One of the most problematic and overlooked issues within the moving process is children. No matter how much you involve them as you find and buy/rent your new home, the actual moving process can have an extreme effect on them. It’s wise for every parent to take the time and effort to address their needs, worries, thoughts and wishes just to make the whole moving process easier all round!
Moving home affects even the youngest children. From a young age kids can recognize their environments – and home is somewhere they feel comfortable and secure. As they get older, you have to factor in other concerns such as schools, friends and even how attached they are to their bedroom. No matter how great your move really is, you have to remember that they may not see it that way to start with.
The best way to handle moving with kids is to communicate with them at all times. You may not feel that they are paying any attention but the information you give them will filter in somewhere! Treat your move as a positive thing and they’re most likely to do the same. According to the age of your children you may see various reactions ranging from over excitement to apathy to downright resentment. Help them talk through the way they feel about the move and explain why you are moving. Even young kids understand reasons and it will help them cope with the process.
Many kids rebel during the moving process because they feel they have no control. After all, you’re taking away their house, their room and may even be expecting them to leave behind their friends and to move schools. If you involve them throughout the moving process they’ll cope better. Don’t just tell them you’ll be packing up their stuff, let them help and encourage them to pack stuff themselves and unpack it at the other end. Talk to them about your new home and let them plan redecorating their bedroom or help them think about where their furniture will go. Encourage them to keep in touch with their friends and tell them they can phone or email as much as they like and have friends come visit once you’re settled. Don’t worry too much about the phone bills – kids are very resilient and will generally make new friends quickly. Most of their old friendships will die a natural death if there is distance involved (just don’t tell them this – it’ll make them feel worse!) You may not get any response to these chats but just talking about it will still help them come to terms with the move.
The timing of your move can have a serious impact too. Sometimes we have no choice but, if you do, talk to your kids about when you plan to move. Teenagers often find it hard to change schools during a school year, for example, when they’ll stand out as the new boy/girl. It’s easier to get lost in the crowd at the beginning of the year when everyone is settling down again. Younger children, however, often benefit from moving mid-school year, as they aren’t so embarrassed by the attention. In all cases, however, there is an argument for leaving the move until a holiday to let them get used to being in a new home before they start school again.
The actual process of packing up for a move can alarm some children – especially if they don’t like disruption. Try to leave the packing up of their stuff until late in the process and then let them help you – no matter how young they are – and explain that their toys and games will soon be back with them. If your older kids are protective of their privacy give them some boxes and packing tips and a deadline to pack then let them get on with it. With young children be prepared for constant questions through the moving process – kids will often show their anxiety by asking the same things over and over again. Don’t pack up favorite toys and comforters etc., until the very last minute – they’re going to need them! Kids of all ages should be allowed to have a bag or box for the moving day and the next few days after that to cover their immediate needs. Let them choose what goes in here – if they have stuff they want it’ll take the pressure off you on your moving day and until you start getting them settled into your new home.
You’ll probably find most problems if you have kids approaching or in their teenage years – especially if you’re moving to a different area. By this age kids have built a solid base of friends, are settled in their school and are extremely self-conscious. This can make them VERY difficult through the moving process. The key is to remain firm but to communicate with them. Don’t apologize for the move – if it’s necessary they are old enough to accept this. Do talk through what might be worrying them and try to reassure them. The older your kids are the longer it will potentially take them to settle into their new home and you need to be ready for this. In all cases you may well see the effects of moving on your kids for weeks after the move is done.
One of the biggest kid problems is the actual moving day. Young children can get overexcited and get underfoot and older kids, if they’re not happy, can be more hindrance than help. It’s always good to involve your kids in the process but you also might want to think about letting them do something else for the day instead. They might actually prefer to spend the day with friends or family having some fun rather than moving. Don’t just make a decision on their behalf however – if they’re old enough ask them what they want to do. This obviously doesn’t apply so much to younger children who might not grasp what is really going on anyway. In most cases, however, you’ll find that it’s better not to leave them out if they want to be with you. That way they won’t feel excluded.
Alternatively, you may all have a long journey ahead of you before you get to your new home. This is where your box/bag of essentials will be useful – they can divert themselves by playing with toys or listening to music etc., while you manage the drive or the move. In these cases you might also want to buy them a new toy or treat so they have something to look forward to on the journey. You can also make the day a bit more exciting by promising them a treat once the movers have left and you’ve done the essentials – this could include a takeaway pizza, a meal out or a visit to the cinema. Call it a reward for their good behavior during the move!
Finally, when you reach your new home it’s a good tip to give priority to setting up their room first of all so that they can start to see their furniture in their new surroundings. You don’t have to unpack and arrange everything but a few pieces of familiar furniture will help. Babies through to teenagers will feel more comfortable if they spend the first night in their new home in their own cot or bed surrounded by their own furniture and stuff.