by Mary Beth Gibson
Parenting tiny humans is challenging. Simply getting them to eat, sleep, and generally stay alive seems a monumental task at times. Now attempt to do that while simultaneously packing up a home, moving it to an entirely new location, and unpacking everything in an unfamiliar place. Challenging is just scraping the surface, my friend.
While some people relish a fresh start and others dread any form of change, moving with babies and toddlers is inevitably more complicated, and, thus, more stressful. Children thrive on routine and predictability, and a move is the complete opposite; however, there are ways to greatly reduce the stress of moving when young children are involved.
The moment you know you’re going to move is the moment to begin the process. In general, important tasks and chores take roughly twice as long with a toddler underfoot, and that time increases exponentially with each, added child. Not only does their normal and expected routine interfere with things like packing, but also they delight in finding ways to stall the entire operation. If you think it will take you two weeks to pack up the whole house you better start a month ahead of time. This allows plenty of time to work around any surprises or roadblocks, and when your toddler unravels the entire roll of bubble wrap in the living room to make a fort you can laugh and play with him for a bit rather than lose your cool because you only have one day in which to pack up that entire room.
Make a Master List
Starting early means writing down every, tiny task you can think of related to your move because parent brain is a real thing, y’all. Small tasks slip through the cracks when tiny children are underfoot, and then it’s moving day and there are one thousand small tasks you forgot to do until just now. In comes the Master List. Leave a pad of paper and a pen out at all times, and write down any task you think of—big or small—as soon as it pops into your brain. Once it’s on the paper you can let it go until you find yourself with a free chunk of time to accomplish one or two smaller tasks. It also helps you see what your bigger tasks are and plan how to accomplish them.
This doesn’t just mean on moving day. There are some tasks that are easier, faster, and safer without children around. Home repairs, handling breakables, trips to the dump, lugging things up and down the stairs, packing up the garage—the list keeps going. Since you can’t get everything done during the elusive naptime or the one free hour a night after their bedtime, get yourself a helper. Perhaps it’s as simple as having the grandparents take them for the day or sending them on an outing with your spouse. Perhaps it’s taking a day off work but leaving the children in daycare. Either way, give yourself a chance to have time alone in your home to do the non-kid-friendly things.
Pack Last, Unpack First
To keep your children’s lives as normal as possible for as long as possible, pack up their room last. Don’t even take pictures off their wall. Let their room be a refuge from the craziness in the rest of the home—for all of you. Retreating to a room that isn’t a disaster area of boxes, newspaper, and junk can be incredibly refreshing as a parent. When you arrive in your new residence, unpack their room first. Vacuum, dust, and babyproof their room before any other, and work as hard as you can to set up all of their furniture, clothing, toys, and decorations. A new room will naturally be exciting and scary for children, but that will dissipate much more quickly if it’s ready to go from the start.
Do a Toy Purge
As you begin packing up all your belongings, you’ll likely wonder how you accumulated so much stuff. That goes double for toys. Baskets and bins are great for keeping toys out of sight, but you realize just how many useless little knick-knacks you have when you empty those baskets for packing. Take this opportunity to clean out as many toys as you can, from old and forgotten fast food prizes to that loud, annoying, creepy robot your child played with a grand total of once. Not only does it make it easier to set up a new bedroom/playroom, it also makes some extra room for future toys.
Introduce a Special Toy
In the upheaval of a move and what are likely some lengthy travel times, small children often become bored, restless, cranky, and difficult. Rather than something scary or upsetting, help them see a move as an adventure for the whole family. One easy way to do that is to surprise each child with a special toy to keep with them for the trip. Tell them the new toy was made especially for your new home and continue to talk to them about how much fun it will be to play with the new toy in the new place.
Travel According to Their Needs
This is one of the hardest things to do when moving, especially if you’re wrangling your own moving truck, but it’s one of the most essential. If you must travel more than 400 miles for this move, plan to stop frequently and spend a night somewhere. Look up attractions or parks along your driving route and decide where you’ll spend the evening ahead of time. It’s incredibly tempting to push through an entire day (or even night) of a driving to reach your destination as quickly as possible, but the stress on you, the toll on your energy, and the scramble when you reach your new place in the middle of the night will not help your children. If, instead, you offer a couple places for them to run around, eat a snack, and explore along the way; a fun night in a hotel or at Aunt Sally’s house; and a full day to explore and play at their new home your children will likely enjoy the moving process and sleep better through the transition. And you will be well rested to handle all of the ups and downs.
Moving with children can be a fun and exciting time with a little planning and some extra considerations for their needs. A new home should begin with love and excitement, and these tips will help greatly with that!
Mary Beth Gibson graduated from Wichita State University in 2007 with a BA in Creative Writing and blogs at Bright Sycamore. She enjoys most things natural, but with a healthy dose of practicality and affordability. You can most likely find her wearing her toddler around Target as she hunts for great deals in the dollar bins. She lives in Kansas with her husband and 1-year old son.
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