After years of talking about it, we're finally diving headfirst into the process of moving. Although we love our little house, our family has outgrown it, and we'd all like some room to breathe. My first task was to pack up some of the clutter that we've accumulated over the years to get the house ready for potential buyers. As I filled the first box, my ever curious four-year-old asked, "What are you doing, Mommy?" I (being very honest with my children as well as generally not tending to think much before I speak) explained that we were planning to move to a bigger house and that I was starting to get things ready. What I didn't expect (but perhaps should have) was the barrage of questions that followed...
"But what about my bed?!"
"I want to keep my toys!!!"
"Will we take the walls? What about the floors?"
"Are we leaving tomorrow?!"
I'm guessing that I should have prepared a little bit more for this conversation. After putting her to bed that night, I delved into the vast world of knowledge that is the internet and did a little research. Here are a few things that I wish I would have known before starting to talk about moving with my kids:
1. Have a plan
Think about how you will begin the conversation with your kids. If you have young children, explain in terms that they will understand, for example, talk about how all of their toys, decorations, furniture, and clothing will come with you, while things like the walls, floors, windows, and light fixtures will not. Talk about things that will stay the same, for example their school or daycare. Let them ask questions and answer them honestly. Check out some age-appropriate books at your local library that deal with the topic of moving and share them with your children. Reassure them that your house will be well loved and cared for by its new family.
2. Involve the kids
My daughter immediately wanted to help to box up the clutter — every day she asks me if there is something that she can help to pack. Let your kids participate in the house hunt. Show them potential houses, take them along to viewings, and ask them what things they'd like to have in your new home. If you've chosen a house, take some time beforehand to explore the neighborhood and pay a visit to your new digs.
3. Be positive
Even though it was my idea to move, I'll admit that I have some misgivings. There are a lot of things that I really love about my home. We've lived here for nine years and have put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into making it our own. We became a family in this house. It's going to be hard to leave. While it's okay to share some of those feelings with your kids, make sure the overall vibe that you're giving off is one of confidence and positivity. If you seem nervous, worried, or upset, they'll pick up on it.
4. Save Memories
A friend of mine replaced the original front door of her house because it wasn't energy-efficient, but she saved it because it was beautiful and had a lot of character. When she eventually moved to her new home she took the door with her and made it into a coffee table. My aunt saved the beams from their old barn when they disassembled it to make way for a larger, more modern structure and incorporated them into the family room. If you don't have an actual physical piece of the house to save, make a photo book with memories of your old house. Let your children take their own pictures of the house, yard, neighborhood, school, friends, and any other important places and people. Make a video tour of your house with your child as the tour guide. Or take a video of everyone in the family talking about precious memories that they have of your home.
5. Keep it routine
Routines are important, especially to younger children. Try to maintain your typical patterns as much as possible before, during, and after the move. Bedtime routines, family game night, library day, and pancake Sunday will provide comfort and reassurance for your little ones in an otherwise chaotic and unfamiliar world.
6. Maintain connections
There are so many ways to stay in touch with friends and family members. My sister lives in Australia, and I'd venture to say that my kids are as close to her as they are to family members that live ten minutes from us thanks to Skype. FaceTime, Google Chat, Facebook or SnapChat (assuming it's age-appropriate), or even good old email, snail mail, or telephone calls — no matter the method, staying connected with the important people in your little one's life is more essential now than ever.
7. Make it exciting
Treat the move like an adventure rather than a sorrowful experience or a chore. Make it into a contest (with prizes), like who can pack up their toys or clothing the fastest. Let your little one make decisions about their new bedroom, like choosing the paint color or a new rug. One of my friends swears by having her children's rooms set up beforehand with all of their toys and decor so that the space feels like a comforting oasis. Set off on an exploratory mission to find the local library or a yummy ice cream shop.
8. Focus on your child
Those boxes are sure to be calling your name, but resist the urge to focus all of your attention and energy on unpacking. Set aside some special time to hang out with your kids. Make new memories. Go on adventures. It's sure to be time well spent — the boxes aren't going anywhere.
Have you moved with kids? What was your experience like? I'd love to hear your tips!