So…we moved into our new house two weeks ago 🙂
Exciting and very hectic times for all of us, but especially for the boys. Hubs and I know what we got ourselves into, knew what the new house looks like, what we expected from the new school / day care et cetera. But for the kids, it rocked their world.
How on earth do you explain the concept of moving to a four-year-old (who seems to like change, just like his mom, but who will miss his best friend as well), a two-year-old (who DISlikes change vehemently), and a one-year-old who isn’t verbal in the first place…
Thus, I put some thought into the process, wrote down what I would like and gathered some tips from the all-knowing World Wide Web which I think are important.
1. Put on your own oxygen mask first … again 🙂
Moving is stressful for everyone and you have to be fit to a) do it and b) take care of your little ones at the same time. You will feel more tired and your children will require more attention, patience and cuddles from you. So start by executing radical self-care and mark it in red on your calendar around the moving day (and a few weeks / months after).
2. Announce the move to the kids – not too early, not too late
And take your kids’ character into account 🙂
As I mentioned, our eldest seemed to be looking forward to the move and asked questions. He generally likes to know things well in advance. However, our two-year-old thinks of worrisome things ahead of time, he fusses about them, will not sleep the few nights before, will have more tantrums, et cetera. For him, it’s indeed important to know that “everyone is moving, so he doesn’t feel as if he’ll be left behind”. When you talk, don’t just tell the kids what will be different. “Make sure you explain that the important things will stay the same, including the fact that everything in the house, especially what’s in the child’s room, will come with you.”
3. Visit the new house before the move
Fortunately we did this five or six times, because it is a newly built house: some heavy machinery was involved and our boys love that 🙂 So they have seen their new rooms with and without a roof, windows and flooring. I think it helped both the enthusiastic four-year-old, who was making plans on blue walls and such, as well as the two-year-old who got a little more familiar with the building and surroundings.
4. Say your goodbyes
It’s good to acknowledge the things you and the kids will say goodbye to. It’s healthy for children to express their sadness and it will make their adjustment easier.
- accompany your child on a tour of every room so he can say goodbye. We did this on the last morning the kids were there, and the two-year-old really responded by naming practically all objects including every wall and saying goodbye. He gained a lot of perspective into what would come with us (furniture, paintings) and what not (those walls).
- Say goodbye to the neighborhood as well, the playground nearby, the shops in the village center, all your favorite spots. We did this on the second to last day before the move, which was a Tuesday. My parents and the kids toured the village on most Tuesdays anyway, so it was possible to do this intentionally and the boys enjoyed it very much.
- Have a farewell party at day care or school – for us, this was planned a week before the move and was a very nice little ritual which the boys had already seen when other kids moved. It marked an ending and they hugged their teachers a lot during those days.
5. Ask them to help pack their own things …
Well, actually I wasn’t planning on this, but it did make sense. It reassured them that all their toys and treasures were coming with us. They even packed each other at one point. It gave them a sense of ownership and control. And it was a very good idea to mark a special box for each of the boys and ask them to fill it with things they love, plus a few items for them to have during the actual move and settling in time when most of their things were not accessible. We made sure to have some familiar books for pre-bed story time at hand as well.
6. Pack the children’s rooms and the kitchen last and unpack first
The day before the move we brought our boys to their new school / day care in our new town. That night, we brought them to their grandparents (my parents) who live nearby. We all had dinner together and they spent two nights at my parents’. Most overnight stays up to now have been a real party for all of them, and they will be safe and out of the way during moving day. So after we dropped them off in the evening, we were able to pack their rooms and make sure their things were loaded in the front of the truck, to be unloaded first on moving day.
Making their rooms in order was a first priority. But because they were away for another night, my husband and I were able to take shorter breaks, have some time as a couple on our first evening, sleep in a tiny little bit (7am instead of 6am with kids), and continue to unpack the next day. Also, we had our groceries delivered that morning. Next I unpacked the kitchen, so the kids would know they could get food or water or ask for something to eat whenever they wanted.
This planning turned out well, primarily because we were able to take the kids home to a house which wasn’t as big a mess as it was on moving day, their rooms showed the items they love, and the kitchen was basically arranged so food and glasses for water were accessible. We knew what was for dinner the first days they were home (pizza, pasta, soup, nothing difficult) and there were snacks (and chocolate for mommy). Phew!
It would have been great if we had put together a part of their playroom as well, so they would have had a nice place to go to while the rest of the house was still being dominated by unpacked boxes, but this did not happen. The boys enjoyed unpacking as well, but now the playroom is one big mess of toys thrown out of boxes but not put away. Also, we don’t have enough cupboards to put it all away. The sliding doors between living room and playroom now generously keep the mess out of sight when the kids aren’t around.
7. Take plenty of breaks
Also, see #1. During the breaks, you can have intentional attention for your kids, your partner, or yourself, and maybe, kind of, do the things you normally would have done on that day and at that time, to keep things as consistent as possible. Such as eating, and maybe napping (I was 34 weeks pregnant on moving day), or checking in with work.
8. Stick to the schedule
Right after moving in the kids, we tried to get back to our “normal” rhythm a.s.a.p. The more predictability, the more quickly your child will adjust, according to ahaparenting.com However, two weeks in and still not there. Our two-year-old will nap TWICE at day care (two days a week) and refuses to nap at home. This has something to do with fear of the unfamiliar, I guess, since he also wants his nightlight turned on during the night. So, bummer for my pregnant and tired self (less downtime in the afternoon), but we’ll give him time to adjust, of course. We still try to maintain most of the old routines, especially with a new baby brother coming in a few weeks. We consistently have dinner and most breakfasts as a family and read a bedtime story in the bedroom of our eldest son. But I find this the hardest part of moving. I do my best to be more available, but I also crave me time, work time (just a little bit…) and SLEEP!!!
9. Don’t underestimate the emotional energy involved with moving house
Not for yourself, and especially not for the kids. Changing house, garden, neighborhood, day care, school and nanny is an awful lot to take in for our boys. And although I can reason about it, for me too. It’s about time I stop taking clothes out of boxes 🙂 but I have to get used to moving through the house efficiently (kitchen – waste bins – kitchen – toilet – pantry for extra toilet paper – kitchen to start cooking – where did I put those knives…. and so on). Also, there is a lot of ambiguity and comparison going on in my head: I love the bathroom in the new house but am getting frustrated the light fixture is not in place yet, I love our new garden but the view from our old bedroom was nicer… Not for naught that moving is considered the third most stressful thing that you can go through (after death and divorce).
10. Go explore and make it fun!
While the weather is still mild, with autumn just starting to creep in, we take a lot of walks around our new neighborhood. This helps the kids to get a sense of where they are. And it is helpful to do fun things as a family. We sought out a lot of playgrounds in the area. There are no less than six within five minutes walking! We also visited grandma and grandpa a lot those first weeks (and will continue to see them a lot, with the new baby due soon). We live a lot closer to them now. We tried pizza delivery (kids tried the doorbell first, so we wouldn’t miss the delivery boy ringing, which they found very rewarding). We went to the little shopping center quite a few times to get some groceries and to get to know our way around. My husband and I are trying to get involved with school / day care and getting to know other parents around. Greeting and chatting with total strangers like crazy :). But hey, we’re building a new village!
If you have a move planned, good luck! Want to chat about it? Click here for an online meeting. Have tips to share? Please leave a comment!