Setting up a new home is an exciting time for all concerned but don’t forget that the experience can be a little different for children due to their lack of control over the process.
To smooth the settling-in process as much as possible, make sure you spend plenty of time thinking about your children’s feelings and needs before, during and after the big day.
From getting them fully involved in the packing process to helping them to meet other children in their new neighborhood, this guide provides some handy hints for making your young ones feel welcome in their new home.
Get them Involved in the Move
Rather than have them milling about and probably getting in the way, consider recruiting your children in the packing process. In the days leading up to the move, collect together (or buy) some large tall cartons for each child. They can then spend time collecting together books, toys, games and other items (although you may want to shift things around to ensure they last the move).
You can even buy mini hand trucks or carton dollies for young children so they can wheel their boxes out to the removal truck (or at least to the doorway if you’re worried they may get squashed by the removal team).
Check They Packed Their Favorite Teddy
There is one sure thing that will ruin the moving experience for everyone involved – not least the child themselves: leaving the favorite teddy, doll or comforter in the old house (or worse, losing him/her/it during the journey).
Drum it into your children that they must pack their favourite toys securely but, even then, don’t leave it to chance. Make sure you know exactly where they have been stored in the truck and make sure that they can’t be tipped out or crushed. This will also make it easy for you to reunite the toys with their owners at the other end!
Make Sure They Know Where Everything is
Bear in mind that your children will take some time to find out where things are kept and how to operate fixtures and fittings. Without the benefit of experience, any differences between what they are used to in their former home and the new situation may become a significant challenge.
Changing from a push button flush on your old toilet to a lever pull on a new one may not be a big deal for you but could lead to confusion, tears and a big mess for a child. Likewise, a pull cord light switch in the bathroom can be baffling to a child used to looking at the wall to turn on the lights.
Provide a thoughtful welcome by taking a child eye’s perspective as you explore your new surroundings. Make sure your children are happy with how everything works and where to find things such as cups, cookies and the TV remote.
Do a Safety Sweep
One thing you don’t want your children to become too familiar with over the first few days of a move is the First Aid kit. Your children will want to explore so, before you let them off the leash, walk through your new home like a safety inspector. Take note of any trailing wires, uneven surfaces, sharp corners, unguarded staircases, unbarred windows and chemicals which may be within reach of groping fingers.
Do your best to make your child’s environment safe and point out any dangers that can’t be easily rectified straight away.
Take Them to the Park(s)
One of the best ways to get children – especially confident ones – settled in to their new neighborhood is to take them out to the local parks. Visit as many as you can since, as you will no doubt know from experience, the differences in vibe can be dramatic.
Rather than drop them in at the deep end, make sure you accompany them, at least at first. If your children are young, you could turn it into a picnic (weather permitting). For older children you may prefer to go for a walk so as not to ‘cramp their style.’ Just be sure to keep an eye on how things are going.
Get Them to Create Something Crafty
If the drama of the move is getting too much for the children (and for you), give them some crafty materials and set them a home-building task. Perhaps they could design a ‘new home’ collage for the hallway or decorate room signs for their new bedrooms. This will help to calm them down while personalizing their new home.
Fixing a special ‘new home’ meal or baking cookies is a great way to bond while getting children used to where everything in the kitchen is.
Enrol Them in Similar Clubs
Once your children have settled in to the home, neighborhood and school it’s time to push the boundaries and integrate them into the wider community.
Rather than try out too many unfamiliar clubs, enrolling them in similar groups to ones they attended in their old neighborhood is likely to make them feel more confident. Whether they used to dance, play football or attend Sunday School, they will find it easier to pick up where they left off rather than have to catch up to their peers.
Throw a Welcome Party/Open House
Throwing a welcome party or holding an open house event is one of the quickest ways to make friends when you move into a new area. This doesn’t have to be too involved (chips, salad and a few drinks will be more than welcome). Make it a family event so that other parents won’t worry about bringing their own children along.
Honor Their Routines
Almost all children love a sense of routine so the more familiarity you can preserve, the easier it will be for them to feel welcome in their new home. Whether its snuggling up on the sofa together to watch a TV show, playing a favorite family board game or reading together at bedtime, be sure to honor some of your most established habits.
Follow the above steps and you will find that even the most unsettled children will soon adapt to your new home and life together.