Moving is never what you would call an “easy” experience. You’ve got to pack up your entire life, manage the switching of utility bills, find a way to move your entire life, and then get established in your new home. Throw in a baby and a couple of young children, and the already stressful and difficult task becomes apocalyptic in nature.
Head ‘Em Up, Move ‘Em On
The trick to a smooth move lies more in managing expectations than anything else. Young children struggle with major changes — it’s one of the reasons divorce can be so hard. Though moving to a new home as a family keeps the unit together, a sudden change of environment can be emotionally taxing. To avoid the screaming fits, sobs of ‘I wanna go home,’ and stubbornness that toddlers and even young teens may release, follow these few steps.
- Prepare In Advance: Preparation is the best way to alleviate stress in youngins when it comes to a big move. Whether it’s across the city, state, country, or world, ensuring that your kids — if they’re able to understand — know what’s going on can mean the difference between a smooth transition and a kicking-and-screaming bonanza. For toddlers and preschoolers, break the news about a month in advance; this gives them enough time to process the situation but not enough to dwell on and worry about the upcoming changes. Communicate often and thoroughly: guarantee that the important things will stay the same so they know they have a strong foundation and support system in their family.
- Encourage Expression: Kids usually don’t like moving. If they’re older, they have to leave their friends and routines behind; if they’re younger, the flurry of commotion and constant change can be disrupting and frightening. Maintaining open communication is key to allowing their frustrations out, and allows you — as the parent — to assuage their fears and concerns.
- Resist Immediate Change: A fresh slate and clean start may seem like the perfect opportunity to do a little home reno on your new place — after all, approximately 48% of homeowners are planning on redesigning their homes within the year. However, you need to give your kids time to adjust; by setting up new rooms as similarly as possible to the ones in the previous house, you can prove to your children that nothing is really changing. Actions always speak louder than words, so put your redecorating plans aside until everyone feels comfortable in the new space.
- Let Them Help: Packing, though arduous, can be a great bonding experience. Let your kids pack up their own rooms so that they know precisely where their things are; this gives them a little bit of control over the situation which can help immensely in dealing with big changes. Even the packing of delicate items, like expensive artwork or family historical documents, can become a learning experience: explain that the old pictures of your great-great-grandparents need to be stored in cool, dry places (below 65% humidity) to prevent mold growth and insect activity, and that artwork needs its own box to ensure that it doesn’t receive any damage in transport. There’s no sense in passing up a teachable moment!
If you’re traveling with an infant, things will be both easier and harder. You won’t need to worry about their emotional state — especially since they won’t remember the move at all — but their constant care can certainly slow the process down. Though most moves should be prepared for weeks in advance, we recommend giving yourself several months; considering the fact that babies under two months haven’t developed a circadian rhythm yet (meaning they can’t distinguish between night and day), your sleep schedule will thank you for the extra time.
Once everyone has settled in, any other problems that come your way will be a cakewalk: your gutters have clogged and water has started seeping into your basement? That’s got nothing on convincing a seven-year-old that this new home is better than the old one. Your kids have broken something while they were running around the house? No sweat, at least they’re enjoying the new space. With the proper attention and forethought, moving a family with young children won’t be the nightmare you’ve seen in the movies or heard from unprepared friends and neighbors.