How to make a {local} move easy on the kids

family move

In case you were wondering where the heck I ran off to, I’m still here. Things have been crazy the past month because we moved. We went (literally) 3 minutes up the road but it’s been the hardest move by far. I have a few things I can blame that on – kids, amount of stuff to pack (we have so much crap!), bad time of year, delayed contractors etc. – but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is we’re here and we’ve survived (so far).

My biggest fear when we decided to buy a new house was how the kids would adjust. Everything happened so quickly that I wasn’t sure if they would “get” what was going on. I was worried they would miss their bedrooms and be scared at night in the new house. We went from a place that had all the bedrooms upstairs to split between the master and second floors. Would Buddy be able to find us when he gets scared? Would the extra time it took to get to Turtle be so much that Buddy would wake? So many questions…mostly centered around my sleep.

We’ve had our hiccups at night, of course (Buddy has always been prone to nightmares). But I’m happy to report they are doing splendidly. I’m lucky that they’re young and adaptable but there are a few things we did that helped prepare the kids for the big move.

Prepping the kids for the big move

img_5344

The main thing we did? We talked and made up funny stories about the houses and families involved. And then talked some more. But in an effort to be more specific, here’s what we focused on.

  1. We talked about the new house A LOT. Both kids got to walk through the house with us and we made it a point to remind them about how cool it was almost every day. We had the advantage of knowing the sellers and told stories of the fun parties they hosted. We also talked about why they were moving to Georgia to help them understand why we could take over someone else’s house.
  2. Our old house sold really quickly (hooray!!) so we added in stories about our buyers. They have a little girl who is a few months younger than Buddy was when we moved in. We talked about which room would be hers. I would ask Buddy and Turtle what color they thought she should paint her new room. They came up with some interesting decor ideas.
  3. Since the new house was so close, we drove by on our way home from school as often as we could. Every time, Buddy would assign each car a garage door (giving his bike the largest bay, of course). He would also slyly mention how much room the new back yard has and how a big swing set would definitely fit. (He’s a smoothie, definitely a smoothie).
  4. The sellers made their move a couple months before we closed. Since we had contractors fixing some pre-closing issues, the sellers gave me a code to let them in. I took that opportunity to get the kids in there one extra time to pick their rooms. Turtle is too little care but Buddy was all over it. He went to each bedroom, thought long and hard and picked the biggest one.
  5. Here’s the clincher: we decided before we moved in that we would paint every room the same color. But each kid got to pick whatever color they wanted for one wall in their room. Parents picked the wall (the one with no windows or doors) and they picked the color.

Making it happen

It seemed like such a silly thing but I really think picking their own wall colors made all the difference in the transition. I mean, don’t get me wr, I know my kids are little and change comes easier. But giving them something to choose helped them take ownership over their new rooms. It was going to be theirs.

But the pressure was on for the parents to get the rooms ready in time. The new house is a bit of a project and I had no illusions of getting the whole house painted before we moved in. But I really wanted to have their rooms set before they spent their first night in there. I knew it would feel like home if, at the very least, their furniture was in place. We had two weeks with both houses and spent the first packing the old and setting up the new. Before moving furniture in, we painted our “house gray” on three of the four kids’ walls. Sadly, we didn’t make our goal to have the fourth wall painted before the kids’ first night. But we made up for it by purchasing each child their own paint roller.

family move

This is my 4-year old. With his own paint roller. Painting his bright red wall. Giving me a thumb’s up.

Yep, you saw that. Buddy painted his own red wall. I didn’t have it in me to follow that experience up by handing the 2-year old a roller with pink paint. But I can say Buddy has never been prouder of anything he’s ever done. And Turtle comments on her pretty pink wall every morning, even though she didn’t paint it.

The point

Now, I’m not recommending that if you’re moving, you let your kids paint their own walls. That’s kind of extreme. But give your kids an age appropriate task that will help make the new home feel like their home. Especially when it comes to their rooms. Let them choose and hang their pictures. Ask them where they think their dressers should go (if there’s options).

Even if you’re not thrilled about the move, your attitude about it can make or break your child’s transition. My husband and I hand-picked this house but it hasn’t been without its frustrations. It’s tough to keep the conversation away from the negative side of moving and fixing the new place (I really hate moving) but we do what we can to save those discussions for when the kids aren’t around.

Moving will never not be stressful and awful – no matter how excited about the new house you may be. But prepping the kids and getting them excited (instead of anxious) will relieve a lot of the pressure.

If it’s not a local move

Obviously, if you’re not handling a local move, you’re not going to be able to take your kids to the new house that often. But take pictures. LOTS of pictures. Tell them all about the new house and all the cool things you’re going to be able to do. If you have a yard, talk about camping in the yard (assuming you’re into that sort of thing). If you’re moving to an apartment, talk about all your new neighbors. Ask your kids what they think your neighbors will be like. Get them amped up to meet new people.

The older they are, the harder this type of transition can be. But if you stay positive, your kids have a better chance of accepting the change (in their own time).

Now, excuse me while I go drink a beer and stare at all the walls that still need to be painted…

_______________________

Have you moved recently? How did you prepare the kids for the transition? Did I miss anything?

  • Your move seemed so effortless. We have been renters now for almost 4 years. Every year I dread resigning contracts, or having to move. I have 2 girls, ages 14 and 8. Each move has been a 3-ringed circus. One year, on the last trip from the house, I had a deer run into my car, luckily Florida has small deer. There is always the fighting over bedrooms, and what colors to paint the rooms if we are allowed. I really like your idea of parents chose 3 walls, and kids get 1. That might save some of my sanity. The stories with younger children is also a genius idea. Mine are older, so they really do not care about the stories of the house. They care if it has a pool, their own room, and enough space to play outside.

    • asilletto

      The move definitely could have gone worse but I am a hot mess every time I move. And we keep uncovering new “projects” every day. But the family transition was smooth and I guess that’s the most important.

      Appealing to older kids is definitely much harder! They know to look for the goods! I hope you get to stay put for a little bit. Movingis the worst.