Moving with Kids: The Ultimate Guide to Staying Sane
Moving with kids is like doing anything else with kids – they try to help, but really just end up creating twice as much work for you while you look on, force a smile and say, “great job! Thanks for helping!”
Home moving is already a daunting task and with kids, it can seem almost impossible. Typically, families thrive on routine and consistency. Moving throws all of that out of balance. Nap times, meals, school pick-ups and drop-offs – the schedule goes out the window.
You know that moment where you hand your kid a plate of spaghetti, and they immediately dump it over onto the floor? If you don’t plan your move with kids properly, it’s going to be like two weeks of that, over and over again.
This article will help keep you organized during this moving process, and more importantly, keep you sane.
BEFORE YOU MOVE:
One of the first things you want to do in a move is create a plan. Some moving companies, like Suddath, even provide you with a dedicated move coordinator who will help you create one.
With kids, this is especially important. It can be helpful to hold a family meeting to discuss a plan with your children, not only to help familiarize them with the process, but to get their input on what is most important to them.
Walk them through the plan initially, but you may also want to check off items with them as they’re accomplished, to help your kids feel involved and in control of the move.
Create a detailed checklist
Alongside your plan, be sure to create a checklist where you can clearly check off tasks as they’re completed. When moving with children, organization is key, and this easy to reference checklist will help you ensure everything is getting done. With 50,000 moves under our belt every year, we created a thorough moving with kids’ checklist to help prepare you for move day.
Change isn’t always a bad thing – it’s all about perspective. Make this into a fun adventure for your kids and try to gamify everything. Who can pack the fastest? Draw what you want your new room to look like.
The decision to move may or may not have been a happy one for you. Even if it is the case that you aren’t excited about moving, try to maintain a positive attitude about it in front of your kids. During this transition, your child is going to be looking to you a lot more and taking your lead on how they feel about it – so try to be cognizant of what lead you’re giving them, however unintentionally.
Plan some fun into the move
Keep moving exciting for kids through even the tough moments by giving them something to look forward to. Maybe the city you’re moving to has something exciting and new they will love – a zoo, ice rink, or local park that you can show them, and plan a trip to with them.
When you start to pick up on some anxiety from your kids, calm them by focusing on that trip. Talk about how exciting or fun it’s going to be and ask them what they’re most excited about.
One small way you can do this is to plan a new room. Allow them to pick out paint color, a new piece of furniture, or help them make their own Pinterest board – you can even turn it into a real-life Pinterest board and art project by helping them go through design magazines, cut out what they like, and glue them onto a poster board.
Pack the important things last
Kids have a lot of things that they NEED. As you get closer to move day and packing, you may want to go through your kid’s room with them and have them pick out a few items that they want to have with them.
Of course, you may run into the issue of your kids deciding that they need to have everything with them. At that point, use your best judgement to choose a couple of VIP toys, and pack the rest while they’re sleeping or in school. Likely, they’ll never notice that it’s missing.
Communicate along the way
When talking to your kids about the move, you have to be open to any reaction from them. This might be the first big change of their lives, and that makes it scary to them. That’s why the most important step you can take in preparing your child for a move is to simply talk about it.
They will have a lot of questions, try to answer as honestly as you can, and at least at first, set aside time dedicated to talking to them about the move, so you’re not frustrated or distracted by their reactions or questions.
If possible, involve your kids – for example, taking them house hunting, or in choosing a new school. Give them small tasks and jobs throughout, all to help them feel like they have some control over the situation, and that they aren’t just along for the ride.
This can be easier if you’re moving nearby – you can take your kids to see the new house, or school, and explore your neighborhood ahead of time. But even if you’re moving far away, use the internet to help get your kids excited. Show them pictures of all the fun places you’ll be going, and of their new neighborhood and school. Maybe even engage them in finding a new activity – if they’ve always wanted to take karate lessons, now might be the best time.
DURING YOUR MOVE:
Find time for the fun stuff
For kids, the most fun part of a move is often the big truck that pulls up to the house. If there is time, ask the driver if they’ll show your child around the truck. If there isn’t time, try and take them around it yourself.
Introduce your child to the driver and moving crew, so they’re not overwhelmed by strangers coming in and out of the house. A well-trained crew will understand that lessening stress for you and your family is a very important part of their job and will do everything to help.
Have child care help on-hand
You’re going to be very busy on moving day. Even if you’re having a full-service move, there is still a lot of stress involved, and a lot going on.
Have someone else around, like a family member, friend or babysitter, who can help keep your children occupied while you’re keeping tabs on the move. This will help keep your kids sheltered from any high-stress moments (although ideally, there won’t be any) and they’ll remember having fun on moving day. Even if you have older children, you could realize after the fact that you were grateful for the extra help.
If you’re unable to secure child care, it can be helpful to give your child a “very important job” on moving day. For example, playing with the dog or cat while the movers are around, or bringing water or lemonade to the crew. Make sure they’re not underfoot but still feel like they have a special job to do too.
Keep important items with you
Many people have horror stories of important things that got lost in a move – “oh Billy’s favorite stuffed animal, he slept with it every night, and we couldn’t find it! He cried for a week.”
Don’t be Billy’s mom, sitting up with a child who can’t fall asleep because his favorite toy disappeared during a move.
This goes for anything that is a must-have item, like jewelry, photo albums, medicine or important papers – keep it with you. Things get shuffled around during a move, put in the wrong box or left behind in a closet somewhere. You want to keep items like that with you so you have access to them at all times, and aren’t frantically throwing boxes open trying to find them.
AFTER YOUR MOVE:
Take your time with unpacking
Don’t stress yourself out even more by rushing through unpacking right away. Your house doesn’t have to be perfect for your kids to feel at home.
Putting in time for activities or outings in your new neighborhood – even if it’s just going to dine in at a restaurant instead of having food delivered – will help your kids adjust, and help you relax.
Unpacking can take time, so take a break and explore your new neighborhood! Give older children the responsibility of finding fun new places, such as hiking trails, playgrounds, or even a local pizza joint.
Get to know your neighbors
You may already have scoped out the neighborhood for kids, but if you haven’t, take some walks around before dinner with your children. Not only will it help familiarize them with their surroundings, but you just might run into some kids their age. Try to lead the way for your children by being open and friendly – if you’re open to making connections, hopefully they will be too.
Try to visit the new school ahead of time
Probably the most stressful part of a move for your children will be going to a new school. As much as you might like to, you can’t go with them and hold their hand through that experience like you can with others. Try to prepare them as much as possible by arranging to visit the school ahead of their first day.
They can become familiar with the layout, and maybe even meet their teachers. Taking it in all at once with all their classmates around will likely be overwhelming and stressful. It could be especially important if they’re starting mid-year, when all of the other kids are familiar and in a routine.
Make something fun with the empty moving boxes
After you’ve settled in and are mostly unpacked, don’t rush to recycle those empty boxes. Give them new life by building a cardboard box fort with your kids and help them release some pent-up energy. For older kids, get paint and challenge them to create some artwork. If you own a cat, you’ve likely found out by now that if there are boxes around, your cat will climb in/on/around them (side note: make sure you don’t pack your cat) lean into it and create a cat play house with your kids.
A quick Pinterest search on any of this should yield more ideas than you have boxes. Or, there is also this post we’ve created on some other practical ways to use your boxes.
Moving with Toddlers and Preschoolers
There are pros and cons to moving with every age. For children under the age of six, one of the pros is that they are likely too young to understand the change and will have an easier transition. Of course, they can’t help you pack (and will likely slow you down) but emotionally, it was be easier.
Still, your guidance in setting the tone will be crucial in easing the move. Below are a few tips for guiding your toddler or preschooler through a move:
Guide them through the move by acting it out using their toys and furniture – show them YouTube videos of moving trucks.
Give uncomplicated, clear and simple answers
If you’re able to, go visit the new home before the move, and help them become comfortable there.
Avoid any other big changes during a move. While it might make sense to use the time to transition from a crib to a big kid bed, hold off until your child is comfortable in their new surroundings.
Especially with small children, arrange for a babysitter on moving day. With movers going in and out of the house carrying heavy furniture, it will alleviate a lot of stress, and be a lot safer if someone who isn’t distracted by the move is watching and playing with them.
Moving with School-Age Kids
Even if your child is only in the second or third grade, moving can still be an emotional event for them. It might mean leaving the only school they’ve ever known, and their first best friend. The good news is, it’s likely temporary. Children this age will typically bounce back relatively quickly.
The first hurtle you may come across with school age children (if you have the choice) is when to move. There are two options:
In the summer, to avoid disrupting their school year
Midyear, so they can meet other children right away
There is really no “right” answer to this dilemma – you’ll have to research the school, decide what is going to be best for your family, and most importantly, consider who their child is. Are they the type to jump right in and make friends? Or if they’re shy, they may be better off starting the school year with everyone else so they may not even be the only “new kid.”
Either way, once you decide, be sure you get a list of everything your child’s old school will need to transfer to your new school, and anything you need to provide, like an updated transcript, birth certificate, or medical records. Be sure to follow up with the new school to ensure they received everything to avoid last minute delays or stress.
Moving with Teens
Teens: the ultimate rebels without a cause. How drastic the transition is will determine how drastic the reaction is. But even if you’re moving down the street, your teen will likely have mixed emotions about the move. Most likely, they’re leaving the only house they have ever known and lived in. That’s why it is common for teenagers to rebel against a move – they’re already fully embroiled in the transition period from child to adult, so additional change can be challenging.
If your move is farther, they might be leaving their chosen social group, or even a romantic relationship. Discussions are key. Let them know that while this is happening, you respect their feelings about it, and will do whatever you can to ease the transition. Maybe that means promising a trip back home to visit, so kids will know that they won’t be totally cut off from their former friend group.
If you're moving midway through a school year, you may want to consider allowing your teen to stay behind with a friend or relative, if that's an option. Of course you will want them with you, but allowing them to finish up the school year may greatly ease their transition, both socially and academically.
Social media’s ability to keep people connected is a good thing, but it might actually be negative during the transition period – your teen will be able to see their friends hanging out without them, while they’re still forming new connections.
No matter how dismissive of the idea they are, insist that your teen gets out into their new environment and do things. Visit new areas, take a class, or even pick up a hobby. Anything to get them out of the house, off of their phone and engaging in their new environment.
I’m Moving with Kids of All Ages
If you’re moving with your whole family of multiple children in different age groups, you need to stress one thing to them – help each other out. This isn’t the time for fighting over the front seat or arguing about anything silly.
Take time to explain to talk with your children one-on-one about what is happening and try to gauge their individual reaction to it. But also try to explain to them their sibling’s point of view, so they understand that their older brother might be a little crankier as the move comes up, because he is sad about leaving his best friend behind. Or to the older sibling, that the younger one doesn’t fully understand what is happening, and that they are going to look to them for guidance on how to feel about it.
The main thing to remember as a parent is: your family will get through this together. Try to remember that through this hectic process. If you’re googling and looking up guides on how to move with children, you’re already ahead of the game.
You Made it Through the Move with Kids – What’s Next?
Set realistic expectations about the transition. Even weeks or months out from the move, your children may still feel anxiety about their classes, friends or new home.
Generally, teachers typically expect new kids to feel somewhat comfortable in their classes in about six weeks. Of course, some kids may need less time, but for others, it may take longer. The key is to help your children through every bit of it, even if you don’t fully understand their emotions.
Try not to get impatient if they’re getting more upset and frustrated with math homework than they used to, understand that it might be stemming from an overall frustration with dealing with a new school. Encourage your child to keep in touch with their friends through phone calls, video chats, parent-approved social media, and any other way you can keep them feeling engaged.
If you’re still concerned about your child’s transition after the move, a family therapist might provide a safe place for your child to receive some guidance. Sometimes children, like all of us, need an outside, third-party perspective to help them work through things.
While the focus has been a lot on the challenges of moving, good things also come from this kind of change. Without friends and school activities to distract them, you might enjoy a nice period of family togetherness. Try to enjoy this transition in your life and teach your children that change can be a wonderful thing.
Suddath® is a full-service moving company with almost 100 years of experience in helping families move safely and comfortably. Our crews are trained in our own in-house training center, are fully background-checked and drug tested. We make sure that you have the time to focus on your family, without having to worry about us too.
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