There are a lot of bases to cover when moving house. You’re busily switching your utilities over to the new place, reorganising your stuff, getting rid of things you don’t need, and starting to pack up bits and pieces.
Moving is hard in anyone’s book. And it’s even harder when you throw a couple of kids into the mix. You have to consider how they’re feeling about the upcoming change. You have to somehow pry their hands off the broken toy they never use yet somehow want to keep. And you have to keep them safe while things are being moved.
To get your move off on the right foot, HomeMove has prepared this guide to moving with children. Here, we cover the basics and a few ideas to make your move as stress-free and comfortable as possible.
Let’s begin by looking at preparing children for the change.
Moving with children: Before the move
Before you move house, and well before HomeMove shows up to load your boxes and your furniture, you’ll need to prepare the children by keeping them in the loop. Here’s what you need to know:
When should I tell the kids we’re moving?
Expert advice varies and changes according to the age of the children in question. Some experts say parents should tell children as soon as possible so that they feel included from the very beginning, while others say a period of around three months is ample time for younger kids.
Children, especially younger ones, may struggle to understand timeframes and even three months can feel like an eternity. Remember when you were a kid thinking about the run-up to Christmas? It seemed to take forever to arrive, right?
The thinking here is that younger children may build up an event in their minds to an unhealthy level if they’re left to stew over it for too long. Of course, if you have older children, you may prefer to tell them much earlier so you can manage their questions as and when they arrive.
Remember to validate the kids’ feelings and reactions when you first tell them. It’s normal for them to feel upset and worried, so let them know you understand and that you’re always available to listen to their concerns.
Helping children with anxiety before a move
Just like adults, a move can be an anxiety-inducing event for children. Maureen Healy, the author of The Emotionally Healthy Child, notes that ‘children are young and new to the world, and changing a child’s ‘safe space’ is a big deal.’
Even if you’re moving three suburbs over, the move represents a whole new world to a child. They likely have a million questions running through their heads: will they make new friends, what will their teacher be like, or what will the house be like?
As a parent, your job will be to field these questions and others with compassion and understanding. You might have to field a tantrum or two if your kids are younger too!
According to the Child Mind Institute, a useful question during this time is ‘what can I do to help you?’ Because it’s open-ended, it leaves space for the kids to give you full answers and for you to gauge what’s troubling them the most.
Positivity can also help anxious children feel more secure prior to the move. Be positive when you tell them about the upcoming change and try to keep the positivity levels high when discussing their new environment. Let them know about the perks that come with moving: perhaps they’ll have a bigger room, space outside for a dog, their own bedroom, or there’s a park next door. A positive spin is a powerful tool in your parenting arsenal.
Let kids know that not everything will change, though. If some things will be exactly the same as they used to be – such as their daily schedule or your days off at home – make sure they know.
Children’s books about moving are a great way to alleviate their concerns. Moving by Fred Rogers and A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle are both worthy investments before moving with kids.
Anxiety in children doesn’t always manifest the same
Spotting and recognising anxiety in children can be difficult, but there are a few symptoms you can watch out for in the run-up to the move. Younger kids may become clingy, cry more often than normal, complain about stomach aches, be prone to outbursts, or seem tense and fidget a lot.
Tweens and teenagers may have greater levels of anxiety over new social situations. Although they’ll probably be less demanding on your time while you’re preparing for the move, they need just as much support as the younger kids. Remind them that they will make new friends, but that it doesn’t mean giving up their old friends. Video chats and messaging can help them feel connected to their social circles and peers.
The big toy sale (and extra pocket money)
Depending on the age of your children, you may be able to get them excited about the move (and the chance to earn some extra pocket money) by having a garage sale. Most children like novelty activities, so putting price stickers on things, counting change, and just running a garage sale with mum and dad is a fun family day for them.
What’s less fun for kids is giving up their things, especially if they’re quite attached to certain items. Involve your children in discussions about what toys will be sold and which will be kept. They might surprise you with just how willing they are to give up some things.
Visiting the new area & meeting new faces
If possible, take kids to see the new house and neighbourhood in person prior to the move. Of course, that’s easy enough if you’re moving from Footscray to Brighton or elsewhere in the state, but it’s a little harder if you’re moving from Melbourne to Brisbane.
Visiting might not be a viable option for all families, in which case, technology is your new best friend. Video walkthroughs and photographs of the new house, the kids’ new school, and the neighbourhood as a whole can help get them acquainted with the area a bit before moving. Use Google Earth and take a look at the streets around the house. You can even show them the route you’ll take to get to their school.
Primary schools are used to new arrivals and many send out a special welcome letter to children who are due to start soon. If the new school doesn’t send anything, ask them to email through a welcome note from your kids’ new teachers. Images of the class as a whole can also help kids feel more comfortable and put faces to names.
If your child is quite worried about the unknown school environment, find out if you can schedule a video call with their teacher. Speaking to the New York Times, pediatric neuropsychologist Dr David Black notes that creating ‘social stories’ through photos and videos of the new school, new faces, and the area can help reassure children.
Teenage children might be mortified at the idea of a video conference, but they can be encouraged to do a little research and learn about their new high school online.
The last week before the big move
By this point (hopefully) the kids are into the swing of things and feeling more excited than apprehensive. Let them get involved in the hive of activity happening around them so they don’t feel excluded.
While you can’t expect a six-year-old to do a stellar job of packing up their whole room, you can set them specific small areas to work on, such as the toy crates under their bed or the stuff in their wardrobe.
Remember: kids love boxes, and you can capitalise on this.
Allowing younger kids some autonomy can give them a sense of purpose, and so long as they’re limited to safe items to pack, they may even find it enjoyable. Granted, you may need to do some secretive late-night repacking if the little ones have poor Tetris skills, but they’ll be proud they got to help out.
Older children may want to take charge of their own room. If so, let them go for it. Just remind them that packing their most-used items five days before the move isn’t the best way to approach the task – chances are they know that already because, well… because they’re teenagers.
In other areas of the house, kids can help by wrapping things in bubble wrap, stomping on a few bubbly sheets here and there, and questioning your every packing decision. So long as they’re not in the path of heavy things being moved or putting themselves in danger, there’s no reason to keep them away from the process.
Keeping yourself sane while moving with children
That all said, your own sanity matters too, and fielding a million ‘why’ questions while trying to pack is tricky, to say the least. You may prefer to limit the bulk of your packing for times when the kids aren’t around. Lean on your network of trusted neighbours, friends, and family members to help get through the task with less interference.
Alternatively, take the kids out for a day and let HomeMove help with your biggest packing day. We take the stress out of moving with our complete service that includes packing and organising. Our staff members are experts: we know how to keep your stuff safe and ensure the kitchen stuff is exactly where it belongs, in the kitchen boxes.
Moving with children: The big day
While the preparation and packing is significantly more work than the actual moving day, especially when HomeMove is handling your relocation, there are a few things you can do to make the day easier:
On the big day itself, your kids should be given the chance to say goodbye to their old surroundings. The house and neighbourhood likely hold a lot of great memories for them, so acknowledge those and give the little ones a chance to take one final look around in the morning.
Make it a special family moment by taking a picture of you all outside the old house. Or, the night before the move, let your kids write a letter to the new owners or renters.
Let HomeMove do the heavy lifting
Once everyone has said their goodbyes, it’s time for the heavy lifting to begin. HomeMove’s removalist team will arrive and start moving all your household furniture and boxes. While this is happening, it’s best if the kids are kept well out of the way for their safety.
You may prefer to have a parent or a family friend at the old house ready to lock up when the HomeMove team is done, while the other parent takes the kids to the new house after the goodbyes are said. If possible, you can also ask a family member or friend to take the kids for the day.
Last on, first off: Kids’ stuff in the truck last
A top tip for the big day is to have the kids’ essential stuff – clothes, toys, and the TV – placed on the truck last. Then, when HomeMove arrives at the new house, we can unload the children’s things first to keep them happy and engaged (or glued to a screen) while the rest of your belongings are unloaded.
We’ve been moving families around Victoria for years, and we know the importance of ‘last on, first off’ the truck. Just let your moving team know which rooms and boxes should be the first ones off the truck.
Kick back and order something delicious
Take the first night in your new home easy. This isn’t the right time to be worrying over a healthy home-cooked meal. Celebrate your new house (and your safe and sane arrival) with pizzas or burgers and plenty of the kids’ favourite puddings. It’s not every day you successfully move a whole home and a family, after all.
Remember, your first night in the new home doesn’t have to be perfect, just comfortable enough. HomeMove will make sure the kids’ beds are in place and your furniture is exactly where you want it, so all you need to do is make a few beds or pull out your sleeping bags and enjoy dinner together as a family.
Keep an eye on how well the children are coping after the move
Your next few days can be spent unpacking boxes with the kids and letting them decide between the relative merits of putting their soft toys on the window sill or on the shelf in their new room. Having a say in how things look and feel can help them feel at home sooner.
As they head off to their new schools and join new sports clubs in the weeks after the move, keep an eye on how well the kids are adjusting. If you think they’re not coping well, check-in with the school or chat with a dedicated childrens’ therapist.
Parents Magazine notes that parents should be patient with kids as they work through the significant emotions during the post-move adjustment period. But that doesn’t mean ditching all boundaries: feeling mad about being the new kid and missing their old friends is normal and healthy, but pushing their sister or brother around because of these feelings is not okay.
Children shouldn’t be expected to immediately take to their new life and routines (although some will), give them a chance and some breathing room while they settle.
Make moving easier with HomeMove
Moving is hard. Moving with kids can be a minefield. You want the right team on your side to remove some of the pressure and make moving with children as stress-free as possible.
Whether we pack your boxes and help you prepare for the move, or relocate your boxes and home from point A to point B, HomeMove has you covered. Get in touch with us today to discuss your upcoming move.