Moving house we all know, is up there on the list as one of the most stressful experiences you will go through in your adult life. Doing this on your own, or as an adult couple is one thing, but doing this with a couple (or more) children in tow, is on another level.
Homes North would like to give you some advice for moving home with youngsters, as parents, and we hope it helps, even in a small way.
First things first, how do you tell your young ones what’s happening?
This all depends on the age of the children, so we’d like to walk you through our advice, with an age-appropriate guide.
* 0-2 years – just do it. Babies will not remember this part of their life, and unless they have a childminder or nursery they are moving away from, most 2 year olds will just be happy with a ‘this is our new house’/’this is your new room’, explanation, once you arrive in your new home on moving day. If you are moving away from a regular childminder, or nursery, and they will be going somewhere else, then a simple goodbye with a card (they could help make) to give to their carers on their last day of childcare, would mark the occasion well enough for most toddlers.
*2-4 years (pre-school) – Requires a little more explanation, starting to talk about the move in a simple way a couple of weeks before the moving date would be useful. Once you have confirmed the move and have a date. This should help to get used to the idea in the heads of your young ones. Starting to talk about their new bedroom, and packing up boxes in their rooms will make them understand what is going on. Hopefully you can build some excitement. Again, if you’re moving away from the area, a card or a present, as a way of saying goodbye to their child-carer(s) would help with ‘closure’ for leaving their friends and teachers behind and meeting new ones.
* 4-6 years (Reception and Year 1) – Do all the above, but be prepared for some emotions. They will be sad to say goodbye to friends/teachers (if you are moving away from the area), but they may also be sad to say goodbye to their bedroom/garden/material things. Involve them as much as possible, can you visit the house you are moving into with your child(ren) before you move? Can you visit their new school, and meet their new teacher?
This will hopefully spark some excitement and make the house move less of an upheaval. Positive emotions and words will help them remember the experience as ‘fun’, despite the worry or stress you may be feeling.
* 6-8 years (Year 2 & 3) – As above, but more involvement is required. Can you help them pack up their own bedroom and toys? You can show them the new house, the area you are going to move to, with any parks and fun things to do in the area. Give them ‘jobs’ to do. i.e. ask them to put their names on/paint/decorate their moving boxes for their belongings. Or get them involved in a ‘clear out’, which mentally prepares them for a new house/new situation. Even go to a car boot sale, getting rid of the old and making way for the new. Communication about where you are going will become more important now, as friendships may be established, so if you are moving away from the area, is it worth considering a ‘leaving’ party with all their friends, just to bring closure to their social circle? This may be the last thing you want to organise in the weeks before moving, but it may be an invaluable memory for your child(ren).
*8-11 (Year 4-6) – As above, however, they start to become more useful at this age. They can help move small boxes and light things, and be involved in the whole process. You can show them the plans, the paperwork, the new area and even do some online research. It may also be worth speaking to their friends’ parents and their teachers and family for them to personally say goodbye if you are moving away from the area. At this age, you are more likely to get some resistance to change. Be open, explain all the reasons why you are moving and what is good about the new house. Between the ages of 8-11 they can understand why, and although they will miss their friends, in order to combat this, meeting their new teacher, and spending an afternoon in their new school/class would be invaluable if you are able to swing it. Use this opportunity to enrol your child(ren) into some community groups. A scout group? A football club? A dance class? What’s available in the new area? This could be the first step to finding new friends, so when they do attend school, they have familiar faces.
*11-16 (Highschool Age) – At this age, you can (almost) treat your child(ren) like you would an adult. Take cues from them about how much they want to be involved. Tell them about the process from the start, i.e. at this age, you can involve them in looking at new houses and the research you will be doing yourself to find the ‘perfect house’. The hardest thing to deal with, for them, will be leaving their friends, (or even boyfriends or girlfriends) and starting again somewhere else (if you are moving away from the area). Expect tears, lots of communication and lots of support for them. Ask them if they want a leaving party? Ask them if they want to make a list of ‘20 things to do before you move’, and do them, in order for them to say goodbye to the things and places they love about where you live. If there is more than one high school in the area you are moving to, get them involved in picking a school.
Moving Day is here!
For young children (up to around age 8), it may be a good idea to get a friend or a grandparent to have your child(ren) overnight for 1 or 2 nights, while everything is moved and you are ready to live in your new house? Furniture can then all be in place, cleaning can be done and the children are not ‘under your feet’ whilst carrying heavy boxes upstairs. It should ease some of the stress if you can get the house ‘set up’, before they arrive.
Making sure your child(ren)’s room is set up in terms of bed/bedding/furniture and familiar toys etc may be a good idea for them to be excited for their new house, when they arrive.
Getting your children looked after for the day is not always possible, especially if you are moving a fair distance away, so moving ‘with kids’ maybe your only option. Planning and preparation then becomes more important. For young children this could be a scary, or an exciting experience. After the age of around 4, they will probably remember the move, or at least how they felt that day. They will take the cues from you and how you handle the move. So positive smiles and excitement from you, as a parent, is the main thing.
It may be worth having a tag-team plan if there are two of you? If it’s a nice day, take them straight to the garden, to avoid some of the danger of carrying furniture into the house or some of the chaos. For the first few hours, after they’ve seen the house, it might be a good idea for one parent to take them out for ice cream, to the park etc (maybe some research is required here to find out where things are). If the children are a little bit older, you could go and explore the area and have a good walk around. Even use a map to make it exciting, depending on their age(s).
If you have no other option but to have the children with you, technology is your friend here. Moving a whole house from point A to point B with child(ren) will not be fun for them (after the first 15 minutes anyway), so, I would suggest tablets, the TV, or films are your best option to keep them busy and avoid them getting into danger, or avoid any unnecessary stress. Food and Snacks may be worth preparing in advance for the day, and a takeaway may be worth arranging for the evening meal. They can help with their bedrooms of course and hopefully the whole day and moving experience will be remembered with a smile, and not something you never want to do again.
Whichever way you approach the moving day, and the whole experience, try and put yourself in your child(ren)’s shoes, try and be available for them to talk to through the whole process with you.
Being a parent at the best of times is hard, but putting in a house move to a different area/school can make family life more difficult temporarily, and put some pressure on your child(ren) and of course yourself.
In summary, prepare to plan, prepare to set up some activities, and prepare to ‘put the move on hold’, if the child(ren) needs a break. Remember, you don’t have to move everything, or unpack every box on the first day. Try and enjoy your first 24 hours in a new home as much as possible and make the experience as positive and as fun as you can, so your child(ren) will remember the house and the move itself, in years to come fondly.
All that remains to be said is good luck!