Most of you know that we have just completed the move of a lifetime from Arizona to Pennsylvania and it was epic. Three kids, one dog and a frazzled mom and dad combined with a renting out our old house, finding a new house and packing a million boxes made for one event I’d rather not do again. Moving is hard for anyone, but moving with kids can be REALLY challenging. Not only do you have to worry about getting all of your new surroundings set up, but you have to work really hard to get your kids settled and adjusted. It can be stressful for anyone, but especially on the kids. Adults understand the process but for a kid (unless you move a lot!) it can be scary and really stressful on them. All moves are hard, but when you add in 2500 miles, things get even crazier! Here are some tips I learned about moving across the country with kids that can be applied to really any size move.
1. Explain the process, from beginning to end
If your kids have never moved before, explain what will be happening from the beginning of the process to the end. You may think they understand how it works, but chances are they don’t. Explaining the process and taking the time to answer their questions can go a long way into making them feel comfortable.
2. Set aside their most important things to take with you (and not get packed)
This is especially true if you are moving with a truck and movers. This movers will come and pack up your whole house in a few hours you will be left saying “Where is everything??”. First things first, take out what you know your kids will need for the move, especially if you are moving far away and have to travel to get there. How many outfits do they need? What about their special pillow or stuffy? Nightlight? Favorite toys? Since we were traveling 5 days in the car and a day on either end in houses with no furniture, I packed a weeks worth of clothes, pjs and toiletries for all of us and had the kids each pack their backpack with what they wanted to take. They filled them with a few of their favorite books and toys, and of course, their favorite stuffed animals. This is good for your trip but also when you arrive. Even if you are moving one or two towns over, your stuff will be in just as much of a mess when you arrive so you don’t want to be wondering where so and so’s favorite whatever is. Have it ready.
3. Allow for ways for them to stay connected with their old friends
If you have bigger kids, leaving friends is very hard. Take lots of pictures and allow for ways of them to stay connected: email, text messages, FaceTime, phone calls and good old fashioned letters are all great ways for them to stay in touch with their friends. If you explain all of the ways they will still be abel to talk with their friends, it will make it a little easier on them.
4. Give them closure as best as you can
Create a mini bucket list of things you want to see or do before you move. Whether it’s just eating at your favorite places, visiting your favorite parks, having some final sleepovers, or even taking a few day trips, be sure to allow them to feel as if they did the things they wanted to do before you left. How many things you do will depend on how much time you have, of course, but even just doing one thing per child can be enough to make them feel as if they got the chance to say good bye to some of their favorite places and things.
5. Give them jobs to help them to feel involved
This goes for the whole process, from beginning to end. Have them help you sort and organize items in their rooms to prep for packing or even let them pack some non breakable things or books. If you have to drive far to your new home, allow them to be apart of the trip planning process and give them some maps so they can follow along. When you arrive in your new home, let them pick our their rooms (or at least suggest them in a way that it makes them FEEL like it was their choice) and have them help you decide where to put their furniture and toys. Little things like this will help them to feel in control some in a situation that kids can often feel lost in.
6. Allow them to be apart of the new home process in some way
If you have lots of houses to choose from, narrow it down with your spouse or on your own and then let the kids “help” you pick it. After all they will be living in it too! Now I am not advising they make the final choice obviously, but allowing them to voice their opinions will make them feel heard and valued, which is important no matter what your age is!
7. Learn about where you are moving to together
This is especially true if you are moving to a new state! Do some research online and learn about the culture and history of your new residence- kids love learning about this kind of stuff so it will be fun for you and them! Take a drive through your new neighbored and town if you can or take some virtual tours of your neighborhood and check out the houses and parks if you are moving far away. This will make arriving a little less scary since they will feel as if they have “been there” before. Learn about what restaurants are near by, where the playgrounds and their school is and see what’s fun to do for them, so after you are unpacked some, you will have a nice list of things to check out!
8. Inlist in some extra help for moving day
This is a given. Mom and Dad will be extra busy loading and unloading or pointing movers in the right direction so if you can get some help from friends or family to help keep the kids busy- DO IT! Trust me!
9. Set up their rooms first (at least mostly!)
Once the movers have left, you will be left with a massive amount of boxes and clutter. This can be overwhelming for anyone- can you imagine being a kid? I suggest helping to get their rooms and furniture set first. Yes, you don’t have to have every picture hung or the closet completely organized, but if you can get their beds set and made and allow them access to their toys, they will be much happier and therefor, so will you.
10. Help them make new friends
Once all of the boxes are clear and the house is unpacked, you will be left with kids that just want to play. This is the stage we are in now and I have some ideas on helping your kids to make friends and plan on sharing those in another whole post next week, so stay tuned! This can be one of the harder parts of moving, especially with bigger kids.
Moving stinks no matter what, but moving with kids adds even more complexities. It can be done though and will some extra considerations, done much easier.