It happens to the best of us. For professional, personal or other life reasons, sometimes we are forced to uproot our lives as we know them and start somewhere fresh. Moves can be tough on kids, particularly if they have formed attachments to places and people and it appears that younger children tend to do better with these transitions but still need a little help adjusting to the change. A few years ago, we did a move from Sydney, Australia to San Francisco, USA with my 1.5 year old son. 2 years ago we moved our 2 and 4 year olds from San Francisco to London. Here are our top tips for moving with kids:
1. The mental battle is half of it. Way before you start the physical preparations for your move, start talking to your kids about the wonderful things they are going to have in their new home and a city: a tree in the backyard, a bigger room (or a fabulous new shared room!), new friends.
2. Write down everything you need to do such as canceling bank accounts and cell phones so that you don’t leave anything for the last minute and end up in a panic attack.
3. If you have the time, start researching schools, day cares, play centers in your new town. Ask for introductions to local mums or spend some time on the internet. Knowing what’s available and what to expect will ease your anxiety about settling the kids into a new place.
4. On both ends, you need at least ONE kid-free day when you can pack and prepare undisturbed. Organize a babysitter or get a friend to take them on an outing to the park or the zoo. Even if you’ve got service providers doing all the heavy-lifting (literally), there are still a lot of paperwork and loose ends to tie up when you are moving.
5. At your new destination, let the kids get involved in unpacking and setting up their own rooms. It will give them a deeper connection and sense of ownership over the new space.
6. Make temporary furniture an adventure. Before our beds came in, we spent a couple of nights on mattresses on the ground. It was like we were camping, inside! I daresay my son was disappointed when his bed came in!
7. Children, even babies, can sense change so always be a little more flexible about your self-soothing routines during such transitions. I often let the kids sleep in our room when we are in an unfamiliar environment until they are comfortable with the place. It’s a little extra bit of security that goes a long way in reducing the cost of moving and helping them grow confident in their new environment.
8. Don’t bother with cooking on the last few days before you leave or when you arrive. Create some freezer stock, order in, or ask a friend to send over a couple of meals. Use paper plates and you will be relieved that you don’t have to deal with the washing and cleaning up. Plus, you can finally seal that box that says “Kitchenware”.
9. If you can stay at a hotel or with a friend/relative for your last night or two, seize the opportunity! My husband used to always insist that we can make do on mattresses for a day but it’s always more pain than it’s worth with kids. It’s much easier to do a thorough close-out of a house when all the people and stuff have been removed from it. If you have the time, take the kids for a last meal at their favorite place.
10. Document the process. Kids will always thank you for memories of the places in which they were born, or shared some special childhood experiences. Take some time to photograph the names carved on the front porch or the fence they cut their lip open on. Similarly on the other end, videotape the four walls before they became the home so your kids learn that life is an adjustment process and that things aren’t always what they seem at first glance. This is probably my most important tip for moving.
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Don’t lose your sense of humor! Enjoy this clip from Disney Pixar’s latest film Inside Out, about a little girl struggling with a move!
Have a moving experience to share? Add it in the comments below!