How to Make a Cross-Country Move with Children

Shane McCarty


Relocation, in any form, is stressful. Simply moving from a condo in The Gulch to a new house in Belle Meade is cause for an uptick in your anxiety level. That's a move of fewer than 10 miles.

Now imagine the physical logistics and emotional toll of moving to Nashville from somewhere across the country. Whether you're coming from the East Coast or somewhere out west, packing up and leaving for the unknown is a life-altering event.

It's even more so when that move is made with children in tow.

Over the past year, whole-family, cross-country moves have become more common. Families have been streaming into Nashville from all over the country — California, New York, Illinois, and multiple points in between — to take advantage of the region's hot jobs market and laid-back, upscale lifestyle.

Those moves do come at a cost, especially for families with young children. For them, a new house in a new location, hours and hours away from what they've known or grown up with, can prove devastating. Even if the opportunities you're seeking are far greater than those you leave behind, most children won't grasp that concept.

But don't fret. Nashville is a fantastic city in which to live, work, and play. And, if done with planning and foresight, the move itself can prove enjoyable, an adventure the whole family will look back on fondly.

To ensure your relocation to Nashville is a positive experience — tears of joy instead of tears of sorrow — here's how to make a cross-country move with children.

Prepare Your Children for the Impending Move

The minute you find out a relocation is happening, start preparing your children for the move. Relocating to a new city proves emotionally tricky for adults, but for children, it can feel like the end of the world.

Especially if you're moving away from family or a close circle of friends, it's vital to talk to your kids early and often. Tailor your message to fit their age and be honest about why you're moving and what it means for the family.

Older children may experience greater levels of anxiety than younger kids. In both instances, explain the process of moving, and reinforce the message at every step in the journey. Your children will be better prepared and less uncertain as things unfold in the manner you explained.

Most importantly, allow them space in the lead-up to the move to process what's happening. Answer questions openly and honestly. Allow them the opportunity to say goodbye to close friends before leaving. This lets them experience the joy (and yes, a little sadness) of seeing those friends one last time. It also provides a sense of closure before starting a new chapter in their life.

Make a Plan, and Stick to It

When you were single or newly married, life truly was an adventure. You could pack up and leave at a moment's notice. Take a trip wherever and whenever you want. No planning necessary.

Even relocation, while still inconvenient, was less of a burden. It was just you, or you and your spouse, heading into the unknown.

With children, however, your whole life is turned upside. Everything you do, from taking the kids to school to going to the grocery store to taking a family vacation, requires intricate coordination.

A cross-country road trip that ends in a permanent stay in a new city necessitates mapping out the journey to the minute and the mile. You need a plan, not only for your children's wellbeing and safety but also for your sanity.

Foremost, plan for the journey to take as long as necessary. The majority of kids today are balls of energy. Having them sit still for 30 minutes is a minor miracle. Expecting them to stay put and pacified for hours on end might as well be asking for the moon.

Depending on their age, if you can get anywhere from five to seven good hours of drive time, you're doing well. Load up the car with plenty of things to do and snacks to eat.

Map out your trip in accordance with how much driving you believe you can achieve in a day. Book your hotels in advance. Don't attempt to "push it" a few more hours, either. The end of the day is when emotions are frayed and nerves on edge. It can also increase your child's anxiety when you deviate from the planned route and drive time.

If you're traveling with multiple children, lay out rules for the car. Make sure they understand that horseplay will not be tolerated and that while it's okay — and necessary — to have fun on the trip, staying calm is the key to staying safe. And when the kids do well, reward them.

When You Stop, Stay Sharp

When you’re trekking long distances, things can and will go wrong. Ensure you're prepared for any type of emergency you may encounter on the road. The better prepared you are, the less worried your children will be should something go wrong.

More than preparedness, keep your children with you and within your sight at all times. It's every parent's nightmare to lose a child in a store or their neighborhood. It's terrifying should it happen when traveling cross country in places both you and they are unfamiliar with.

When you make stops, designate an adult to be responsible for the child at all times. With multiple children, split the duties and use the buddy system, so no family ever strays too far from another. And no matter where you are in your journey, always perform a headcount before putting the vehicle in drive.

Make it a Family Affair

When ramping up to move, children may not be fully aware of what a relocation truly means. Even on the journey to a new city, the concept remains abstract — "it's a vacation, just like any other lengthy car ride."

Only upon arrival in the new city does the reality of a "new place and home" set in — typically when they realize no return trip is coming.

Start the acclimation process as soon as you arrive. Make it a point to set up and organize your kids' room before any other. Sleeping in their own bed and playing with their toys will instill a sense of familiarity. You want them to understand that while some things may change, not everything will be different.

Beyond acclimating to the home itself, explore your new neighborhood and community together as a family. Just as you did before leaving your old city, talk to them about where you live now.

New schools, new friends, new parks, new activities, even new places to eat. Some experiences will prove happy, others less so. Growing accustomed to a new environment will take time. The more you educate them on their new home, the more confident your child or children will be in accepting it.

Be sure to take them to all the places and sites that make your new home an amazing place to live — Nashville has plenty. Mix in a few familiar spots such as playgrounds or a McDonald's for a quick bite to eat.

In time, the strangeness of their new surroundings will fade, and your child will grow accustomed to all that their new home has to offer. The most critical step is that you do it together.

Lean on Your Real Estate Agent

Of all the guidance you expect from your real estate agent — whether it's for buying or selling a home — one of the most overlooked and underappreciated services they provide is relocation assistance.

More so than most professionals in the real estate industry, realtors know the hardships that come with vacating one home and moving to another. They see it every day with their clients.

It doesn't matter if that move is across the city or across the country — it's a taxing experience for everyone involved.
When in the midst of your move, lean on your real estate agent to help make the transition smoother. Especially if yours is a cross-country trek with kids in tow and a brand new city such as Nashville on the horizon, let your agent assist with the acclimation process.

From recommendations on the best schools for your kids (public or private) to where to dine, get your hair cut, or seek the best medical care, realtors are experts on the ins and outs of their home market — after all, they're locals, too.

Your realtor alleviates unnecessary stressors during your adjustment period. Utilize their knowledge and local insight so you can focus on getting your family settled into their new home.

Ready to explore the best of Nashville luxury real estate? Contact Shane McCarty at McSquared Luxury today to begin your real estate journey. From Belle Meade real estate to homes for sale in Hillsboro, I understand what it's like to relocate. Whether you find yourself buying or selling, allow my experience, expertise, and passion for real estate to inform your next move.



My job is to LISTEN to your story. To SEE your vision. I am then translating it into bespoke marketing material to procure potential buyers for your property or utilizing my vast network of sources to present to you the perfect place for your sensibilities to ignite.