my brother to think about.   Just ideas.  Thinking from his son’s perspective.  And helping my brother through his “deer in the headlights” look.

And these types of suggestions can actually relate to so many of our own audience… think about moving to a new house.  Or the arrival of a new sibling.   Or a new routine as a mother goes back to work.   Change can be scary for a child.  And there are things that we do as mothers to help children manage through these feelings of change and help them gain their sense of space and some control in their little lives.

Here are some of my suggestions to my brother, based upon my recent experiences with my own kids.  I’m sure that you can think of other ideas as well:

  • Have one of the lower kitchen pull-out drawers cleared out, so he can put his cups, plates, bowls, utensils in there and organized in a way that he likes.

  • Develop a “small” / “manageable” shopping list, and go to a place like Target to have him pick out: toothbrush holder, toothbrush and paste, bedsheets, bathtowel, bathmat
  • Have a set of bookshelves/stackable bins/ baskets set up for him to organize and put his “stuff” (e.g., cars, Legos, play animals, etc.)

  • Have a plastic container or backpack or something for his art supplies – crayons, markers, some notebooks, paper, stencils, etc.
  • Have him decorate his room with wall stickers

  • Get a fun night-light in a character that he loves (e.g., Cars, etc.)
  • Have a step stool ready that way he can easily reach lights, the toilet, etc.

  • Have supplies ready for a jacket hook and shoe bin for the closet.  Ask him where he would like to put the hook (left side? right side?  how high?)

And some of the things my brother can do in advance – get the gear ahead of time, and then have his son place the things in the home — things like step stools, plates, cups, etc.   Things where the “choice” is not in the look of the item, but really the placement of the item.   And again, I’m a big fan of Amazon.com so a lot of these things could be purchased in advance and simply delivered to his doorstep.  His son could open up the packages and have fun organizing his new things around the home.

There are probably lots more to add.  I think the key here is to give him as much control and choice as is possible; and also show him that he has his own dedicated space in the new home.   That they are working together with him to help him set up his space, to the extent that he lets them.  They are together in this, he is not alone, he has his things, and he has choices.

What are some other ideas that you can think of to help this child in his transition to his new home????  Please share…

Thanks for listening –

– Mama K


  1. All good suggestions. Also let the child have input into bedtime and wake up routines; preserve some old while introducing some new. Make the space inviting, spend time with the child in their new room and tell him/her what you love about it, for example, how cozy their bed is, perfect for snuggling together, how soothing the chirping crickets are at night, etc. I am a firm believer that children can view change positively, it starts with how we, as adults, frame it for them. If we embrace positive change and view and portray it as an opportunity, they are more likely to follow suit. Best wishes for smooth transitions for everyone.

    • Thank you thank you thank you for the thoughtful words; so true. My brother is adjusting and his new family is adjusting as best as can be expected. There were some hiccups with pre-school, but this was so understandable. They are all doing much better now; the first week was the roughest. I’ll likely write about them again soon. Thanks again for commenting!!

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