Let’s be real – moving sucks – and with little kids it feels almost impossible to do stress-free.
I’ve moved across continents a few times now and consider myself a seasoned “mover of homes”. But nothing has been as excruciating as moving while pregnant or with kids in tow. I know people say moving is one of the most stressful times in your life next to divorce and death, but I think it actually could be one of the top things to lead to divorce.
Thankfully my husband and I have found ways to navigate this hectic time in our lives with a happy ending (we’ve moved 3 times in 3 years) – and that’s why I’m sharing the following tips with you.
So go ahead – find out how to ease the transition of a big move on your little kids and prevent your relationship from collapsing during the process.
13. Ease Up On Your Typical Routine
Most things you read about moving with kids tell you to stick to your regular routine as much as possible. After all, kids thrive when things are consistent day after day – right? While I agree with this – I also think it’s just as important to expose your kids to periods where things aren’t as predictable. Moving is a huge deal – so don’t expect things to go “as per usual”. Remember your job as their parent is also to teach them how to emotionally handle different phases in life – and a move can provide a great learning opportunity for just that.
Don’t be shy to expose your kids to what happens when we need to bend the schedule a bit. Easier said than done, I know – but if you become more flexible during moving, you won’t feel as bad when things don’t go the way you planned – which ultimately will happen. Be easy on yourself and jump right into the adventure – regressions in their development may happen (hello, bed wetting!) but don’t let it phase you. I’ve always felt less stressed the second I dropped my expectations I usually hold for regular days.
12. Stock Up Your Fridge (And Maybe Even Your Liquor Cabinet)
My husband always thought I was the epitome of “hangry” – hungry and angry – and then we had kids. When you’re moving, especially on the big move day itself, chances are you’ll be so busy that you may forget to eat. To avoid having to break out the pots and pans you just packed away, load up on some healthy snacks the weekend before and keep them out to grab as you go.
Keeping your energy up will help you deal with anything the move throws at you – and stocking up your fridge the week before will save you from additional trips to the store you just don’t have time for. You may even want to think about picking up some brewskis to enjoy after the kids have gone to bed and you can finally relax.
11. Talk About and Really Help Them Visualize The Move
I believe the key to ensuring your children feel safe with transitions and all other irregularities in life comes down to one thing – communication. It doesn’t matter if they’re babies, toddlers or teens – talking to your kids about plans you have for your family will allow them to reflect on the changes ahead of time. It will also let them know they’re not in it alone if you share your own feelings about the process.
Just like you as an adult need to plan how to get to work from your new home or where you’ll need to get groceries, so do they, as children, need to at least visualize what’s to come. Visualizations, like where your child may place their bed or what kind of games they’ll play in their new yard, will help make the move more real to them and alleviate big shock. Sit down together and draw your ideas for the new home and see how quickly even the grumpiest kids warm up to the idea.
10. Expose Them To The New House
If possible, try to have your kids take part in the house choosing process right from the get go. Clearly this is only possible if they’re walking and can understand deeper concepts – which typically happens just before the age of 2, but even if they’re just babies, bringing them along to showings, regularly showing them photos of the new house once you buy it, plus taking them to the physical location, will help tremendously.
Kids subconsciously retain images they’re sometimes only subjected to a few times and this in itself can help them breeze through a move without hiccups. In this sense, kids really do like familiarity so once it comes time to spend the first night in a home, they’ll feel more comfortable in the space.
9. Secure Babysitting For The Move Day
If you take away any point from this article, let it be this one. For the love of the parenting Gods, please plan for your kids to be watched on the biggest day of your move – the day the truck arrives and all the boxes and furniture is Tetris-ed into that vehicle.
If you’re comfortable with it and it’s possible, I would even say let your kids stay the night at the grandparents’ house so you can set up their rooms in the evening of the move day. This way you won’t feel the rush of needing to build cribs, beds and hang drapes around the same time your kids would be expecting dinner or a bed time story.
8. Involve Them In Decisions
I already mentioned the benefits of including your child in the beginning stages of the move by showing them houses you’re into, but try to go a bit further than that. Look at realty magazines and ask them what features they like or dislike about particular places. A child’s respect for you and the decisions you ultimately make on behalf of the family will only grow if they feel like their opinion was sought out.
Once you decide on a house, only share the details with your child when the offer has been completely accepted. This will confuse them less and let you involve them in other plans – like what color they’d like their bedroom painted or which boxes they’d want to unpack first. When you start packing, let them have a go at putting their clothes or books into a box. You’ll probably have to re-pack them afterwards, but little kids get a huge kick out of feeling like they’re helping.
7. Set Up Your Kids’ Rooms First
If you’re renting a moving truck, ensure that the movers load your children’s furniture onto the truck last. This way you’ll know it’ll come off first and can go right into their new rooms. If your kids are being babysat that day, I would encourage you, your partner or anyone helping you that is not a mover to go and set up the kids’ bedrooms while the rest of the things are being loaded in.
If possible, don’t make any big interior design changes with your child’s new room either. I would wait a month or so before embarking on a new layout of the furniture or introducing a new style of bed for your child to sleep in, too. This will make bedtime easier, less stimulating, and leave you with some time to get things unpacked without the distraction of active kids.
6. Stay Positive (However Chaotic It Gets)
Things may get broken. Tantrums will be had. You may even want to lock yourself into the bedroom and just sleep the whole ordeal through. But remember – you’re the parent. You’re in control, even though it may not feel that way. You’re the one that can decide whether it’ll be a positive or negative memory down the road. So if your kids are being especially naughty or the situation seems more tense than you’d want – check yourself and your attitude.
Are you being positive or have you been very emotional leading up to the moving day? It’s hard to feel zen when you’re a parent with a huge to-do list, especially during a time like this. But think about what it does to your kids when they see mom or dad react negatively to moving homes. If you embody angst and worries towards the move, they will suck that energy right up and reflect it back at you.
5. Purge As Much As You Can (Just Not In Front Of The Kiddos)
This is one area I have become a specialist in since having kids. Like many women (and some men) out there, I love accumulating clothes, clearly in fear of not having something to wear (for all those special events I go to as a parent of 2 under 2, obviously). After my first born, I also bought a lot of things the baby never ended up using – and knew I’d not fall for the same things and gadgets the second time around.
We began to donate excess clothes, annoying toys, and other unused items months in advance of a move – and this helped tremendously with organizing things before and after. When it came time to pack up our life into boxes, we not only lightened our loads but the mental burden of having too much stuff. If you decide to do a deep cleaning of your belongings, just make sure you don’t throw out anything your child has an obsession with right in front of them – then you’re just asking for trouble.
4. Make Safety A Priority
If you’ve ever moved, even without kids, you know how messy your place ends up looking as you prep for the big day. You construct your boxes, try not to cut your fingers on the tape dispenser teeth, use utility knives and if you’re moving things around, you might find gnarly old food in between cushions or under carpets. You might have to unscrew dressers or units you bolted into the wall – and their wobbliness, in addition to the nails you may lose, might become big safety hazards.
In a nutshell – it’s not the most child-friendly atmosphere for kids to hang out in. Make a list of the things you need to keep your eye on more than usual and ensure they’re secured to stop potential trips to the clinic from happening.
3. Don’t Introduce Other “Firsts” In The Same Week Of The Move
If your move is taking you hundreds of miles away, it probably wouldn’t be smart to expect your son or daughter to sleep through the night in a toddler bed if they’ve been in a crib up to this point. You also have so much organizing to do once moved in, that even if you wanted to begin potty training right away, you may not be able to stay consistent – and we all know consistency is the Golden Rule of parenthood. Likewise, buying a new pet to help distract your child from the move is bound to just cause additional chaos.
This piece of advice may not hold true for all kids, however, since they all have varying temperaments and personalities. I know that my son typically needs some time to warm up to new events or social settings, but when it comes to being in different houses he bursts with excitement. The summer he turned 2 we rented a cottage that we discovered only had a toddler bed – and no black out curtains. I was stressed inside, wondering if he’d sleep or not. But guess what? He went to bed just fine, slept all night long and didn’t fall out once. Naps were a different story.
2. Make A List Of Places To Explore In The New ‘Hood
You won’t be able to move into a new place and open every single box without some kind of distraction if you have little kids living with you. It is something that has to be done, though, and the one thing that may help you with getting through it, is tiring out your kids. Even if they’ve dropped their naps completely, they will sit still or lay down if tired enough. Cue outside time. Make sure to take a break from unpacking by heading out of the house and exploring your new neighborhood.
This works best if you’ve done a little research ahead of time and made a list of family friendly parks, trails, restaurants, play zones and other spaces conducive for little ones to run around in. Depending on the season or surroundings your new home is location in, you could ensure the snow gear is out and ready to go, or bike trailer is loaded, snacks included.
1. Have A Little Party
After you’ve all put in your hard work, completed the paperwork, cracked down on new daycare for your children, survived the bickering, and finally filled that new fridge – treat yourself to a family picnic on those new floors. Buy some balloons and involve the kids to make their own banner to hang up and begin wearing that house in.
New homes call for new traditions, so do something with your kids that will allow them to know how unique the place is and how special they are to be able to call it home. Maybe mark the occasion by celebrating each year you’re in your new home as a “birthday” and make mocktails. And last but not least – pat yourself on the back. If you’ve come out of this and haven’t split up with your partner, it’s a feat in itself!