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8 Tips for Moving With a Child

Driving the 8 blocks to my son’s school, I saw 7 FOR SALE signs (with most under contract!)…’tis the season for moving!

So naturally I’m getting requests like these:

HELP! We’re moving soon! How should we prepare our child(ren) and make sure the transition goes well?!

[If you’ve ever moved, you understand the craziness that produces those exclamation points!]

If your child is an amazing sleeper, and you don’t want to lose that momentum with the move, just be aware that there will likely be a transition period as your child adjusts to the new place. Children who don’t yet have strong sleep skills may be more affected by a move (but the good news is that a new house can mean new routines…use the move to your advantage!).

Depending on the age of your child, he or she may:

  • become more clingy–you’re the familiar constant right now and there are a lot of unknowns right now
  • have a regression–potty training, thumb sucking, coming into your room in the middle of the night instead of staying in his bed
  • have shorter naps or earlier morning wakeups
  • have nightmares
  • start acting differently–more shy, whiny or aggressive

I’ve found that kids will do better with a move when parents involve kids in the process…and it isn’t the elephant in the room! Here are 8 tips that will help make that transition easier:

1. Don’t keep the move a secret!
This is not something to spring on your child as the moving truck pulls into your driveway.  Children need time to process and get used to the idea!

Talk to your child ahead of time and ask him what questions he has…often they worry if their lovey, blanket and toys will be coming to the new house, the proximity of bedrooms, if they’ll now have their own room (if they were sharing with a sibling before–and vice versa), if they’ll see their friends (grandparents, etc) as often and WHY you’re actually moving. If you can give him clear answers, he’ll start feeling better about the process.

2. Tour the new digs
Of course all moves aren’t created equally. A move a few streets away is much different than one that involves a plane ride and a time change. The bigger the move, the more questions you’ll get! Moving within your neighborhood probably means your child will still see most of his friends, and perhaps stay at the same school. A move across the country is completely unknown territory…

If it’s a local move, tour the new house ahead of time, pointing out which bedroom will be his (and yours) and some features that this house has that perhaps the old house doesn’t have. Walk around the neighborhood, drive by his school, find a few playgrounds…help him get the lay of the land.

If you’re moving far away, show him pictures of the house, neighborhood, school, fun activities you plan to do once the boxes are unpacked, etc. Highlight the positive differences of the move, whether that’s location (moving from the flatter midwest to the mountains or one of the coasts? Think of the fun you’ll have learning to ski or swim in the ocean!), being closer to family (now we can see your grandparents all the time instead of just holidays!), a better commute for parents (we’ll be able to spend more time together in the evenings!)…you get the idea!

Image courtesy of digitalart |

Image courtesy of digitalart |

3. Put your child to work!
Depending on the age of your child, there are lots of ways you can get him involved in the process.

For toddlers and preschoolers, let them put their books and toys in a box (you may need to repack later!). Once it’s taped up, let him label it with stickers, markers, string–whatever will help him feel that his stuff will make the move well.  If you’re packing boxes ahead of time, give your child those colorful circle stickers (the ones you see at garage sales) and let him go nuts “labeling” the boxes.

For elementary aged kids, they can help pack their toys and books too. Many will find making a list of things to pack and/or do before the move helpful (ie, say goodbye to friends, go on the swing in the backyard one last time, look in the closet to make sure nothing was missed, etc.) Checking items off a list gives more closure.

4. One last time…
The last thing you want, especially with a long distance move, is having your child say, “I wish we had [blank], one last time.”

So ask your child what things he’ll miss about the old house/town and what things he would like to do before you leave!

Do you have any special traditions (ie every Friday night you have family movie night)? Try to honor that tradition right before you leave and make it extra special! (And not a bad idea to keep that tradition in the new house…)  Do you have a favorite ice cream shop? Get one last double scoop cone. Do you have a favorite playground? Plan to meet friends there for one last playdate, bring some fun snacks and make it a party. Did your kids have a lemonade stand every Saturday? Make a “We’re moving” sign and watch all the neighbors come out for one last cup (and goodbye). Is your city’s aquarium your go-to favorite weekend excursion? Make sure you leave a day open to say goodbye to the dolphins!

Image courtesy of Ambro |

Image courtesy of Ambro |

5. De-Stress
We all know moving is uber stressful. There’s a ridiculous amount to do in a short amount of time, and if you’re moving far away, you have all of the “good-byes” too!

Remember that kids pick up on your mood. Try to be mindful that your kids are along for this ride, whether they want to be or not! And the more stressed out you are, the more anxiety your child will have.

Prior to moving day and during the move, try to take a few minutes and stop. Hug your child. Tell a funny joke. Make a race car out of a moving box.

There are a ton of studies that show laughing helps to reduce stress, so go get your “funny relaxer.”

6. Moving Day
Explain exactly what your child can expect on moving day. Will the moving trucks come before he even wakes up? When he’s at school? Will he be at the house helping or will grandma, a sitter or a friend be playing with him somewhere else? Where will you be sleeping that night–in the new house, at a relatives, or in a hotel?

Be sure to keep his lovey and blanket unpacked and by your “essentials”…you don’t need to be ripping open every box that night looking for his favorite stuffed animal so he can go to sleep!

7. First night in the new house
You should unpack your child’s bedroom first. Get the crib or bed set up with his familiar sheets, blanket and lovey. Put clothes in drawers and the closet. Put the glider or rocking chair in the room and anything else to make it feel like home. Get some blackout shades up (or use something temporary to block the light).

If you don’t get all of the boxes unpacked, put them in the closet or in another part of the house. Seeing boxes in his room will just be a reminder that the move is still happening.

Do the same bedtime routine you did in the old house. Do you read the same 2 books every night? Better make sure they’re easily found before bedtime! Does your child have a bath every night? Hopefully your bath toys and shampoo were in a box that was clearly labelled and you can find it! Do the routine in the same order as you used to…the familiarity will help your child settle more easily in this unfamiliar environment.

It’ll be very tempting to just keep unpacking because you’re on a roll. Keep an eye on the clock and get your child in bed at the normal bedtime (or slightly earlier–it’s been a big day!).  You don’t want your kiddo getting overtired…remember that overtiredness contributes to night wakeups and early rising.

Also keep in mind that your child was used to the sounds of the old house and the new place may be louder, or quieter, than the old place. You may now be closer to an airport and be living under one of the flight paths and he’ll hear airplanes more frequently. Or be on a busier street with more delivery trucks. Or have a barking dog next door instead of the old neighbor cat from your last house. Or it may be an older house with loud pipes. Or his bedroom backs up next to the bathroom and a very noisy toilet. Keep your ears open and explain any new sounds to your child.

And if you used white noise in his old bedroom, definitely use it in his new bedroom!

8. New house, same rules
If you didn’t allow your child to sleep in your bed in the old place, you never had a snack or tv be part of the bedtime routine, or you didn’t lay down with your child until he fell asleep…please don’t start now!

Moving to a new house, your child will be testing you to see what he can get away with, whether it’s because you’re still preoccupied with unpacking or you’re trying to make the move “easier” on him and are giving in more often these days.

Despite their efforts indicating otherwise, children LOVE predictability and consistency. It makes them feel secure and safe. This is especially important as you move into a new house. Keep the rules the same–you’ll be glad you did!

Do you have any tips about moving? What worked well for YOU? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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