Whether you're moving across the country or just around the corner, moving can be an incredibly stressful time in your life. Add young children into the mix, and your stress level can go right through the roof.
The good news? Kids are resilient, and they can also be incredibly adaptable. If you take the time to prepare them for what to expect, listen to their concerns, and help them to see the move as an adventure, chances are good that they'll come through it with flying colors.
You, on the other hand, may need a couple of margaritas to aid in your recovery...
Moving With Young Children
I've moved a lot in the past few years, and I've gained just a little too much firsthand knowledge of what it's like to move with young children at various ages and stages. Between 2 kids and 6 moves, I've managed to pack up and move with a newborn, a toddler, a preschooler, and an elementary-aged child who had to change schools.
It can be hard to find good, helpful information about how to handle moves when you have little kids, both from a logistical standpoint and from an emotional one. I've learned a lot along the way — most of it through trial and error — so if you're looking for ways to make your move go more smoothly, here are some of the best tips that I've uncovered.
Tips To Make Your Move Easier
1. Prepare kids for what to expect. Young children might not have a good understanding of what the term "moving" really means. Explain to them exactly what will happen, and take the time to read some age-appropriate books about moving together.
2. Let the kids help you pack. If they're old enough, let your children help you pack some of their personal belongings. Even at a young age, kids can sort their toys and help you wrap objects in tissue paper or bubble wrap. If you'll be putting some things into storage, ask them what they would like to keep and what they don't mind parting with for a while.
3. Have a goodbye party. Give your kids an opportunity to say goodbye to the people who matter to them most. Children love a celebration, and this can be a great way to turn your move into a positive, exciting experience.
4. Make a memory board. If you're preparing for a long-distance move, chances are good that you'll be leaving family and close friends behind. Help your kids make a memory board by building a collage of their favorite pictures with their favorite people. When you get to your new home, they can hang this memory board in a special place where they can see their loved ones every day.
5. Don't rush yourself. It's hard to accomplish any task quickly with small children under foot. Give yourself lots of time to plan and execute your move. For example, packing with a 12 month-old who took items out of the boxes faster than I could put them in was quite a challenge (and required lots of patience). It took a long time, but I did finally finish.
6. Take kids' concerns seriously. Even toddlers can verbalize at least some of what they're feeling, and older children will probably have lots of questions and concerns. Always treat kids' feelings wth respect, even when you can't accomodate their requests.
7. Time your move. Sometimes, circumstances dictate when you have to move. But, if you have a choice, try to time your move so that it occurs at a relatively calm period in your child's life. Take school schedules into consideration, and avoid moving when other big changes (like potty-training or sleeping transitions) are happening, too.
8. Pull out the pull-ups. If you'll be traveling by car or plane with a recently potty-trained toddler or pre-schooler, think about putting them in a pull-up for the duration of your trip. It will give you peace of mind, just in case you can't find a bathroom along the way.
9. Pack a special bag of favorite toys and activities. Invest in a small backpack or overnight bag that will stay with your child through the entire move. Kids can keep special items like dolls, books, or blankets in this bag, in addition to other toys that they can play with on the car trip or plane ride.
10. Pack one box of toys last. Your children are going to need things to do right up until the time you move out of your home. Don't make the mistake of packing all the toys up first because you'll be left with bored children who just might drive you crazy.
11. Label boxes of kids' stuff very clearly. The day will come when you find yourself digging through boxes looking for the toy that they absolutely have to play with right now. Do yourself a favor; don't just label boxes with the word "toys." Include as much detail about what is in the box as you can because, trust me, you won't remember.
12. Provide alternate entertainment. If babysitters are available, use them! You will get a lot more done if you can find a few kid-free hours. If you don't have childcare, find activities that will keep your little ones entertained while you work. A special DVD from Redbox or a new set of paints or modeling clay can go a long way in keeping kids busy.
13. Make it an adventure. Moving creates upheaval in your life, and wreaks havoc on your child's normal routine anyway, so take advantage and let your kids do things you normally wouldn't. Maybe let them stay up late or have treats you don't normally allow. I'm pretty sure that all the extra trips to fast-food restaurants are my kids' favorite part of moving.
14. Keep extra clothes handy. Kids make messes. Constantly. So make sure you keep lots of extra clothes close at hand during your move, because you never know when they'll be needed. I've also found it helpful to keep extra ziploc bags and stain-treating spray handy, since you might not have access to a washing machine during your actual move.
15. Use a cooler. At some point before you move, you will have to unplug your refrigerator and empty your pantry. This can make it difficult to feed your kids, so I've found a cooler to be a lifesaver. It's a great place to store heathy snacks like apples, veggie slices, prepared smoothies, and low-fat cheeses.
16. There's a Walgreens on every corner. There's so much to prepare for during a move that it's impossible to think of everything. Chances are good that you're going to forget something, so cut yoursef some slack. Walgreens is everywhere these days, so it's easy to pick up extra diapers, snacks, bandaids, sippy cups, etc. if the need arises.
17. Maintain familiar routines. Once you're in your new home, some things will have to change. But try to maintain the aspects of your life that are most important to your kids. Stick to familiar bedtime routines and continue your tradition of Saturday morning pancakes if you can.
18. Reassure kids that you are a constant in their life. When young kids lose the security of a home they've always known, they can become insecure about losing other important things in their life, too. Don't forget to reassure them that, even when homes and friends have to change, you will always be there for them.
19. Make a big deal about all the exciting new things you can do. A new home means new friends and new opportunities. Get out and explore all the cool new attractions that you can visit if you're in a new city, or take advantage of all the neat things your new home has to offer that your old home didn't.
20. Invest in postcards. Postcards are a great way to stay connected to friends and family back home. Kids will be proud to show off their new home, and even young children who can't write yet can draw a picture to send to loved ones.
21. Don't be in a hurry to unpack. If you immediately start pulling everything out of boxes, you'll have piles of stuff everywhere, and the clutter will create unnecessary stress for everyone in the house. Take your time and unpack what you need slowly and gradually.
22. Make it feel like home. Take your time unpacking, but also make it a priority to hang or display some of your cherished and familiar personal items as soon as possible. Familiar things will help to make a new house feel like home for both you and your children.
23. Keep the moving boxes as long as possible. Once you've unpacked, you've got to keep the moving boxes for your kids. The make awesome tunnels and forts, and will keep them entertained for hours!
Have you moved with young children? What tips and advice would you offer to parents preparing for the challenge?