Moving with Kids
Whether it’s across town or across the country, moving is a disruptive experience for everyone in the family. As beings relatively new to the world, children are especially sensitive to changes in their routines, and you may find them expressing a range of emotions — from fear to anger, excitement to anxiety — throughout the move experience.
Here are a few tips you can use to help your kids — and you — navigate through the move with less negative tension and more positive anticipation.
Keep Them (Calmly) in the Loop
Sure, a new job or more square footage might seem a step up for you. However, for a child, it can seem overwhelming to suddenly give up everything they know and leave their “safe space.” So,
- Tell them why you’re moving and acknowledge any negative emotions
- Listen closely and don’t try to talk kids out of their feelings
- Be reassuring and try to help them focus more on the new adventures in store
- Always remember that the more aware they are about what’s happening, the more apt they are to calm down and embrace the new possibilities.
If possible, bring your child along on walk-throughs of the places you’re considering — or at least explain what’s going to be different in the new home. Mix up the old with the new: “We’ll have a family room now, but you’ll still have your same toys.” With smaller children, be on the lookout for nonverbal signs of stress, like thumb sucking and “clinginess” and verbal signs like reverting back to baby talk. Be patient if they “act out” and seek professional support if your child is showing signs of significant anxiety such as sleeplessness or bed-wetting.
Help Them Through the Goodbye Process
Even if your move is on a tight schedule, make sure your kids have time to visit their friends, take photos and exchange contact info. Visit some of their favorite go-to spots to say goodbye. Set aside some parent-child moments where you share with them what you’ll miss about your current life and something you’re looking forward to in your new one. When everything’s packed up and ready to go, walk through your home together as a family and say goodbye to each room. Here’s a checklist of things to take in the car with you:
Minimize Moving Day Drama
The actual day of your move will be emotionally and physically stressful and some things are bound to go less than perfectly. It’s important to build in extra time and space to accommodate everything from searching for misplaced items to dealing with an unexpected meltdown, whether it’s your kid’s or your own.
If there are two parents present on moving day, things may go more smoothly if one takes charge of the children while the other deals with the actual move. If you’re flying solo, ask a close friend or relative a week or two in advance to help.
Are your children very young? If you’re driving to your new home, here’s a checklist of items you should have with you:
- Favorite cuddle toy
- Diaper or utility bag
- Disposable diapers
- Nursers with plastic throwaway liners, nipples and pacifiers
- Baby food, formula, fruit juice, water and a cap opener
- Powder, lotion, oil and cotton balls
- Safety-approved car seat
- First-aid kit (Ask your pediatrician about medications you should have on hand. Include a thermometer, baby pain reliever and a small hot water bottle.)
- Favorite small toy
- Collapsible stroller
- Portable car toilet
- Safety-approved car seat
Give Them a Sense of Control
Remember that — from a kid’s perspective — it’s YOU who decided to move and it’s understandable that they can feel a bit left out of the whole process. Therefore, it’s important to help them gain a sense of control around the experience to make it feel more like “us” versus just “you.” Consider letting your kids pick the first meal you share together in your new home and have them help you unpack the items destined for their new bedroom. And speaking of bedrooms, collaborate on what color to paint the room, and where to put their toys and furniture. If your kids are older, give them a budget and let them take care of the décor.
Allow your kids the opportunity to reach out to friends and loved ones from your former neighborhood. It will help create a smoother transition and they’re sure to have some exciting stories to share. And as soon as possible after the move, start exploring the new neighborhood together and planning some fun activities.
Don’t Take it Personally
As the saying goes, “Kids say the darndest things” and some of what you hear about the move — especially from older children and teens — might sound a bit harsh. If your kid gets upset and says something in the heat of the moment, don’t be defensive. Instead, let them know that the move is a mixed bag of emotions for you as well. Hearing what you’re going through can help them sort through their own feelings and better appreciate yours.
Always keep in mind that a move is more than just packing and unpacking boxes; it’s adapting and adjusting to a whole new life. Be there for your kids — and allow them to be there for you as much as they can.
Need help with a move? Get a quote from United Van Lines today.
Check out our other blogs for moving tips and packing advice, as well as city guides and a wealth of other helpful, time-saving information.