Moving can be stressful for even the toughest and most experienced mover. A good “to-do” list can help you manage the practical side of moving, however the emotional aspects take some special consideration.
If you’re planning a move with children, it’s worth taking some time to think about how the move looks from their perspective. It might be difficult for them to understand why they’re leaving what they know and love. They might also find it hard to picture how their new home or neighborhood will look.
The good news is, you don’t have to go it alone. Over the years, many parents have found ways to make moves less traumatic for children of all ages, but particularly younger kids. We caught up recently with Foxie friend and customer, Jess Murphet, mother of two and part of a family accustomed to making international moves (six in the last 8 years!!) Despite being right in the thick of moving back to Australia from Malaysia, Jess was generous in sharing her experiences and some tangible tips for moving house with kids.
Tip 1. Be honest, early
When you decide to move, it’s a good idea to be honest with your kids about your plans as early as you can. Some kids like to ask lot’s questions, and talking about the move can really help them prepare. If you don’t know all the answers, it’s a good opportunity to look it up and learn together.
Tip 2. Involve kids in the process to build some excitement
As you’re looking at houses, it can be fun to get kids in on it and show them the exciting points of the new place, such as a bigger backyard or pretty colours on the walls. This can help your kids start to imagine themselves in a new home. While you’re doing that, you could also point out what’s similar. Things like bathtubs, stairs, big trees to climb, or whatever else your new house has that your child loves in your current home can be really comforting to them.
Overseas moves present their own set of challenges – new landscape, language and local nuances. For one move, Jess’s husband and eldest daughter, Millie, made a large poster for Millie’s wall full of exciting pictures and fun facts and about their new country. They included landmarks, fun local sayings and new foods. For local moves, creating a list of restaurants, parks and other sites to explore once you get to your new neighborhood can help build both excitement and some familiarity.
Tip 3. Start clearing out and packing early
Like many adults, kids can feel stressed when rushed, so the more you can ease into it, the better. Keeping yourself organised and on track can also help maintain the calm. For Jess’s March move, she started clearing stuff out in December. She made use of time when the girls were at school and in the evenings when they were sleeping, tackling one room, cupboard or drawer at a time.
If you’re moving locally, allowing some overlap between places can also ease the pressure.
You can use our best moving house checklist ever to keep you on pace and avoid getting overwhelmed.
Tip 4. Scale their stuff down when they’re away
Letting them be involved in some of the packing can reassure kids that their stuff isn’t just disappearing. House moves are also a great opportunity to clear out clothes and toys they haven’t touched in a long time. However, Jess warns, “When kids are feeling unsettled, they can become really attached to everything.” If you’re going to use the move as an opportunity to purge some stuff, she recommends doing this when kids are not around. Choose things they won’t miss if they don’t see again.
Tip 5. Validate the sadness they feel
It’s OK to be sad, and good for kids to know they can express that. In some cases they’ll be leaving friendships, schools, favourite playgrounds, familiar stores and neighbours. The older kids get, the more this is likely to affect them. In Jess’s experience, this became more noticeable when the girls were about 5 or 6 years old. On the advice of a friend, she was careful not to brush over these feelings with responses like ‘yes I know it’s really hard to leave your friends but you’re going to make new ones.’ She notes, “As parent we often want to, when our kids are sad, remove that sadness.” But while it’s human nature to want to take away your child’s pain, it’s not always possible. Making time to listen can at least help ease it.
Encouraging them to look to the positives is a great idea, but Jess suggests separating these conversations. Once they’ve had an opportunity to express their sadness you can let them know how confident you are that they’ll make new friends while still keeping some of their old ones.
Tip 6. Pack their old bedroom last and set up their new bedroom first
Keeping kids bedrooms set up as long as possible can help them feel settled in the lead up to the move. Once you get to your new home, setting up their new room first can have a similar effect. Avoid putting a ton of pressure on yourself though – it doesn’t have to look Pinterest-perfect! Try to think about the things that matter most to your kids – a comfy bed, blankets, night light, favourite teddy, toys and books, framed photos, pin-up board or other things that are special to them. They could even help you pack these things in a special box or bag so they’re easy to locate once you get to your new home.
This is a great time to remember to take it easy on yourself, too. If you can only get to unpacking one box a day, so be it. No matter how slowly you go, it will get done. Taking care of yourself and your kids take priority and keeping some basic routines like meal times and a bedtime story can help.
Tip 7. Get as much help as possible
Our Foxie customer service team saved Jess some time on her recent move by connecting all of her utilities. “Usually when I move, I have so many logistics to sort out, but it’s also a time when the kids are really going to need me,” Jess said. Look for other free services that will help you spend less time on “stuff” and more time with your kids. Other things to consider outsourcing include packing, moving, cleaning and gardening. Friends and family might also be able to help or if your budget permits, consider hiring some help. Even small things like online grocery shopping and delivery to your new home can save you some precious time.
Tip 8. It’s OK to stay attached to the old
For older kids, setting up a way for them to stay in contact with close friends can be really helpful. For Jess’s latest move, she set up a Gmail account for both girls to share with their friends. They plan to dedicate time each Saturday evening to open emails together, and share stories and photos with their friends. Sending postcards or handwritten notes or video calls like Facetime, Skype or Zoom are good too.
“Leaving books” or photo books to take away with you are another idea to help kids maintain a connection with the place they’re leaving. These can include things like photos of the old house, school and other everyday places as well as farewell messages or cards from friends or teachers.
Tip 9. Be prepared for your kids to go haywire
Your kids might find it hard to express, in words, how they feel or why they’re upset. During unsettled times, it’s often helpful to expect some tantrums, misbehaviour and pushing of limits and remind yourself that these will pass. Try to resist the urge to catastrophise by wondering if you’ve ruined their lives – you haven’t. Going a little easier than usual on yourself, and your kids, with an ice cream or a little screen time can be good for everyone.
Tip 10. Make some time to get out and explore together
Exploring a new neighbourhood can be a real adventure for children as well as a fun way to meet people or make new friends. Once you’re settled, make time to get out and explore together.
For overseas moves there’s often a delay between your arrival and when the rest of your stuff turns up. This can be a great opportunity to enjoy a simple life and some quality family time together. Jess likens this period to a holiday, “You’re living out of your suitcases and you can pretend you are on holidays before real life kicks back in.”
It Will All Work Out
There’s no denying that moving house with kids is big. Whether you’re moving a couple of streets away or to the other side of the globe, your kids may find the move unsettling. Their experience is likely to vary depending on specific circumstances and personalities, but there’s a lot you can do to help them with the transition. By combining a few of these tips with some of your own ideas you can navigate both the physical and emotional elements of the move and make the transition as smooth as possible for your whole family.