We Like to Move It: Tips on Moving with Kids

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If they gave certifications in moving, I’m certain I’d earn some level of distinction.  As a child we moved when the military dictated, and after college I never could quite settle into one place or space. Thanks to advancements in contact management, my friends eventually stopped joking about writing my address in pencil.

A quick mental calculation brings my current moves to 23; that’s over half my current age (and it only includes the moves after college!). Even I needed a moment to recover from that revelation. And no, I’m not running from the law or in a witness protection program. Honest! You’d think once I had kids I’d settle in and take root, right? That’s what most conventional families do. Well, we’d have to be conventional then, right?

Our daughter was 28 months old and our son 14 months old for their first move; in the past two years they’ve experienced four more moves. Take that conventionality! Seriously, feel free to judge as many have been apt to do, but the moves were either personally (mold on walls is never ok) or professionally driven and I have no regrets – ok, except for that moldy house!

While I won’t claim to be an expert or to have all the answers, I am definitely experienced when it comes to moving; and most recently, moving with kids. With that said, here are a few of my personal tips on moving when you have kids in tow.

Communicate: They may be little, but they have ears and they actually do use them! Regardless of their age – or affinity for listening – make sure you clue them in to what is going on. I’m not suggesting you immerse them in the logistics, but definitely let them know what is happening. “We are moving to a new house because our house has mold and mold isn’t good for us.” Let them ask questions and share their feelings. They likely will ask a million questions – “Is my bed going?” “What about the dog?” “Will I be put in a box too?” – and express their feeling too – “But I like mold!” “I want the backyard to go too!’ “Brown boxes? I want PINK!”

"Helping" unpack...
“Helping” unpack…

Include: Allow them to participate in the move. You would definitely get things done faster and more efficiently if you did it without their help, but believe me, including them in the process will provide your kids with a sense of ownership, security, and inclusion. This is their move too! Let them pack their stuffed animals in a box. They might will unpack more than they’ll pack, but they’ll feel included. Take them by or show them photos of the new house/school and start talking about each daily, letting them ask questions and share their feelings (see communicate point). Let them sit in the truck and “drive,” ride on a dolly, climb up or hide in a few boxes. When you are in the new house, include them in decisions – what room would they prefer, where do they want to put their bed, what colors and décor do they want in their rooms – and make the new house their home too.

Play: Moving sucks, no doubt about it. Finding time to just relax and play is something everyone needs, but rarely does during a move. Yes, there are many things to do – pack, arrange, plan, etc. – but taking time out from those tasks to just enjoy the moment and be goofy as a family is a great stress reliever for everyone. Children are experts at sensing and living our emotions. Including random pockets of fun helps them –

The boxes can wait; time for a dip in our new pool!
The boxes can wait; time for a dip in our new pool!

and you! – feel less anxious and possibly even enjoy the process of moving; it takes their minds off any anxiety they might be feeling and it gives them some much needed attention. Believe me, if you don’t find time to let them be kids, they will be kids anyway and it will only lead to madness. (Think: permanent marker on walls, packing tape tangled in long hair, mommy and daddy raging…). Play hide and seek – they’ll be enough boxes – take a trip to the playground, turn on a sprinkler and run through it fully clothed, jump in the pool before unpacking a single box. Just remember kids need to engage in play or they’ll engage in mischief!

Ready to racethe Uhaul.
Ready to race the Uhaul.

Plan: This is by far one of the hardest things to do. You’re in the midst of packing up your life but yeah, I’m telling you to try and have some semblance of a routine. I know it sounds impossible, but really, if you make an effort – and get out of your comfort zone for a bit – it is possible. It’s the little things, the known things that provide security, comfort and even balance. We did our best with each move to ensure the kids still had the same bedtime and morning routines, we had them engage in the same activities and meet up with their friends whenever possible, and we didn’t move them to a new school until we were certain where we’d land. Was it easy? No. Did I grumble and complain and get wicked pissy about changes that didn’t suit me (e.g. the wretched I4 commute for drop off and pick up)? You betcha! I’m human, but it was a short term challenge and in the end my kids benefited.

Snuggling up and watching the POD depart.
Snuggling up and watching the POD depart.

LOVE: If there is only one thing you can find the energy to do with your children during a move, then I would encourage you to make it this: love. We all have this innate need to feel loved and reassured, but children above all need it, but even more so in times of change or challenge. Giving them hugs, kisses, snuggles, endearments, and attention provide security and enhance trust in a time when they aren’t certain what’s going on. As long as they feel love, they feel safe.

I’m sure there are many more practical words of wisdom to be provided on this topic, but this is what came to mind as I reflected on our five moves in 18 months adventure. Regardless of how insane it sounds – and believe me, I still can’t believe we’ve moved that many times either – we accepted what life handed us and we made the best of it.

But really, screw the certification in moving, where’s my life supply of wine?!

What tips or suggestions would you add for moving with kids?

1 COMMENT

  1. I definitely agree with this article.

    I would add only one thing to moving and that is if grandparents are available, then they can help the kids with the move while the parents are still trying to get organized and doing last minute things.

    As a military wife and doing all the moving that we did, I would say that my daughter learned well from those many moves that we did over the 25 years we were in the Air Force.

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