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Moving with Kids (Part II) - Tips for making it less stressful for children

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Blog by Randy Miller | March 19th, 2014

moving with kids
Talk to your children
Talk to children about the move and do it early to give them as much time as possible to get used to the idea. Tell the children all about their new home and give them lots of facts and information appropriate for their age group and level of understanding.

Young children have short attention spans, so be prepared for them to talk about the move only for a short while before moving on to something completely different. Do not expect a young child to spend the entire evening discussing the move and its consequences. If a child is ready to talk or has a particular question, make the most of it and be ready with answers.

Most kids want to know about their new school, neighborhood, sport teams and city. But they may also have questions you hadn't thought of, such as, "how hard is it to make friends?", "Are we taking our dog?", "Why are we moving?".

Try to answer every question with as many details as you can provide. Being honest and open will help your child feel confident in this decision to move. Ask your child to write down their questions, then call a family meeting to discuss each person's questions. Family meetings are a great way to open up a dialogue between you and your children. And you can make it fun, too! 

Even though a child can't decide which house to buy or which town to move to, they can get involved in other decisions like choosing colours for their rooms. That way they will feel part of the process.

If possible, take the child to visit the new place a couple of times before moving in. This will often help make the whole thing more real and familiar.

Make a family wish list, House-hunt together.
This will help you reach a consensus on some of the things you all want from your new home: a bigger backyard, a basement playroom, separate rooms for the kids. Try to take your children to see prospective houses with you. If you're searching online, bookmark your favorites so your kids can take a look.

Take a tour
Even if your family has seen the house before, take a tour. Walk them through the space discussing what each room will be, describing how it'll look, what activities will happen there and asking what each member thinks about organizing the space. Play hide and seek or tag, a game that encourages children to explore their new home.

To ensure the move is a little easier for the kids, give your child a plan for their room. Providing your child with as much information as you can about the new house will help them make some decisions before hand, such as where to place furniture and what color to paint their walls.

An essential box is essential
Have your child make a special box just for moving day essentials. It should include those essentials your child will need during the move. This kit should include their favorite items, as well as books and games to keep them busy on the road. Encourage them to decorate the box to make it their own. Your child may also want to include their address book or photos of friends. Essentials such as toothbrushes, clothes, etc... can be packed in a suitcase. The survival kit should be all about fun!

Make sure every member of the family packed an essentials box for themselves. For kids and teens this should include their favorite things, whether its music, games, books, journals or pictures, encourage them to pack everything together so that all the things that are meaningful for them can be unpacked first. For most moves, I make sure that everyone takes this box with them instead of with the movers (if that's feasible), just to make each member feel a little sense of home their first night.

Ask them to sort out their things. Give each child a list of tasks to do, including sorting out their room. This can include donating or selling unused toys or out-grown clothing, and sorting items in their room and storing them in boxes.

Show children how to properly pack and label a box, then make a "packing date" where both you and your child spend time sorting and packing. Children will find it easier to do these tasks if the entire family is also involved. Reward "packing dates" with pizza or movie nights.

Be sure to make the entire moving process fun and up-beat to keep the children enthused about this new stage in their life.

Plan goodbyes
Help your child plan their goodbyes. Some may want a party while others prefer having a few close friends over for a final slumber party. Your child may want a few separate events, for example, one for school friends, one for neighbors and another for the baseball team. As best you can, try to accommodate their wishes, within reason. Saying goodbye is an important step in the moving process.

Make time for saying goodbye to favorite haunts. Is there a special ice-cream shop your child liked to visit? What about a museum, or park, or swimming pool? Ask your child to make a list, or make a list with the entire family, then set aside time each week to do at least one favorite thing. If you decide to do this as a family, make sure everyone is included. Make a calendar and mark out the days and event/place you'll go. This will prepare your child for saying goodbye to special places.

Unpack the kids' rooms first
The day of the move is a day of change and the decision is now irrevocable. Take care of your child's new room first. The first room you should really unpack is the kitchen, just unpack the basics - the things you'll need for the next few days. After the essential kitchen items are unpacked, start with the kids' rooms. Getting each child to unpack their own stuff (with help, of course) and talking to them about how they'd like their room arranged, will help them feel like the new space is theirs and they will soon settle into their new room. Usually the rule is, the sooner a child's room is unpacked, the quicker they'll adjust to the space - it's just common sense.

Get back into routine ASAP
Most people like routine, especially children and teens. For the first night, you may let the younger members of your family stay up a little longer just to make the night special, but after that, it's important to establish a daily routine. Keep bedtime hours, mealtimes and playtimes consistent. This will help everyone to feel more settled. It's difficult enough to have had their lives disrupted by a move, but to disrupt the daily schedule is even more detrimental; if children are acting out, try normalizing your day. If you used to take the kids to the park in the afternoons, find a local park and reschedule this into your day. I know it's tough - especially for the parent who's at home trying to put the house in order - but part of the moving in process is also settling in the family. In addition, each parent needs to take this time out, too, to enjoy the new home and neighborhood.

After the move, try to get your child's room in order before turning your attention to the rest of the house. Also, try to maintain your regular schedule for meals and bedtime to give kids a sense of familiarity.

Stay in touch
Make a memory book. Your child can fill it with photos of your home and her friends, along with their e-mail addresses. Encourage your child to create an address book where addresses of friends, teachers, coaches, etc... can be kept. Encourage your child to stay in touch, and assure them that their friends are just a mouse-click or postage stamp away.

Celebrate your new home
Although you may not be completely finished moving, it’s okay to take a slight break to enjoy family time and help each person make the transition into their new home. Make the relocation a good experience by helping the kids unpack, set up their new rooms and explore the backyard and neighborhood. Create a family welcoming event for your new home, such as planting a family tree or have a party to make the move a special event.

How long will it take for a child to get used to a new home?
Do not expect a child to be ready to go to school straightaway. They need a little time to get used to their new surroundings.

Once in school, a six-week period for a child to get used to their new surroundings is normal.

Getting to know the child's new teachers and making them aware of the situation is important, especially for younger children. You can help the staff 'get up to speed' in their understanding of a child by giving them some background information about your child's school career so far. If, after a month or two, the child has not adapted to their new school and new home, the parents may consider getting professional help.

Can moving house be positive?
A move may turn out to be a positive experience for the whole family, provided they go about it in the right way. The reason behind the move may be something good, but any kind of change creates the need for a lot of communication and planning and this may create closer relations in the family. Suddenly it's more natural to talk about feelings and expectations. A move can present many challenges, but good things also come from this kind of change. Your family might grow closer and you may learn more about each other by going through it together.

During a move, parents get the opportunity to learn more about their children, their reactions and feelings. After a successful house move, they may find that their child has become more independent.

Moving can be a life-changing experience for many families, especially children who have had a consistent routine prior to the relocation. Be sure to stay in touch with old friends and family and plan up-coming activities with new friends in the neighborhood. With the right planning, a family move can be a great experience for everyone involved.

If you plan to move to or within Durham Region, contact me and I will help you make the move as smooth as possible.

Randy Miller
Sales Representative
Re/Max Rouge River Realty Ltd., Brokerage
905-668-1800 or 905-427-1400