Let’s be honest: few people would claim they enjoy moving across country with children in tow but sometimes it just has to be done. Perhaps you (or your spouse) have secured the job of your dreams or you need to move closer to ailing parents so that they can see more of the family in their autumn years.Whatever your reason for going through the ordeal, these ten tips should hopefully make things a little more bearable.
Manage their Emotions
Children are people too – with real routines and friendship bonds. It may be convenient to presume they will just ‘just get used’ to moving but the reality is likely to be that they feel a mixture of emotions from fear and sadness to excitement and happiness.
The important thing is you give them a chance to talk to you about their feelings. Do this well in advance of the move (e.g. two months) not on the evening before! Encourage them to ask questions about the new area and make an effort to find the answers. Respect any fears and feelings of loss they may have while at the same time focusing on the positive aspects of the move.
The good thing about children is they are adaptable so with a bit of effort on your part, they can actually start looking forward to the move – making your life much much easier.
Seriously Consider Outsourcing
You might not have to do everything yourself. Here are a few things you might consider outsourcing:
- Childcare. Hire a short-term nanny or babysitter. Friends and family count too!
- Cleaner. Packing is a big enough chore without having to clean the house ready for its new occupants. Consider bringing in a cleaner to clean each room after you have packed it.
- Movers. A full-service moving company will handle all of the packing and transportation for you but will be an expensive choice.
- Packers. If you are happy to drive a truck but don’t want to pack, bring in a third party packing service.
- Self-Storage. If, on the other hand, you are OK with packing but don’t want to drive, a mobile self-storage company will drop off containers which you then fill for them to collect. With mobile self storage, packing supplies are often included as an added service which means another thing you don’t have to think too hard about. For more insight on “Speed Pack for Prop Storage” view demonstration video here.
Involve Children in the Packing
If you don’t want or can’t afford to offload the children (or the packing) the next best thing is to fully involve them in the packing process (rather than letting them run around bored – a recipe for chaos and tears).
You can start a month before you go by asking them to choose some toys to donate to charity or give to a friend. Then, several days ahead of the move, ask them to pack the toys and belongings they want to keep in their own box (which they could decorate).
On the moving day itself, consider turning the cardboard boxes into an entertainment center. Encourage your children to draw faces on them, copy letters and numbers, create cars or castles with spare boxes, etc.
Another great activity is to get the children to write and decorate moving cards for family and friends which include your new address (this could be pre-printed inside).
Set Aside a Safe Room
Whether or not you enlist the children in the packing process, it is a good idea to leave one room set aside as a ‘safe room’ for the children to retreat to when things get overwhelming (for you or for them!) You can strip the room of most things but just make sure that your children can be comfortable and entertained. For example, stock one or two library carts with a few toys, books, games, snacks and drinks and allow them to only use their cellphones or tablets in that room (e.g. they could watch a movie or play a computer game together on the tablet). If your furniture has already been packed away, a couple of beanbags should be fine for comfort.
Help Them Burn it Off!
A safe room is great when the children are worn out and relaxed but what about when they are full of energy and overexcited? The only recourse is to get them out of the house and expending energy. This could be as simple as a run around in the back garden or park or as involved as a session in an open gym or activity center.
A lot will depend on how happy the person (or people) staying behind are with getting on with the job alone. If they are willing and able to crack on, the longer the children are out of the way, the better for all concerned.
Take Care of the Paperwork and Housekeeping
You won’t need reminding that there is a lot of paperwork (and online housekeeping) to get through when you are making a long-distance move. Concentration and child-minding rarely go hand-in-hand so it is probably best to wait until the children are in bed, at school or otherwise out of the house before sitting down to get it all sorted.
Some of the things you will need to think about include:
- Birth certificates
- ID cards
- Switching utility supply (gas, electric, water)
- Switching cable supply
- Medical, dental and eye records
- Insurance cards
- School records
- Emergency contact card for children
- Hotel bookings
- Moving company booking
- Change of postal address (inform the U.S. Postal Service that it is a ‘family move.’)
- Change of online address details (e.g. store accounts, magazine subscriptions, etc.)
- Car documents
- Pet insurance
Be (More) Flexible
Although children need and expect routine and order (so they say!) it is probably easier to loosen up the schedule a little as moving day approaches.
Just like you, children will be getting anxious and excited and they may be unable to get off to sleep at night or may get up earlier than usual. You might also find that they don’t want to eat as much if they feel a bit nervous.
For your sanity as much as theirs, consider being flexible when it comes to times and activities. You can work to re-establish a new routine in the new home.
Carry out the Car Checks
As well as the usual gas, oil and tire checks, don’t forget to inspect the children’s car seats. First, make sure they are still suitable for your children’s height and weight: growth spurts can happen at the most inconvenient times. You will also need to check they are in good condition and installed correctly. If needed, purchase replacement seats rather than take any risks.
When it comes to traveling with children, a travel pack can really make your life much easier. Collect together toys, magnet games, coloring books, pre-sealed snacks, juice and water and store them somewhere accessible to the children.
You should also pack an ‘essentials bag,’ especially if you and your possessions are moving separately. This bag is designed to get you through an extra day and should include a change of clothes for everyone, pajamas, toiletries, cutlery, paper plates, simple snacks, water, a torch, first aid kit and anything else you can think of.
Plan the Road Trip
You will never regret any time you spend planning your road trip (including a Plan B if you can). Try to fit your trip in with the children’s routines where possible by starting early, planning stops for lunch and dinner and staying at a hotel overnight.
Plan in plenty of restroom stops but don’t ask the children if they need to go except as you leave the house. As long as you stop frequently, they shouldn’t get uncomfortable and they won’t use the restroom as an excuse when they are bored.
If you can, plan in a fun stop at a place of interest (national park, activity center, tourist trap, etc.) This will be sure to entertain the children and help them enjoy the experience.
Settle Them in
It is a good idea to unpack the children’s rooms first as it will help them to quickly get settled and comfortable in their new home. Explore the local surroundings with them and, if you are between school semesters, enroll them in suitable clubs, groups or classes to help them make friends.
Hopefully these ten tips will ease the stress for all concerned and you will look back on your move as a happy experience rather than one fraught with tears and tantrums.