5 tips for dealing with feeling guilty after moving your kid far away from family and friends

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By: CalsidyroseCC BY 2.0
We just packed up our entire life and moved 2000 miles away from any family and friends our family has ever known. There's no better way to describe doing something like this than to use the word "bittersweet" — we know we're in the right place for our family, but we're seriously struggling with feeling guilty for taking our kids away from their grandparents, cousins, aunts, and friends.

How do you deal with feeling like an awful parent and family member for moving far away? — Recent Nomads

I love this question because I've totally been there: my family and I moved from Alabama to Oregon last July. Even though we have very, very good reasons for moving (reasons that go beyond a simple "We wanted to live somewhere cool!"), we still occasionally feel pretty horrible for moving our kid so far away. I have a few tips for keeping your kid and yourselves connected to those you love, and for dealing with the random guilt pang:

Establish regular talk dates

Whether it's video chat or just phone calls, pick one day each week that you and your kiddos sit down and talk to the family/friend they're missing. It won't always work out because people's lives and schedules are inevitably crazy, but it's good to have some kind of pattern. The only person I've been able to consistently spontaneously stay in touch with (and by spontaneously, I mean pick up the phone and call whenever I want) is my best friend.

It's important to make sure everyone considers these chat dates important, or to not feel bad if it seems like at least one person doesn't. We have some family who don't opt into video chatting, and our four-year-old doesn't like to talk on the phone. We've reiterated that video chatting will be the best way for everyone to keep in touch, but at the end of the day we don't take it personally — it's just how the situation is playing out.

By: Hey Paul StudiosCC BY 2.0

Listen to everyone's feelings

For the first two or three months after we moved, our son used every opportunity he could to let us know how much he missed Alabama. Even though we grew tired of having exactly the same conversation each time, we still patiently explained to him why we moved and then listened to what/who he missed and why. In our case, a solid 75% of the reason has to do with being around specific doctors and specialists, so it was also important to make sure we didn't frame our move as something we did because of our son — it wouldn't make sense to him that we would do something he didn't like to help him.

After establishing a routine, getting set up in preschool and making friends, and getting out in our new city and taking advantage of all the cool things and events it offers — stuff that our son would never experience otherwise — he started to warm up to the move. He's now a big fan of our new home, but still mentions missing Alabama. So my advise is to let your kids say they miss their former home and/or people, and to also acknowledge that you do, too — but then ramp up the convo and talk about all the positives you have around you.

Visit for as long as you can, and encourage people to visit you

We're going back to Alabama for a while this fall — my son's dad can only spend about a week there due to work obligations, but since I can take my work on the road my son and I will be there for several weeks. While we'll probably stay around a month, I am contemplating spending two months there, just to make sure we both get to see everyone we want to. If this is an option you have, I suggest going for it.

We're also lucky that one of our son's grandmothers visits fairly frequently — they see each other every two or three months. It's been amazing that she's able to come out, and has definitely helped the transition.

Stick with your reason(s) for moving and support yourself

You wanted to move, you did it, and it feels so right — remember that. It's really easy to question a big move, especially when you don't have a close social circle around you. In my experience, the first six months were the hardest — once we crossed that hump, it's only been easier to be really happy were we are. I mentioned that we moved mostly for medical reasons, but we also really, really wanted to come back to Oregon and had been looking for an opportunity to do so for a few years. I think it's really important to remind yourself that you chose to move, and that you're living where you really want to be.

Not everyone understands the need to get out and go somewhere new — and that's ok. As long as you guys believe in yourselves and your reasons for moving, you'll be ok.

By: Hey Paul StudiosCC BY 2.0

Get out and make friends

It's hard to make friends as adults, but I've learned that you really have to just suck it up and put yourself out there. I found myself being overly friendly to other parents at my son's school — and then surprising myself by making real friends with people who I previously might have thought I wouldn't have a lot in common with. I've been lucky in that I was able to connect with a few people in our new city in the years before we moved, so there was already a tiny social circle waiting for us when we got here. Our son has made a ton of friends through his school and random kid-related activities, and just knowing that we know people here helps with the feelings of guilt and isolation that can come with a big move.

What advice do you guys have?

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  1. Thanks for this! Me, my husband, and our 2-year old daughter are moving away from my husband's hometown at the end of May. We live in the apartment below my sister-in-law and her three kids, next door to my father-in-law, down the street from my other sister-in-law, and 2 minutes away from my mother-in-law. My daughter loves seeing her cousins, grandparents, and aunts almost every day, but we just don't feel like we fit into the culture of the town (a rural area of MA) and want to be in a more diverse urban area. Family has been very vocal about their disappointment, but your advice about sticking with our reasons is spot on! Oh, and did I mention that we're only moving 20 miles away? Really, really close by, but unfortunately the ball will pretty much be exclusively in our court as far as driving to visit–my husband's family has lived in this one town forever and find leaving it terrifying!

    2 agree
  2. We are gearing up for a big move as a family so thanks for the suggestions. J will be 5 or 6 when we move depending on finances so we are a bit nervous.

    I left MA at 18 and have been down south for over a decade now. My mom is still up in MA though. It's super important for me to have my son connect with my mom so we've used a combo of Skype and pictures. Every year my mom makes him a photo album of stuff they've each done that year. She also makes sure she visits at special times like his birthday or Christmas. We also Skype almost every week. They sit and have dinner together and she reads him stories over Skype. It's super cute and he loves it.

    1 agrees
  3. I think this is a great article! We move frequently, and sometimes I have to remind myself we chose this lifestyle and there are many great things about it! Sometimes there is a loneliness factor, but I have found that if I put less pressure on myself to find friends, I enjoy the connections I do make so much more. Plus, everything has it's time. When we first move and I have no connections yet, I have more time for things I enjoy (art, crafts, reading).

    We do miss family a lot though. And it is hard sometimes to not be there, or have your family there, for big life events, but I would not do things any different. My kids miss family too, but we try to stay connected as much as possible (phone, computer, cards, etc). I have also found the internet to be a great resource in making things for family, shopping for them, posting pictures to share what is happening with us (if we don't have time for a call), and catching up on events in their lives.

  4. not really about guilt, more about keeping in touch: tangible stuff like photos, mail(!), etc. can be really helpful. phones are hard for little kids to get the hang of, but every little holiday my folks (who live far off) send a card (one for each kid, no sharing required!) and the kids are always over the moon about it. (they sleep with them- every time. not good for the lifespan of the card, but totally good for the kid and relationship.)

    we also try, as much as we can, to make sure the kids have pictures of people they don't get to see often (in our case, it's foster kids' bio families – and we also use pics of our families to help introduce/remember new folks) – our guy used to go around to all 15 photos on his wall and name every person (and pet and stuffed animal) in them before bedtime every night. now he's more settled in, but he still likes to talk about the pictures occasionally.

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  5. This is so perfect for me; we are literally in the process of moving from my husband's parents, brother and sister in law, and niece from Phoenix, AZ to Philadelphia, PA. We are moving there with my mom and staying with her for 6 months, so the transition won't be terrible (we hope). We are planning on going back to Phoenix once a year and hope that my husband's parents visit us as well. Thanks for asking this question, as well as the responses.

  6. I love this. We are recently (as of last year) separated military, so moving has been a big part of our lives for quite a while, but our kids were always small. This last move my oldest son was three and actually remembered his old home and knew what was going on. Luckily, we were moving TO family this time, so the transition was super easy on him, but it won't be like that next time. My husband is currently going to school to finish his engineering degree and after spending a year here we've pretty much decided that it'd be in our family's best interest if he were to look for a job somewhere else. The school's here are pretty bad, and the community isn't very diverse (a polite way to say there's a lot of racism, sexism, and ill feelings toward anyone not white and straight.)

    But I worry about the move because both of our boys will be big enough to know what's going on, to miss their great grandparents, and probably a lot of friends. My oldest might be as old as eight, so I do worry about his feelings when we move, but having moved myself a few times during my school years, logically I know that he'll be fine. Thanks for all of the ideas, because I know the biggest factor will probably be the sudden lack of great grandma in their lives as she's a very active participant in their lives right now.

  7. I work as a psychologist for a statutory agency dealing with child abuse. We often work with kids who are moving placements or to foster parents, or back to parents, or whatever – and I CANNOT overstate the importance of clear communication with children about what's happening and why. Social Stories are a fantastic resource and are easy and quick to whip up and personalise for children to help explain it.

    Younger kids aren't that great verbally, and you will need to tell them OVER AND OVER again. Well, even older kids for that matter. Having a social story allows the child to go back and read it again and again whenever they want and has it in print so it's much easier to understand.

    2 agree
    • Hello.
      And if you don't mind i have a quick question.
      I plan on moving from OH to AZ in June. I have a almost 4 year old who just loves her family to death. Although, she doesn't see them to often maybe once a month or so. I am scared the move is going to traumatize her. I am scared that what if she needs a break from her parents for a few hours every once and a while (outside of preschool) and she won't have grandma's to go to.
      Any suggestions or comments would be appreciated.
      Thank you

  8. As a kid whose parents took her far away from family and friends, I did just fine. I moved schools pretty frequently and it was really great. Kids are fairly resilient so don't feel too guilty about it. I recently moved to where my family lives after 20+ years away from them and it's great because my grandparents are making up for lost spoiling time 🙂 I've enjoyed getting to know my family as a adult. All in all, I wouldn't change my upbringing, I absolutely loved moving around the world and I know my family enjoyed visiting us from time to time, in places they would otherwise not have been to.

    1 agrees
  9. We did this too; we moved from smack dab in the centre of Ontario to Vancouver Island, which is about 4000km. It's been 2 years now and yes, the first 6 months or so were the hardest. The regular chats are a great idea, and keep busy too! Our son loved joining his first karate class and making new friends there.

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  10. My parents moved my sister and I to 9 different states by the time I was 18. I'm 26 and I still haven't forgiven them. I wish my parents had made my sister and I a priority instead of their careers.

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  11. In between being in the Air Force and being in college, my father's career meant moving six times in the first five years of my life–and then, once we settled in Wisconsin, my mother & I spent two Summers in her home country of Philippines. I was also a weird awkward kid who had a hard time making friends, so leaving people I spent time with was tough. Phone calls helped a lot, even with the sometimes-language barrier.

    This also hits home for me because my mother still lives in Wisconsin, though my boyfriend & I have since relocated to his home state of Indiana. It's really hard for her, as someone who grew up with multiple generations of family in one house, to be six hours away from her granddaughter. I make it a priority to talk to her online, keep her updated about milestones & funny stories, and take lots of photos & videos. The Internet, for all the weird social things it's inflicted upon society, is a great resource for keeping far-from-homers connected.

    1 agrees
  12. My family moved from New York to South Carolina two months ago. We bought some blocks with windows on the sides and put photos of family members in them so that my daughter can see the family members who no longer live nearby. We are having a house built with a guest suite, so that grandparents can visit frequently, and we skype with my parents as well.

  13. My family (then-fiance and my daughter from a previous relationship) moved from Bay City, Michigan to Elyria, Ohio, due to my now-husband's job relocating him and also getting double salary. We're still able to visit family quite frequently, but I sometimes do feel a bit down and a bit guilty for us moving away. However, I'm comforted by the thought that it's only a four or so hour drive, 250 miles there and 250 miles back. We've been here a year and a half, but my daughter still feels sad that we're not around her grandparents and the rest of the family, and our friends.

  14. The choices that we make in life sometimes are not optional. For to make your life or your family life to a better living, you must make a choice to live somewhere out of your comfort. I moved to the US with my family over 20 years ago, I was very uncomfortable and would object all of our daily activities. But things go better and I eventually got used to it. Even now that I'm a grown man, I have to relocate from time to time for job opportunities. I was very dissatisfied with my company's decision to send me all around the place, but then I started to like it.

  15. Such a timely article for us– we're gearing up to move from California to Texas this summer, and while my husband's parents now live in Arkansas, California is where both of us were born and grew up and have lived for our entire lives, AND where allllll my family is. We will go from living 5 miles from my parents to 1500, and that's really hard for me to process because I am close to my family and I've never not lived within about a 15 minute driving distance from them besides college. We don't have any kids of our own (yet?) but this is an aspect of the move that is very difficult for me as I watch my parents get older and realize how much I cherish them.

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