The process of relocating to a new home is already daunting but add kids to the mix and—even if it’s a local move—it can feel next to impossible. Moving with kids is challenging because, as with many other things in life, they want to help but often end up creating more work for you. That said, involving them in the move will help them emotionally, so you’ll need to give them jobs to do and feign your appreciation for their help.
Moving with children is not only hard on parents or caregivers, but it can be difficult for the kids as well. When you’re preparing for an upcoming move, it can throw the whole family off schedule. Regular nap times and mealtimes go out the window, and school drop-offs and pick-ups become a hardship. And, if you’re moving to a new school district, there’s the matter of changing schools and leaving friends behind.
Like many adults, kids thrive on a consistent routine, and moving is the opposite of that. We know how complicated moving with kids can be, which is why we’ve developed this comprehensive guide to help keep your family organized and sane throughout your local move.
Before the Move
1. Make a plan
Creating a plan is essential for a smooth move. Some moving companies, including MoveDay, will have you work with a single-point-of-contact move manager who will help you plan out the details of your relocation. This person will help you set the dates and determine the logistics of the move. This person will also be just a phone call or email away throughout the moving process.
That said, moving is more than just packing up your stuff and watching it get loaded onto the moving truck. A move will likely be a significant change for your family and planning ahead is particularly important with kids who will feel less in control of the situation. Holding a family meeting will help familiarize your children with the process of moving and will provide an opportunity to get their input regarding what is most important to them during this time.
2. Create a checklist
In addition to coming up with a basic moving plan, you’ll want to create a detailed checklist so you can cross out or check off items as you complete them. When moving with kids in tow, staying organized is vital. Based on our experience with moving families, we’ve created a complete checklist for moving with kids. Use our checklist and customize it to your exact situation by adding or taking away items as needed.
3. Make it an adventure
Change can be a good thing, but it will take some extra effort on your part to ensure that your kids see the move from a positive perspective. Even if you have your own reservations about the move, don’t let that negativity show in front of your children.
Turning certain aspects of the move into a game can make it more fun. For example, when packing non-fragile items, you could race with your kids to see who can fill a box the fastest. If the movers are doing the packing, your children can still have fun decluttering or organizing their things in preparation for the packing. Another enjoyable activity might be to have each child draw a picture of how they plan to arrange their new bedroom.
Older children can be assigned the exciting task of researching the new area online. Perhaps they can help you out by finding nearby shopping, hiking trails, and fishing spots — or, more importantly, the closest pizza place.
Just remember that your child is looking to you for guidance on how to react to the move, so be intentional about the attitude you project. Stay excited about the positive aspects of the move, and hopefully, your kids will mirror your enthusiasm.
4. Pack essential items last
Most kids have certain belongings that they just can’t do without. As the big day approaches and you begin to pack up your children’s rooms, allow them to pick out a few favorite items they can keep with them. Provide a backpack or duffle bag for each child to bring in the car.
One problem you could run into is that your children might want to keep too many things out of the boxes. Sometimes, younger kids feel that packing something is somehow giving it up. If that’s the case, use your judgment to determine which items are practical to keep out for them. Packing the rest of their things during nap time or while they’re at school can help you avoid conflict since they may not even notice what’s missing.
5. Communicate with your children throughout the process
Talk with your kids throughout the move and be prepared for adverse reactions from them. This move could be the first significant change in their lives, and they may be experiencing fear of the unknown. Set aside time early on to answer their questions and discuss any concerns they may have so you don’t become impatient with them as you get busier preparing for the move.
Involve your kids in as many aspects of the move as possible right from the beginning. For example, you could take them house hunting with you and explore the new area with them. Giving children tasks such as putting unwanted items in a donation bag or boxing up non-fragile items can also help them feel more in control of the situation. Kids enjoy being a part of things instead of being treated like they’re just along for the ride.
During the Move
1. Focus on the fun stuff
For young children, simple things such as watching the moving truck pull up can be fascinating. Be in the moment with your child as the truck pulls up and get excited. Introduce your kids to the driver and moving team, so they don’t view them as total strangers invading their home.
Have extra boxes? Create a designated play area, perhaps in an already emptied bedroom, where your child can draw on the boxes with markers or build a fort. It’s moments like these that help create positive memories about moving and teach your children to embrace life’s inevitable changes.
2. Have someone there to help with childcare
Even with the help of a full-service moving company, you’ll have a lot on your mind on moving day. Having a friend or family member there to help with the kids during the move can keep them busy and out of the way. With someone dedicated to entertaining them, your kids will remember moving day as a time of fun and adventure. Even if your children are older, you could probably use extra help attending to their needs and sheltering them from any stressful situations that could arise during the move.
3. Assign each child a task
Even after the packing is complete, there are still small tasks you can give your children on moving day to keep them occupied. Caring for a pet or offering refreshments to the movers are examples of fun ways children can help. Kids should never be underfoot during a move, but there’s probably still a small job they can do to help them feel involved.
4. Keep your children’s most important items with you
Inevitably, things will get misplaced for a while during the move. Avoid any unnecessary drama by keeping your kids’ favorite items with you instead of packed in a box on the moving truck. For example, if a young child needs a very specific pillow, blanket, or stuffed animal to go to sleep, hang onto that item. It may take you several days to unpack, and you don’t want to be scrambling to find such an essential comfort item when you first arrive at your new home.
This tip also applies to any must-have items for you as the parent, including medications and important paperwork. Sometimes, things end up in the wrong box or left behind on a closet shelf during a move. If there are certain things you will need access to before you’re completely settled into your new home, keep those items with you in a tote bag or backpack. Avoiding unnecessary stress on yourself will help you remain relaxed and patient with your kids during this hectic time.
After the Move
1. Take your time unpacking
Don’t stress yourself out by thinking you have to unpack everything immediately. It will probably only take seeing a few familiar toys and other favorite items to make your child feel more at home. Quickly unpacking those special items will go a long way.
Unpacking the rest of your belongings doesn’t have a hard and fast deadline like packing does. Since organizing your belongings at the new house can take time, take plenty of breaks to explore the new town and visit local tourist attractions or restaurants.
2. Meet the new neighbors
If you haven’t already scoped out the neighborhood for kids, going on a family walk is a great way to do this. Take the lead by being friendly and outgoing as you encounter new neighbors and encourage your kids to do the same.
3. Visit the new school ahead of time
For children, the most stressful part of moving is changing schools. As much as you’d like to, you can’t go with your kids on their first day and help them through this transition. Arranging to visit the school with them ahead of time will help familiarize them with the school’s layout and allow them to meet their new teachers.
Taking everything in at once at the same time they are meeting their new classmates will be more stressful, which is why a preliminary visit can be beneficial. This visit is especially important if your students are starting mid-year when the rest of the kids already know their way around and are comfortable in their routine.
4. Make something fun out of empty boxes
Once you’ve settled in, don’t rush to recycle every empty box. Creating an elaborate playhouse for younger children can keep them busy while you finish unpacking as well as keep their minds off any move-related stressors. A quick Pinterest search will yield plenty of ideas for fun things to make out of moving boxes.
Tips for Moving with Toddlers and Preschoolers
There are pros and cons to moving kids at different ages. For example, the pro with moving kids under six is that it will be an easy transition for them because they won’t fully understand the change or be as deeply attached to a social circle. The con to moving when your kids are little is that they can be a handful and need childcare during the move.
Although allowing young children to help you pack will likely slow you down, it can make the transition easier for them emotionally. Remember that it’s your job as the parent to set a positive tone for the move. The following tips will help you ease your toddler or preschooler through this transition:
- Act out the move with them using their toys and show them YouTube videos about moving and moving trucks.
- Give clear, straightforward answers to any questions they may have about the upcoming move.
- If possible, visit your new home with them before moving day.
- Avoid other significant changes during this time. For example, now isn’t the best time to focus on toilet training or moving your toddler into a “big kid bed.” Instead, wait until your child is comfortable in their new surroundings.
- Arrange for a babysitter to look after your young children on moving day. You may be distracted by the details of the move, and with large furniture being carried in or out of the house, your children will be safer if someone is focused on watching them.
Tips for Moving with School-Aged Kids
One of the first decisions you’ll need to make when moving with school-aged kids is deciding on the best time to move and change schools. There are two possibilities when relocating with school-aged children:
- Move during the summer and start the new school at the beginning of the year.
- Change schools in the middle of the school year.
Each of these options has its pros and cons. While moving during the summer can help your child avoid a rough transition academically, there is a possible upside for changing schools in the middle of the year. Moving during the summer can cause some kids to feel isolated, but by starting at the new school right away, they’ll be able to make new friends sooner.
Still, most families with children prefer to move during the summer. Not only does postponing a change in schools until the new school year prevent them from disrupting their studies, but it also allows for easier social adjustment. When your kids start a new school on the actual first day of school, they are less likely to be the only new students.
Tips for Moving with Teens
How your teens react to a move depends on how drastic of a move you are making. They probably won’t mind if you are just making a local move down the street—especially if they view their new bedroom as an upgrade.
If changing schools is the issue, allowing your teenagers to finish out the school year can make things easier on them both academically and socially. If you’re moving locally, check with your district’s school board to see if your teen can continue to attend their current school.
If you’re moving well out of the area, hosting a going-away party for your teen can provide closure, and it also acknowledges that you understand they will miss their friends. This event will give them a chance to say goodbye and exchange contact information with anyone they weren’t already connected with online.
While keeping in touch with friends on social media can seem beneficial, sometimes seeing their friends getting together without them can cause teenagers to feel left out. Even your teens seem satisfied with keeping in touch with their old friends online, the sooner they meet local friends they can interact with in person, the better.
Your kids may resist the idea of building a new social life but getting them out doing things in their new area will be good for them. Enrolling them in some kind of class or helping them get started in a new sport will get them off their phones and hopefully engaging with people in their new environment. Even though they may not realize it yet, before long, your teenagers will likely form new connections and may become just as attached to their new social circle as they were to their old friends.
Another aspect of the move teenagers tend to focus on is their new bedroom. Consider letting your oldest child choose which bedroom will be theirs, or if they will be going from sharing a room with a sibling to having their own room, be sure they are aware of this exciting change. Offering to purchase new bedding or a few new decorations for a teenager’s bedroom will give them something fun to look forward to after the move.
Tips for Moving with Kids in Multiple Age Categories
If you’re a family with kids in different age groups, you’ll want to emphasize teamwork and cooperation during the move. Let everyone know what is expected of them and that you need their help. Explain that this isn’t the time to be fighting about whose turn it is on a video game or who sits in the front seat.
Take some one-on-one time with each child to gauge their reaction to the upcoming move. Reassure them that everything will work out and point out any positives such as having a larger backyard or living close to a park or extended family.
Also, try to explain their sibling’s point of view in the situation. For example, you could warn a younger child that his older sister might be grouchier than usual because she’s leaving her best friend behind. Or you could explain to an older child that her younger siblings don’t fully understand what is happening and might look to her for guidance on how to react to the move.
Although this will be a hectic time, kids are resilient, and your family will get through this together. If you’re searching the internet for guides on moving with children, you’re already ahead of the game.
You’ve Moved Your Family — Now What?
Be sure to have realistic expectations during the first few weeks or months after a big move. Sometimes, even long after the move, kids will feel anxious about some aspect of their new life, whether academically or socially. Be a good listener and do what you can to help them adjust.
Most teachers will tell you that students should feel comfortable in their classes after about the first six weeks in a new school. Some kids will need less time, and others will need more, but the point is to be patient and give it some time. Help your children through these first few weeks and be sympathetic to their plight even if you don’t understand the emotions they’re feeling.
Occasionally, older kids—especially shy ones—will continue to struggle emotionally in the months following a move. In this case, a family therapist can provide an outside perspective on how your child can better adapt to the new situation.
While this article’s focus has been mainly on the challenges of moving with kids, there can still be a lot of good that comes from the changes ahead. Without the hustle and bustle of a busy social life and school activities distracting the kids, your family might enjoy some much-needed bonding time together. Try to roll with the punches and teach your children by example that change can be a good thing.
Enlisting the help of a full-service moving company can offer you peace of mind during this sensitive time in your children’s lives. MoveDay is a reputable local moving company with the experience and expertise needed to move entire families safely and comfortably. Our crews are trained, background checked, and drug tested. When you contact us about your local move, you’ll be offered a wide range of moving services as well as a free moving quote. Contact us today for more information.