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Moving with children

Moving With the Family: Finding Your New Home and New Community

by Jen Klein
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Becoming a parent changes your life. We all know that. Sometimes it also changes where you live, too. What was once a happy home for two — or three or four — isn't quite right anymore after the latest little person arrives. It's time to move — move out, move on, and maybe move up. But when you're making a move and kids are involved, there's so much more to think about than the monthly payment and number of bedrooms.

If you make a move within the same neighborhood, terrific — you're one of the lucky ones! But for so many parents, making a move to accommodate a growing family takes them a bit further afield. The real estate adage, "Location, location, location," holds true, but it's more complex than when it was just the two of you.

When kids are involved in a move, it's about more than the physical location, and it's more than scouring classified ads or calling agents. It's about community and opportunity, too — both what exists and what has the potential to be built. It's about choosing a place that, years from now, your child will recall when he thinks of "home."

Things to Consider when Moving

Schools: No matter how old your children are, the quality of the local schools matters. Even if you are 100% confident that you will be sending your children to parochial or private schools (or homeschooling), the quality of the local public school system does impact a community and should be considered when choosing a new home. A well-supported public school system says, "We care about kids," and that is a feeling that extends beyond school walls and into the entire community.

Community Centers: But schools aren't the only thing to consider. A community should have other resources available to families. What are the libraries like? Do they have reasonable hours and programs for kids? What about community centers for encouraging arts or sports? Are there nearby, family-friendly religious centers? Are there neighborhood parks? Are there other kids on the block or within walking or short driving distance?

Services, Resources, and Quality of Life: Consider the practical stuff. Is there enough of a commercial base so that you'll be able to manage the day-to-day practicalities of home life? Is there a decent market? Dry cleaners? A gym? A public golf course? A bakery for treats? Physicians and medical resources? How will your commute to work be? Think about your daily life and routines, and then try to find a neighborhood that accommodates your lifestyle.

Don't forget to think about yourself. Even as you're thinking about where your kids will be happy, you also need to consider your own happiness. Kids have built-in social centers in school and sports, but parents need to find community, too. Look for organizations that seek to create community for adults. A newcomers' club, perhaps? A service organization? What is it that will help you as a parent build a sense of community for yourself, just like you promote that sense of community for your children?

When communities are strong and supportive, a less-than-perfect house can feel like your dream home. But real estate and rental ads can only tell you so much about a community, so be sure to also scope out the neighborhood on your own. Your research will be tremendously important when deciding whether or not your growing family will be happy in a particular neighborhood.

How to Research a Potential Neighborhood

Do your homework before you even call the real estate office or respond to a classified ad. Use the Internet to research neighborhood community arts centers and youth sports organizations, schools, houses of worship, and local newspapers. The Internet can also help you discern the intangible. For example, you can search your college alumni directory to find another alumnus who lives in that community and contact the person to get the scoop. Make a list of questions before calling or emailing so you don't forget anything. If everything checks out, start taking drives to the potential new neighborhood on random days and at different times. What do you see? Try doing some errands in the shopping areas. What is the feeling you get?

By the time you've completed your research and chosen a new home, you'll likely have realized that no place is absolutely,100% perfect. You've probably made some tradeoffs. But if you've done your research, and you know you've made the best choice for your family within your resources, you can pack up those boxes with confidence.

Before you walk out of the old home and into the new one, be sure to create closure with your child. Take pictures of the old home, read books about moving, and say heartfelt goodbyes to the walls that have kept you warm for a memorable time in your life. Then you'll all be ready to enter your new home and community with an open spirit to make the most of the possibilities.  
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Meet Our Expert
Jen Klein
Writer, "The Mommy Files" and SheKnows.com
Jen Klein is a mother of two sons, ages 14 and 10, and a daughter, 6. She is a contributor to SheKnows.com, the author of SheKnows.com Presents The Mommy Files: Secrets Every New Mom Should Know (that no one else will tell you), and a technical writer. In addition to writing and hanging out with her family, Ms. Klein, a graduate of Wellesley College with a degree in art history and studio art, enjoys printmaking, cooking, gardening, sitting on the beach in the sun, and volunteering in her community. She currenly lives near Boston.
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