Make a Big Move Easier With Little Ones
Moving is never easy, but when you’ve got little ones, it’s even more difficult. Here are 10 tips for a smooth move with tiny tots.
Moving is rough. Whether you use a pickup truck or U-Haul, a few friends and the promise of pizza and beer, or hire movers, it’s a hectic and often confusing time. Throw kids into the mix and it gets more complicated. When those kids are too little to really help out, you might even start to consider whether you really want to move after all.
Whether you want to move or have to move, these 10 tips will help smooth the way and make it just a little easier.
Don’t pack legal documents
Marriage licenses, divorce judgments, custody agreements, birth certificates, insurance policies and important medical records should never be packed in a box with all your other stuff. It may seem logical to do so because you think you won’t need them during the trip from Point A to Point B.
In all likelihood, you won’t need them during that move. But it’s not whether you’ll need them during the move. It’s about making sure they don’t get lost in the move. Think about it for a moment. How many times have you, or someone you know, moved and discovered at least one thing that everyone knows was packed but is now mysteriously missing?
While many of your legal documents can be replaced with a quick application and a fee, that can be time-consuming and frustrating. You may even need other legal documents in order to verify your identity in order to get the ones you’re trying to replace — which can be a real hassle if the document you need to verify your identity is another document that was lost.
Instead, gather all your legal documents and pack them in the vehicle you’ll be driving. This keeps them close at hand so you know where they are at all times, and also ensures that if you do need them, you know exactly where to find them.
Documents to keep close include:
· Marriage license
· Divorce documents including a final decree, custody and visitation orders, and child support orders
· Birth certificates and adoption records
· Insurance policies (health, life, vehicle, renter’s, homeowners)
· Medical records (particularly those pertaining to significant allergies, chronic medical conditions and mental health)
· Mortgage and home loan documents (for both the old and new home)
· Copy of leases and photos of the home you’ve vacated, if renting
Overestimate what you’ll need for baby care
Diapers, formula, clothing, bedding — babies and toddlers require a lot of stuff. When you’re moving, it’s tempting to keep things minimal for ease. For adults and older kids, that works. You can rotate through a few days’ worth of clothing and do laundry more frequently. You can order a pizza if you discover you’re out of food. You can wash and reuse the same sheets.
But babies and toddlers are a different breed. What initially seems like a simple wet diaper change can morph into a moment where you wonder if it might not be better to just throw the whole baby away because the mess is so huge. And let’s be honest, a hungry baby’s cries when you don’t know where their food is, are probably more effective as torture than anything else.
Whatever else you may decide to skimp on, make sure you overestimate what you’ll need to take care of your baby or toddler just before, during, and after the move. It’s hard enough finding yourself lacking something you need to care for a tiny one on an average day. When you’re trying to pack and move and unpack, it can be enough to bring you to tears.
I suggest doubling or even tripling what you think you’ll need. This allows for illness, unexpected disasters, growth spurts, and just allows you the time to unpack without feeling pressured.
Things to think about when you think of babycare:
· Diapers and wipes
· Clothing (don’t forget bibs)
· Bedding (for diaper blowouts and vomiting in case of illness)
· Formula (or pump and freeze breast milk in case stress affects your milk and so others can assist with feedings too)
· Infant food (prepackaged from the store or make-ahead homemade foods)
· Medications (gas drops, infant Tylenol/Motrin, prescriptions)
You might need a second diaper bag or to pack a box just for littles that goes in the vehicle with you.
Pack a box just for the kids
If you think bored kids on a Saturday or summer vacation is rough, just wait until you have bored kids when you’re trying to unpack and set up your household again. You can avoid the complaints by packing a box just for the kids.
This box should be clearly labeled so even the littlest ones can tell it’s for them. Think colorful stickers or having the kids color on the box so they can easily pick it out of all the other boxes.
This box will be the one box that they can definitely open, and you should make sure they know that as you prep the box. It’s also a great idea to let them help you with it so they know what’s inside. But it doesn’t hurt to toss a few surprises in there for them too.
What should you include in the kids' box? I suggest things like:
· Quiet toys (blocks, stuffed animals, etc.)
· Favorite things (stuffed animal, book, sippy cup, blanket, etc.)
· Coloring books and crayons
· Simple crafts that don’t require adult help or supervision (so no glitter, scissors, glue, etc.)
This box should be packed either in the vehicle with you or close to the door of the moving vehicle so that it’s easily accessible for the kids to be entertained quickly after arrival.
Remember that familiarity is key right now
We’re often tempted, when our kids express fear, doubt, or denial about the move, to try to bribe them. We promise new bedding or a new wardrobe or something similar to make it sound more fun and exciting.
But when our kids are little, moving itself is a big, scary thing. If this is your little one’s first move, it can be especially scary to be leaving the only home they’ve ever known. While you might be excited about the idea of buying new bedding and furniture, your kiddo is probably not. They might pretend because you seem so excited, but deep down they’re probably not that thrilled.
Instead of promising something new, try making promises about what’s going to remain the same. Remind them that you’re moving their bed with all it’s sheets and blankets. The toybox is coming with you. Their favorite books, movies, toys, blankets, and more are all coming.
If you have photos of the new house, try showing them pictures of their new room and pointing out things that are the same. Maybe the walls are painted the same color, or the window faces the same direction, or their new closet has the same doors as their current one.
Expand this to the whole house, pointing out as many similarities as possible to help them feel more comfortable about the move.
Make sure boxes are labeled clearly
We all probably learned that unlabeled boxes are a horrible thing when moving. But under-labeled boxes can be just as bad. When boxes are labeled but not clearly enough, you might end up more frustrated than if they were unlabeled entirely. You end up opening box after box labeled “kitchen,” looking for your crockpot, and finding everything but the crockpot.
Moving with kids requires very clear labeling on every box. You want the kids to know which boxes are theirs, and to minimize the fights over who that toy belongs to when one kid claims it but it was in another kid’s box. It also makes it much faster to put boxes in their respective rooms. Plus, you’ll be able to go to the exact box you need when you need something specific before you’ve unpacked a room.
So how can you label your boxes clearly enough? I recommend either of the following two ways:
· Label each box for the room it belongs to and then list what’s in it (Ex: Kitchen: pots, pans, baking dishes, ice cube trays, silverware, utensils)
· Label each box with a number. Create a list with each box number and what’s in each box (Ex: Box #1: Bathroom: toilet paper, towels, body wash, toothpaste, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, combs, makeup, perfumes, colognes, razors). You can either keep a laptop handy or simply handwrite the list — although I do recommend transferring it to the computer later.
Stick with your normal routine as much as you can
Once the moving process begins, the focus tends to turn solidly to moving. This is natural. There’s a lot to do and often, very little time to get it done. But when you have small kids, getting out of routine can make life so much rougher.
Of course, the move is going to disrupt your routine anyway. So how much should you really try to stick with it? Try the following:
· Attend extracurricular activities as close to your usual routine as possible
· Plan a few playdates with friends (this can be a great time to get some packing done if the other parent is cool with you just dropping your little one off)
· Sign the kids up for their current extracurricular activities in the new location if possible
· Keep meal and bedtimes on schedule whenever possible
· If they go to daycare or school, let them keep attending until as close to the move as possible (again, this can offer more packing time, too)
Look for other ways specific to your family that will allow you to minimize the disruption to your routine as much as possible.
Try to stay calm no matter what happens
Moving is stressful. Even if everything goes exactly according to plan and it’s a smooth, easy move, it’s still going to cause stress. And if things go sideways, your stress level could go through the roof. It’s understandable — but it’s not beneficial for the kids.
Whatever happens with your move, and no matter how busy you may be with it, take care of yourself so you can remain calm. Take time each day to meditate, practice yoga, or even go for a simple walk around the block. Talk to your spouse or a friend or relative about the things that are stressing you out. Ask for help when you need it, even if it means asking someone who is also very busy or you wouldn’t ordinarily ask.
If you panic, if you let your stress get out of control, your littles will sense it. And they will react to it by acting out, crying, and otherwise behaving in ways that only make your stress worse. The end result will be an entire family feeling stressed, tense, uncomfortable, unhappy, and unintentionally making each other miserable.
Find ways, no matter how small they may be, to reduce your stress and keep your inner peace. If that means taking a break from everything move-related, do it. The family will benefit far more from having a parent who feels rested and relaxed than they will from having everything packed up perfectly.
Think about hiring a sitter for part of the process
No matter how much we try to pack things up in advance of a move, there’s always that point where it becomes “crunch time.” It’s that point where there’s still a bunch of stuff you couldn’t pack because you needed it right up until the very end, so now you’ve got a day or two, or maybe even just a few hours, to pack up everything else. And it’s a lot!
Then there’s the arrival at your new home. There’s a lot that needs to be unpacked in those first few hours, or couple of days, in order to make the new house livable.
This can be done with the kids around. Parents do it all the time. But if you’re able, you might consider hiring a sitter or asking a friend or relative to watch the kids for you so you can get more done more quickly.
Even if it’s only a few hours, getting the kids out of the house will allow you to focus and figure out what needs to be a priority to unpack. It gives you the chance to work without having to check on the kids, stop to provide snacks or drinks, change diapers, or run a potty-training child to the toilet every few minutes. You’ll build momentum that you can’t when you’re also taking care of the kids and that will help you get much more done.
Let the kids help with the packing/unpacking
As parents, we know we are more efficient at packing and unpacking. We also know that we’ll pack boxes full and in ways that ensure we make the most of the space inside each box. But this also means that all the packing is left to us.
Give the kids a box or two that they can use to pack up their own room. They may not put as much in the boxes as they could, but it will keep them busy, make them feel useful, and give you a little less to do yourself.
When it comes time to unpack? Go ahead and let them start unpacking their own room! You might hold back on boxes of clothing that need to be put in dressers and closets, or bedding that will be stored in a linen closet. But their toys, books, and other things don’t need your attention. Let them fill their own toybox or bookshelves, or stack things neatly in a corner of their room.
Try to find some new friends ASAP
Perhaps one of the toughest parts of moving is the starting over. You have to say goodbye to people you know and love, and then you’re in a new place where you may not know anyone other than the people under your roof. While unpacking may feel like the priority, it’s important to try to get out of the house and meet new people as soon as possible.
Head to a nearby park to let the kids play and meet other kids while you chat with their parents. While signing the kids up for school, daycare, or a sports team or dance class, ask about good places to take the kids to make some new friends.
While getting the kids set up with new friends is important, make sure you don’t forget about your own social life. Look for opportunities to make friends of your own — joining a hobby group, meeting other parents, volunteering at an animal shelter or soup kitchen, or even just getting friendly with your new neighbors.