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Helping My Young Children Prepare For A Move

This past year and a half was insanely busy for us. We remodeled the kitchen of the house we were living in, sold that house within 24 hours of putting it up for sale, and then we moved for 8 months while we built our own house. My husband is a general contractor which means we (he) really did build most of it ourselves. This meant a lot of extra hours after work and a lot of late nights for us. There was also a lot of driving back and forth from the rental to the house we were building. And a lot of changes.

As a highly sensitive introvert and also the parent of one, I've come to understand the importance of familiarity and routine. I really like to understand my circumstances and I enjoy familiarity. New and novel things can be fun and exciting at times but its familiarity that calms us. Unfortunately in the last 18 months there has been a lot of unfamiliarity but we made it through both the not so pleasant unfamiliarities but also the pleasant familiarities. Even good change can cause a lot of stress. Which is why it is important to take time to care for yourself and make sure that those you love do the same. I am amazed as to how well Lil Bug took to all the changes that we’ve had because one of the strengths of highly sensitive people is that they can feel the emotions of others. They cue into them more easily. But there is also a difficulty with this strength. We both picked up on all the emotions that were going on and at times it took some adjustments to help cope with the overwhelm of emotions. And its why we did our best at creating familiar surroundings and keeping as best as we could to familiar routines.

Unfamiliarity and change can bring uncertainty and I wanted to help my daughters with some of the feelings that they might have been experiencing. We definitely had our shares of bumps along this road we traveled but there were a few things that we did which helped us prepare our daughters for the move.

Here are those things:

1. Bring familiar things into the space

Lil Bug was almost 3 when we made the first move and Lil Sunshine was almost 1. When we made the move we made sure that the rooms we were moving into had some sense of familiarity even though they were still different. This was a little bit hard because we were moving into a much smaller rental and their rooms would also be storing things that were not originally in their rooms. But, we made sure that they had the familiarity of their beds, dressers, and toys. We also tried to bring in the same amount of light (or lack of it) that they had had in the other house. The last night, we left most of her things in her room so that she didn't feel like she was missing anything she cherished. We had to pack some more the next day, but it helped her to know that her things would stay with her. We then stuck to morning and bedtime routines to help with the transition as well.

      2. Let them get to know the new place ahead of time, if possible

We were blessed in that we were moving within the same city. It was easy to go and show our children where we were moving. They saw it before we moved in and could better understand where they were going. We were also blessed with my husband being the general contractor of our new home. We were there "helping" often and the girls knew which room would be there’s from the moment the foundation was poured. There were times that Lil Bug would just play in her “room” while Daddy and Papa worked on the rough plumbing, before the walls were even up. When we put the doors on, Lil Bug was already keeping her little sister from coming into her room. She already associated it as her room. By the time we moved in she was comfortable in the house. For Lil Sunshine, it wasn’t until we put carpet in that she was really comfortable with her new room. As soon as she saw the carpet, she flopped down on it and began rolling around.

While your child may not have the opportunity to see each stage of their house being built, try at least once to bring the child into the home ahead of time. That way they can visualize where they are moving to when you discuss it with them.

3. Explain what is happening (and often)

I’m a big fan of knowing what is to come. I like to be prepared. Yet, I am aware that no matter how much I prepare I still don’t know what may or may not go wrong.  Even with that knowledge, I still do what I can to prepare myself and my children. I strive to help them understand what is to come. It was no different with moving. We involved them in the different steps that we took in building a new house and in moving. We explained that the rental home would be temporary and we would move into the "new, new" house.

4. Explain what will stay the same

On the day of the move, we talked to Lil Bug about how we would be moving that morning. The time had finally arrived and I could tell she was anxious about it. She had gotten used to living in the rental for the past 8 months. Even though we had let her know we would be moving and even though she could see the progress of the house, she still didn’t have a solid concept of time. When the move became “today," she was apprehensive about it. I took the time to explain to her that even though we would be moving, Mommy and Daddy would still be with her. Lil Sunshine would still be with her. Her bed, her dresser, and all her toys would still be with her. We just wouldn’t be sleeping and living in the same place. This calmed her and she then became excited that she would see Grandma, Nana, Papa and Auntie that day.

5. Let them experience the move

I had several volunteers for watching the girls during the move, but what I really wanted was for the girls to see what was happening. I wanted them to be part of the experience and see their things moved from one place to another. I wanted them to have a visual learning experience. So, those volunteers did great at keeping the girls out of the way of the movers but also they did great at helping them to understand what was going on and how to enjoy the process. The girls had a great day and they both were beyond excited to see their things in their new rooms. When Grandma came over, they excitedly gave her a tour of the new house.

All in all the girls did great in transitioning with the move. There have been a few adjustments and struggles. For one, Lil Bug, had gotten used to us being in close proximity at night. It’s been 3 weeks and she has finally started sleeping in her own bed again. But, they love it here and they look forward to being at home again after running errands.

Do you have any more tips for helping kids experience and adjust to moving? I would love to hear them in the comments.

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