You’d think that for someone like me, moving into a new home would be a breeze. But for all the years of renovating, building and helping people move, there’s one thing I never really prepared for: moving with kids. Fortunately, with time and effort, my wife and I were able to make the experience feel like a happy moment, instead of a sad one, for our girls. In honor of National Moving Month, here are a few tips that worked for us.
When we decided to make the move to a new home, we built a new property from the ground up (naturally). This made the transition easier for a couple reasons. First, it gave the girls time to process, and second, by visiting the site, they felt involved from the very beginning. You may not be building, but there are still many ways to include your kids in the moving process.
Start by looking at listings online together. I’m working with and sponsored by Owners.com, an easy-to-use site with a large inventory of homes for sale. When you find a place you like, bring the kids along for viewings, and talk to them about ways you could decorate the space so they can imagine themselves in it. Then, once you start settling in to a new place, let them pick from a set of three paint colors, drapes or rugs for one of the rooms. Draw a picture together and hang it in your office or front entryway. It doesn’t really matter what you do as long as they feel included.
Imagine you’re riding a bike without handlebars. It gives you a better idea of how your kids might be feeling. Everyone deals with a move differently, but when a kid feels like they have no control, it can make the experience a lot harder for everyone.
Get them to take charge in the move by packing their own bag. Maybe they have a special game, doll, baseball or book that has some sentimental value. Whatever it is, let them choose, and if it’s possible, have them hold it as you head to your new home. This can ease their insecurities about moving and gives them a chance to “own” the situation.
We’re focusing on how to make the experience better for our kids, but it’s important to note that moving is no walk in the park for adults either. We also want to feel like we’re in control. Unfortunately, when that’s not the case, it can create a stressful environment for all.
But here’s the good news: You have the power to set the tone. Focus on reducing stressors that might put you — and, in turn, your kids — in panic mode. It’s no mystery that money can add a lot of pressure to the moving process. Be smart about it. Hold off on any major purchases until the move is over, and plan for moving costs like box truck rentals or movers well in advance. Look for ways to reduce your upfront expenses by scheduling your move on a weekday to potentially get a lower rate from the moving company. You should also consider using an online brokerage like Owners.com that offers a rebate at closing.
Expenses are probably the biggest stress factor, but aside from that, just plan ahead. If your kids sense that you’re confident, they will be, too. Create a timeline that works for you, get as much help as you can from friends and loved ones and make sure you communicate your plans to your kids so they don’t feel caught off guard as the date approaches.
In the same way that timing and control can set a tone, a normal daily routine is very important for kids facing a move. When things like family dinners and bedtime rituals fall by the wayside, it makes the experience feel even more scary and abrupt. Do your best to focus on those things. Sometimes, you can’t avoid the unexpected, but even if you need to order takeout on an especially busy night, try to do it as a family. Kids will find the consistency comforting, and they’ll be reminded that, even when their world is changing, you’re still there for them.
Last, but certainly not least, look forward, not back, and be optimistic. Remember this: Your home is special to the whole family — but for your kids, it’s everything. All of their first connections with friends, teachers, pets and places happened here. It’s important to let them know that even though things are changing, there’s plenty to look forward to.
It’s OK to be nostalgic or even a little bit stressed at some point in the process. But it’s also important to give your kids something that will make them look back on the experience in a positive light. Do a fun photo shoot where you take silly pictures in their favorite spots then create a photo album or hang them on the wall of your new home. After spending that time together, it’ll give your family a happy story to tell and create good feelings for what’s next.
Every one of these gestures might feel small, but they mean the world to kids coping with a move. So, take some time to help ease the transition and make them feel involved. From one parent to another, believe me, they won’t forget it.
This post is sponsored advertising content with Owners.com. All opinions are my own.
Bottom photo courtesy of iStockphoto.com/Aneese