We are moving to a new home next month, and I'm worried about how my children will handle the change.

My 6-year-old son is excited about the move, but cried when the "For Sale" sign went up at our house.

My 21-month-old daughter has no clue we're moving, and I don't know how to explain it to her.

One of our big concerns is moving day. Should they hang around while the movers empty our house or should they spend the day with friends and come home to the new place?

Handling the toddler is fairly simple. Stay calm; give her extra love and attention and tell her about the new house in very simple language a few days before you leave the old one.

Your son will need a bit more planning because any change is scary and by now he knows it. Don't expect him to tell you he's upset: A 6-year-old tries hard to be cool.

Treat the move as an adventure, and make him feel comfortable about the new house and the new neighborhood before you move: Ask the realtor for pictures of the house, so your son can imagine himself in it, and if it's within driving distance, take a day to show him around the neighborhood.

Drive slowly by the house and the school a few times, then go to the park, the pool and the recreation center to see what's available and to the library to get your cards.

When packing, have your boy put his special stuff in a box and promise to transport it in the car on moving day. It will reassure him. Let him also decide what toys and books to take and what ones to give away, even if you have to haul unused, unloved possessions to your new house.

You also should let your son invite a few friends to watch the movers on moving day -- because little boys like that kind of action -- and hire a sitter to watch the boys. She can take their pictures, keep them away from the movers and hand out popsicles and cookies while your son hands out his very own homemade 2-inch by 3 1/2-inch business cards with his name and his new address and phone number. He wouldn't want his buddies to forget him.

By noon, your children will have seen enough. Ask a friend to take care of them while you and your husband supervise the move at the other end, setting up the children's rooms first to make them feel safe. When that's done, bring them home to share in the excitement of unpacking and eating pizza on the floor.

The next morning let your son hang out the flag, so the neighbors will know you've arrived, and drag some big boxes into the front yard, so their children will know. Big boxes are irresistible to the young and will invite every child on the block to help turn them into a playhouse or a fort.

Also, ask the school secretary for the names of any first-graders who live nearby so you can arrange some play dates before school starts.

If no one visits and you can't set up playdates, be bold. Introduce yourself to any pleasant-looking mom who has a 6-year-old. Tell her where you come from, what you and your husband do for a living and ask her for advice about the neighborhood. Your forthright approach may lead to a new friend for you or your son.

Don't let him forget his old friends either. If he asks them for overnights occasionally, he can integrate his life a little easier.

Finally, commemorate the move by planting a tree in the yard for each child this fall. It's a symbolic way to tell them that the family is digging deep roots.

Questions may be sent to margukelly@aol.com or to Box 15310, Washington, D.C. 20003.