Moving with kids?
Hi, I’m guest blogging for my husband (one of the owners) because we had a little one just over a year ago, and it’s turned our life upside down in the best possible way and also, why did I ever think I used to be busy? Seriously! What did I do with that time?
Luckily for you it made Matt think that maybe there is something more to be considered when people are moving with kids, because actually, it’s not the same.
So he asked if I’d share some mummy insight. Given I only have my little story to tell I also talked to the mums in my circle who have done exactly this and then did a whole lot of research reading materials from child psychologists, decluttering divas, and that vast pool of bloggers out there. Here is what I can recommend.
Ditch your kids on the day
This applies to little kids, teenagers should be helping!!!
The chaos of moving day is not a great way to introduce little kids to their new home. Child psychologists also say it can be quite traumatic for little kids to see their room/house dismantled and taken away, particularly if they’re too little to understand what is happening.
If you can, take your little kids to the new house while the removalists are busy packing up your old place. Walk them through, show them their room and ask them where they think their furniture should go. Take post it notes so you can mark these spots for your removalists.
Once that’s done, take your kids out for the day, or hand them off to Grandma or your Bestie, so moving day becomes a fun day, not a hectic day where they are always in the way.
Kids first, kitchen later
When you first get into a place it’s tempting to get your living spaces set up first because as long as you’ve got a bed to sleep in, the bedroom is easier to close a door on and deal with later.
For kids it’s different. Having their space back so they can start getting used to their new room is a big part of helping them feel settled.
On the first night if you can get their bed/cot set up with the same sheets as last night, set their nightlight or other key visual pieces – pictures on walls or bedside like they always had it at home, will help them feel more at home.
If you’re kids are particularly struggling, think about having a family campout in the lounge room on the first night. You are their constant more than anything so snuggling up with you will help them feel safe.
Do not do the campout in your bed, you don’t want to start a pattern.
When they do go to sleep in their room, make sure they know where your room is and how to get there from their room. You may get a visitor in the middle of the night but better that than a terrified child who can’t find you.
Child labour is not only totally fine, it’s encouraged!
There are few occasions when child labour is encouraged but the good news is, moving house is one of them. Not just to get some help yourself but also to help your kids (so you totally have cover). Psychologists say that getting your kids involved in the move helps them to process.
Now when I get really stressed I do one of 3 things, eat a lot of crap, clean like a maniac or do something hard and physical. The first one doesn’t help at all, just sends me spiralling but the second two seem to help my process, and according to the child psychologists this will help your kids too.
Packing is a physical activity that requires some attention but doesn’t require total concentration. The brain is free to flick through the thoughts and emotions that might be coming up for your kids but the activity and low level concentration required means they aren’t wallowing or spiralling.
It’s also been shown that kids (particularly teenagers and boys) are more likely to talk if they are engaged in an activity, which gives you a chance to help them work through what’s going on. It also gives you a chance to work through any of their concerns or worries and help make the move a positive experience for all. Let’s face it a moody teenager brings the whole house down!
Talk, talk and talk some more
My parents moved towns when I was three and I immediately contracted shingles from the stress. It didn’t occur to my mum to talk me through it and explain what was happening. She was a stay at home mum and the centre of my world and as a result of the move my dad would be home more so she assumed I’d be fine.
Also, I was fine, I was happy and chatty, and didn’t show any signs of stress except that I got shingles from the stress. When big changes happen that kids don’t understand they get stressed and worried and they get shingles. This is something all the child psychologists agree on. Ok maybe not the shingles bit, but they do agree that stress can show up in different ways in kids, from acting out to illness to being withdrawn.
So tell them about it the move simply and clearly. Use pictures or their toys to act it out and explain. Even if your kid can’t talk yet, explain it to them. My one year old has only just mastered mum and dada, but if I ask him to get the ball and roll it back to me, he will. Kids understand a lot more than we think.
If you’re kids are older, answer all their questions honestly and simply as possible. If you don’t know, tell them you don’t know, but you’ll let them know when you do. Make it clear that the main thing is that your kids will still be with you and that you’ll work it out together.
Moving can be hard for kids, let them say goodbye in their own way.
When to talk to your kids
Tell your kids as soon as you can but not before it’s definite. Child psychologists all agree that kids worry when things change, even if we don’t necessarily see it. You know yourself things aren’t as scary if you know what’s coming.
Be aware that they will know something is different or changing almost from the moment you start looking. You’ll be talking about it and little ears pick everything up even when you think they aren’t listening, and also you’re going to open houses. Even if you don’t take the kids, suddenly every Wednesday (cause for some reason this seems to be the weekday every real estate agent has picked) and Saturday you are off doing something and you didn’t used to be. So be aware and when kids start asking, start talking, but keep it positive and let them know nothing’s changing right now and you’ll let them know when it will.
Book a cleaner
If you’re renting this always makes sense and if you aren’t trust me, seriously, it’s the best money you will spend on this move and I’m actually supposed to be getting you to hire my husband and his team as removalists so you know there is no vested interest in that recommendation.
Here’s the thing, if you’re renting you can spend 4 hours cleaning the old place (like I did last time we moved) and then the owner can say “the blinds are still dusty” (seriously this is what happened to me) and now they are hiring cleaners to do it all again and it’s coming out of your bond anyway. If you have a receipt from professional cleaners it doesn’t matter if the blinds are dusty they can’t touch your bond. It doesn’t matter what they say, legally they cannot. I’m just saying if you are going to pay for cleaners anyway you may as well reap the benefit and save yourself the time. Moving is tiring enough.
But even if you’re not renting, it’s worth it. And even if you really don’t think you have the money, you will save more by spending four hours helping your movers take boxes to the truck than you will by spending that time cleaning because removalists are more expensive than cleaners. I know, I know, my husband will make less money if you’re busy helping move rather than cleaning but let’s just focus on making your life easier. Being a mum means you’re probably already doing more cleaning than is reasonable.
Get a little imaginative
Each kid should have an essentials box and a treasure box. Label them clearly, and if they want let them decorate their treasure box. Tell them they are the only ones who can put something in their treasure box, now let them pick. They can even dress up like a Princess or Pirate while hunting for their treasure. You can make suggestions but your kids get to decide what they really want to go in it. Your toddler may decide that one of their ‘treasures’ is mummy’s coffee cup, that’s fine, roll with it. It’s all about comfort and sometimes odd things make kids comfortable.
The essentials box is for you, for all the things you know you and they will need on hand as soon as you arrive. Make sure it’s clearly labelled on more than one side so they are easy to find when your new house has 40 boxes all stacked inside.
Get them involved
Once you’ve found your new place take the kids for a look. Only if it’s empty, if it’s not, even if the current tenants or owners are happy with it, it’s not a great idea, because it’s full of all their stuff and little kids might find it hard to understand that the other family is moving out and this is their stuff and your stuff will be here not that other bed etc.
If your kids are a bit older, let them get involved in the open houses. Particularly, once you’ve started narrowing it down. Ask them what they think. Listen to them, and take their thoughts and ideas seriously. Don’t just make them feel like part of the decision, make them part of the decision. This doesn’t mean they get to pick the house that was falling down but had a great tree house, but take them seriously, and talk about it. This has a big impact on their life.
Try to keep it normal
For kids in daycare or school, try to arrange your move on one of those days, so they are doing their normal thing before you pick them up and introduce them to their new home. If that won’t work, get someone they already spend time with regularly to take them. Don’t hire a nanny or babysitter, unless it’s one they are very familiar with. If you don’t have someone you can leave the kids with, take them yourself and leave your hubby, boyfriend or girlfriend to deal with the move. It’s a lot more distressing for little kids to be dumped with a stranger and then come “home” to somewhere new and different, than to hang out with mum or dad and then enter a new space.
You’re better off hiring extra help with the move than an unknown babysitter, if you’re on your own, your removalists can actually move without you there and they can even unpack for you if you want. Just make sure you hire professionals with good reviews, you are trusting them with all the things that make up your life, they need to be trustWORTHY.
Let the kids say goodbye to their old house, room by room if they want. Child Psychologists say that the physical act of saying goodbye can help kids better understand what is happening and gives them a chance to process their emotions about it. If on the day of your move your kid couldn’t care less, don’t push it, but be aware that a few days later they may feel differently. If they do, and you can, drive over to your old house for a fond farewell. If it’s too far have a couple of pictures of your old place on hand that your kids can wave at, bury, frame, whatever it is they want to do to help them let go.
Cut yourself and your kids some slack
Today is not the day to worry about screen time, or a balanced diet. Do whatever you have to keep the kids happy and entertained and make moving day a bit of fun. That goes for you too. If you have a little extra money, don’t tie yourself in knots trying to be superwoman and do it all. Hire all the help you can afford and take the stress out of your day. Today is not the day to be strict about your no sugar, no carbs, no fun diet.
Today is a guilt free parenting day, anything goes that makes anything just a little bit easier.
Packing with kids is a whole other thing so I’ve written a separate post about it – you can check it out here at “Packing with kids”