Moving with children

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Moving with children is certainly different to moving without children! Apart from all the extra ‘stuff’ you seem to accumulate around the house, children’s moods and behaviour can increase the stress big time. Here, our resident psychologist Angie Willcocks offers some tips on how to make things a little easier …
 
Making your life easier
 
Alicia has moved six times in 12 years so she’s a bit of an expert. Here’s her advice on how to make your own life heaps easier when it’s time to pack up your life yet again. (And don’t forget we’d love to hear any hints you’ve got on the issue. Click here.)
 
In the weeks leading up to the move, clean out one cupboard a day. Use it as a chance to shed old stuff you don’t really need. If you do one cupboard at a time it doesn’t become overwhelming and you will really appreciate it when you’re unpacking. This is especially important if you are paying for the move, as removalists charge by cubic metre and the more boxes the more you pay.
 
Put a name on each child’s bedroom door, and ask the removalist to mark all boxes from that room with the name on the door. When you move into your new house, place the same signs on the bedroom doors to ensure boxes are delivered to the right room.
 
Often, removalists will ask to use your linen as padding. True, it saves space and packing materials, but I would suggest against this because linen is one of the first things you’ll need to make the beds in your new home (and you never know which box it’s packed in). Also, the last thing you’ll want to do when you arrive is wash all that scrunched-up linen!
 
Organise a garage sale (but do it well in advance instead of making it the last thing you do before you leave town). Promise the kids a share of the profits to get them excited about the process, and the move in general. It will also help you to cut down on unwanted items and reduce the cost of the move.
 
To save my sanity, I write heaps of lists well in advance and keep them all in a folder or book (and gleefully cross off each item when I’ve completed the task). A great place to start for checklists is the Kent International Movers website.
 
Hints for the whole family
 
  • When Dad is home, have a family discussion about the impending move.
  • Explain to your children where you are moving and why.
  • Show them pictures of your new home and a map of the location.
  • Tell them all about the new area, how close the school will be and where the parks are etc.
  • Ask your children how they feel about moving to a new home. (You could ask them to write down five good reasons and five bad reasons for moving, before discussing them all as a family.)
  • Organise a party for your children’s friends and hand out your new address to them and their parents.
  • Give everyone in the family some tasks to make everyone feel involved in the moving process.
  • Take lots of photos during the packing process and of all of you waving goodbye to your home.
  • Label your children’s belongings clearly and pack them in the removal van last. Unpack their boxes first so that they can play in their new surroundings while you unpack the rest.
  • Give your children a street map of their new home, new school and places of interest and familiarise them with the area.
  • Throw a party and invite some of the local families.
  • Help your children plan the first day at their new school.
  • Have regular family discussions to alleviate any problems or concerns that they may be having. 

Babies and toddlers

They don’t really know what’s going on but can pick up the general mood and activity around them. If the mood is ‘stress’ they might pick up on it and need extra reassurance (like being cuddled, or settled in the middle of the night) in the days either side of the move. So, what can you do?

  • Allow extra time to pack and unpack so that you can respond to your child needing extra reassurance.
  • Accept help/ Ask for help with packing and unpacking and child minding (it is best if the child minder is known to the children, it’s not a good time to introduce a new babysitter if it can be avoided).
  • Keep the child’s routine as normal as possible in the days leading up to the move, including meal times, child care arrangements, sleep times and routines. 
  • Put your child in the same pyjamas that he/she wore the last night at the old house, and transfer the sheets from the already slept in bed to the new house (rather than using freshly washed clothes and linen) so that their room smells familiar to them. 
  • Manage your own thoughts and feelings about the move. If you are having a hard time accepting the move, talk to a trusted friend or professional about whatever is going on for you so that your own concerns don’t come to negatively affect the children.
Pre-schoolers
 
Once children are speaking and can understand you, it’s easier to explain in simple terms what is happening: “Daddy has a new job, so the whole family will soon be moving to a new house in a new town.”
 
Encourage questions and answer them simply. At this age you can expect very practical questions about themselves and things that are important to them, such as “Where will I sleep?”, “Will my teddy be able to come?” or “Will the new house have steps?”
 
Sometimes the questions might be a bit tricky because you know your child won’t like the answer, such as “Will grandma still live close to us?” Always answer the question honestly, and provide information about how you will manage: “No, she won’t, but she can visit us.”
 
Involve your child in simple decisions such as what toys get packed together, what toys can be carried with them, and where their special cups will go in the kitchen when you get to the new house.
 
In the couple of weeks after you arrive, ensure that your child gets orientated about what is around them by pointing out where things are when you are out and about: “Look, there is a blue house on the corner of our street.” Why you go by again, say “there’s the blue house on the corner of our street” so that they start to have a sense of familiarity in their daily life.
 
Primary school kids
 
Explain in advance what is happening. Make sure your children do not learn about a move by overhearing you talking to someone else.
 
Use simple language to explain what is happening, when and why.
 
Encourage questions and answer them as honestly and simply as possible. Accept that your child might not like the answers and might have a lot of feelings about it all. Some children will get upset and say things that also upset you: “I’m not coming”, “I hate Dad’s job” or “I wish I had a different family”. Try to ignore these comments but pay attention to the feelings behind the words: “I know you’re upset and angry.”
 
Where possible, help your child to use problem solving to overcome their concerns. To something like “I’ll miss my friends”, you can reply “How can you keep in touch?” and discuss ways that they might be able to regularly stay in touch (phone, email, Facebook, Twitter etc).
 
Of course, most children at this age will quickly make new friends and the desire to stay in touch with old ones might diminish, but initially they probably won’t be interested in the prospect of making new friends!
 
Involve your child in simple decisions, such as what clothes, game or toys they want left out, and where things go in their new room.
 
High school kids
 
Please refer to the advice offered on primary school kids, as it’s pretty similar. However, you’ll also need to put additional emphasis on accepting your child’s feelings about the situation (even if you don’t like them) and helping them with problem solving.
 
Communication and connection with friends is usually very important at this age, so allowing this to continue via acceptable forums will be important (emailing, Facebook, Twitter etc).
 
At this age, children can start to learn about the importance of ‘positive thinking’ and attitudes in life, so it’s good if you can talk to them about the complexities of adult decision-making. To promote this:
 
  • Have a family discussion about the move. The idea of this is not to promote the idea that your child has a say in the decision, but to allow thoughts and feelings to be aired, and to enable your children to understand the feelings of others and why the decision was made.
  • Modelling positive thinking and adaptive behaviour is very important for this age group. If your child can see you making the best of it, they are likely to follow (this might take some time though).