Ten Steps To Make Moving with Kids Much Easier
We all know that moving is stressful. Add kids to the mix and you’ll be sipping Pina Coladas and chain smoking clove cigarettes before 9 a.m. in the hopes of warding off a nervous breakdown. I just moved from New York to Florida with five kids (ages 3 months to 8 years old). I must have been in some kind of denial because I thought it wouldn’t be that bad. Oh, it was bad.
Since I just went through this torture, I thought I’d at least help you out if you’re about to go through the moving process with children in tow. So put down the clove cigarettes and follow these 10 steps.
1. Let Kids Take an Active Part in the Moving Process
Moving is very unsettling for children. “The feeling of powerlessness that results can be overwhelming for a child,” writes Lori Collins Burgan, author of Moving with Kids. “Throughout the process of moving, therefore, it is important to find ways to let children exercise some control.” Maybe your kids can decide what type of neighborhood they want want to live in, the kind of yard or how to decorate their room.
I let my older girls pick the color of their room. I envisioned Simply White and they went with Elephant Pink. (Elephant Pink turned out REALLY pink so I did cut the color in half and repainted before they saw the room. But I will deny this forever so don’t even think of telling my daughters.) They squealed with delight when they saw their new pink room and that helped ease some of the pain of moving.
Also, give each kid a box to decorate and have them pack their favorite toys in that box. That way when you are in your new home, in a sea of boxes, your children can easily find their special box and be quickly reunited with some of their favorite things.
2. Clean Out the Junk
Goodbye teddy bears and some other crap too! My kids had a Build-A-Bear collection that could populate Glacier National Park. They adored making them but never played with them again. I took moving as an opportunity to donate these sweet bears and many other toys too. Warning: You must do this in the darkness of night or else your kids will insist on keeping every last toy. Ignore this advice at your own peril.
3. Professional Packers and Childcare (These aren’t the same people.)
If at all possible, have someone pack you up. Financially, this isn’t always an option. But if you can swing it, do it. There is no medal for causing yourself more stress. Just remember to sort through your belongings first because you really don’t need to bring that jean jacket from 1983. (Disclaimer: I brought my 1983 jean jacket to Florida. But I’m very weak and nostalgic when it comes to sorting and cleaning things out.)
Also, keep your kids as busy as possible while you are packing or unpacking. Friends, babysitters and family members can all be a valuable resource. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you can focus on getting things done instead of responding to, “I’m hungry” every 3 minutes from your various children.
4. Buy School Supplies Before You Move
Many families try to move before the beginning of the school year. If possible, get the school supply lists beforehand, buy everything before you are knee deep in moving chaos and just label the box, “SCHOOL SUPPLIES.” It’s one less thing you will have to worry about as you are trying to navigate a new town. To make things even easier, often you can order the supply box prepackaged by your school or PTA so you don’t have to shop at all.
5. Have Fun Sooner Rather Than Later
If you are doing a long distance move, you will have some extra time between packing up the house and when the moving truck arrives in your new location. We had a couple days in Florida to chill out while we waited for our furniture to arrive. So we went swimming and had lots of ice cream treats. It was a nice break in the moving process and restored a bit of sanity for all of us.
6. Unpack your children’s rooms first
You want your child to feel settled as soon as soon as possible. So get their rooms set up first with their familiar bedding and furniture. This will also prevent them from trying to claim the master bedroom as their own which they will totally try to do. My 8 year old is still talking about her desperate need for an ensuite bathroom.
7. Unpack the Playroom and the Kitchen Next
I’ve noticed two things about kids. They like to play and they like to eat. Before I even unpacked my own toiletries, I had the playroom set up. Why? Because when kids are happily playing, I can get a lot more done. Plus, they’ll probably notice toys they long forgot about and this will keep them entertained. The kitchen is equally important because as soon as you can prepare meals, everyone will start to feel more at home.
8. Grocery Shopping
Whether you move a short or long distance, you will likely have to restock your fridge. Often you have to throw away many of your condiments. When you are cleaning out your old fridge, write down all your condiments and fridge essentials. This will make shopping much easier. And you won’t have to hear the crying when you explain to your 2 year old that you simply forgot to buy more ketchup. And 2 year olds can cry for a long time.
9. Set Up Playdates
Starting a new school can be dreadfully painful for kids. In the 2 months before we moved, my 8 year old wrote me a note every day that said, “I don’t want to move. I’m not moving.” Yes, it ripped out my heart. I couldn’t change reality but I could help her meet girls her own age. As soon as we got to our new town, I called every friend of a friend of a friend who had a kid her age so that she could meet other girls as soon as possible. Kids are very in the moment and a fun playdate can go a long way to making them feel more comfortable.
I showed up at the bus stop at the end of the first week of school with cupcakes (store bought!). I wanted to reward my girls with getting through a really tough week. I brought enough for everyone at the bus stop and other than the two dairy allergies and the one gluten allergy, it was very well received. My point is – this is a tough time. The first week, my girls came home crying every day. It’s exhausting and emotional. Reward your children. And go easy on yourself.
One final note…
Just remember, no matter how organized you are, you will always find your bridal gown before you can locate your Dustbuster. Also, moving will make you sob. More than once. But the misery will eventually end. And then hopefully, you and your family can enjoy your new home and like child birth, the memories of moving will be stuffed into your subconscious until the next time.
As Burgan, the author of Moving with Kids writes, “Once you and your children have acknowledged the pain of moving and felt it, you can move on – to the awaiting friendships, new opportunities and untapped happiness that come with a move to a new home.”Published September 4, 2013. Last updated October 29, 2017.