Moving with children

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, psychologist Angie Willcocks offers some tips on how to make things a little easier …

Hints for the whole family

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?

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:

Making your life easier​

Mining Family Matters Founder Alicia Ranford 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. 

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.

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