James Van Der Beek Shares What His Kids Miss Most About Their Hollywood Home & It’s a Tear-Jerker

Anyone who has moved — whether it’s down the street or across the globe — knows how bittersweet the experience is. There are new things on the horizon, but so much is left behind. And while packing can be nice and nostalgic, it’s also such a pain in the a**. In 2020, James Van Der Beek and his family moved from their Hollywood home to Austin, Texas, and his six kids still (understandably!) have some Big Feelings about it all.

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“I mean, they still miss the tree that was in our backyard,” Van Der Beek tells SheKnows. “They named it. They talked about it yesterday that they do miss that tree.”

How sweet is that?! Three years later, they still have a place in their heart for the simple parts of their Los Angeles home. They still care for a tree they loved so much that they couldn’t just call it “that tree.”

“The tree’s name is Jeff,” the Dawson’s Creek star says.

And if you’re wondering if their new home in the Lone Star state has a Jeff, you’ll be sad to hear there isn’t. But there’s a good reason! “There’s only one Jeff.”

Ouch! There’s only one special Jeff for Van Der Beek’s kids — Olivia, 12, Joshua, 11, Annabel, 9, Emilia, 7, Gwendolyn, 4, and Jeremiah, 16 months — who he shares with his wife Kimberly Van Der Beek. And missing Jeff may sound silly, but Van Der Beek knows how important it is to respect his kid’s feelings in any situation.

“I just think listening and acknowledging and really letting them say how they’re feeling [is important],” he tells us. “As a parent, you always want your kid to be okay. But I think the more you can trust in the process of expressing any reservations they have, any fears they have, any sadness they have, and not bypassing that, I feel like is a pretty good plan.”

Along with taking acknowledging those feelings, Van Der Beek says there are other ways to make a move easier. Don’t do what he did, moving in and immediately having guests over. Oof! Take some time to adjust on your own. And take some time before the move to get rid of the stuff you don’t need.

“Otherwise it just finds its way to a corner or a closet and sits there for years, which is what we’re still dealing with.”

Stuffed corners and a Jeff-less yard aside, Van Der Beek says the move to Texas has been a “game changer” because his kids can just run out the door and play.  The kids are always making fairy houses, forts, and fires, and “there’s always something hanging from a tree somewhere.”

Imaginative play is something the Varsity Blues star really values: “It’s good for my kids physically and emotionally, and it’s good for our relationship.” It’s why he’s partnered with Quaker Chewy and their Take Your Child to Play campaign that encourages parents to engage in “focused, distraction-free play” with their kids. By taking a pledge to play for one hour together, families have a chance to win 100 boxes of Quaker Chewy.

“I love being able to promote this idea of really taking the time and scheduling play because parents are so busy,” Van Der Beek says. “If you don’t schedule it, something’s gonna pop up. Your priority should not be the thing that you cleaned or the tasks that you completed.”

“It’s the smile and the laughter and the time that you’re able to connect with the kid.”

  • Lice Update

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    ICYMI: Van Der Beek’s kids recently got lice. “It’s all fun & games until someone gets head lice,” he captioned an Instagram post two weeks ago. Every family who’s dealt with the pest knows it’s a major bummer, but Van Der Beek thinks his family has made it to the other side of this “rite of passage.”

    “I think we’re home free,” he says. “We’re gonna get there. So far, so good.”

    It certainly helps to have kids who were “great” despite dealing with all the annoying lice treatment.

    “I think it’s harder for the parents,” he confesses. “You think of the little creatures in your kid’s hair and your hair, your wash everything, and then and then there’s sometimes a round two, but I think we’re out of the woods.

  • Screen Time

    Image Credit: Adobe Stock

    Van Der Beek’s kiddos may love outdoor play and Jeff, but even they aren’t immune to the allure of screen time.

    “It’s a thing and it’s not a fair fight,” he says. “I mean, these screens and those programs are designed to suck kids in and keep them, but it’s also necessary sometimes for school. It’s a new phenomenon that obviously I didn’t deal with growing up. So we’re trying to navigate it as best we can and really keep the limits on it.”

    One of the latest screen time obsessions is unexpected movies. His son Joshua and one of his younger daughters love watching the old black-and-white Godzillas.

    “They just bond over it,” he says. “It’s the cutest thing.”

    Van Der Beek has no idea where the obsession came from but assumes his son just (understandably) got hooked on a big lizard who breathes fire and stomps on buildings.

    “And then his sister was like, ‘I love this too.’”

  • Getting Out The Door

    Image Credit: Adobe Stock

    As a dad of six, we desperately hoped Van Der Beek had the secret to getting a gaggle of kids out the door, but it seems that will always be a mystery.

    “The mobilization can be varying degrees of a challenge,” he says. “It’s crazy. Six kids, same ingredients, same recipe, all raised in the same house. And they all come out different.”

    “It’s not even about age either,” he continues. “My seven-year-old knows where her shoes are at all times, has them on ready to go and she’s asking me, ‘Daddy Are you ready?’ And then there are older children who will get in the car and get all the way down the driveway before somebody realizes that they don’t have shoes.” 

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