Moving to a new home with a toddler can be a very stressful experience, but with these 12 tips ready you can make the move a lot easier for everyone involved.
You’ve looked at different residences for your family for what seems like an eternity and you’ve finally found the perfect home, signed the documents and are now standing with the keys in your hand. You feel relieved and excited about your future, but at the same time the stress is slowing creeping in as you remember that getting a new home means moving from your old one – and how is your toddler going to react? If you can recognize this situation, then you’ve comed to the right place.
I’ve often heard that moving is one of the biggest life stressors. It’s right up there on the list after divorce and death. I have to admit I always thought saying that was a bit of stretch, but after having gone through it, I can honestly say, that I totally get it. Especially when you add in a toddler and a new born. I greatly underestimated the amount of energy it took to move – both mentally and emotionally. Saying goodbye to our old home, hello to our new and the seemingly neverending to-do list really took a toll on all of us. I felt exausted everyday when I went to bed. And I still do many days as we still have somethings that needs to get done. Moving with a toddler makes everything go a bit slower – especially if they are home with you every day as Eva has been.
In general children are really great at adapting to new situations – especially younger children. That being said every child is different and some might have a big reaction while others will hardly notice the changes. Eva understood very well that we were moving and seemed really fine with it. She was excited, told everyone about our new house and that she was going to move closer to her grandparents. But after a few days in the new house we were still not remotely close to having settled in and she began having trouble sleeping, playing on her own and got upset much easier than normal. We knew something had to be done, so we asked around, searched the web and used common sense (which I think we had packed away in a moving box for a while). Below you’ll find the 12 tips that made moving with our toddler a much more pleasent experience than we had hoped for.
12 must knows when moving with a toddler
These are the top 12 lessons we learned from moving with a toddler. Some of these lessons we learned the hard way and others we’f fortunally thought through in advance.
1. Prepare them as much as possible and try to keep everything positive. A little in advance, but not earlier than a month if possible, start talking with toddler about moving to a new place. You want them to understand was is going on, but at the same time you don’t want to overdo it. They don’t need to know about every little detail about the move – especially not the frustrations as your mood will rub off on them. Instead focus on what’s exciting about the new place. Maybe it’s a new bed, a garden, a play ground closer to home. Whatever your child likes. For Eva it was the move to a house with a garden closer to her grandparents that did the trick.
2. Tell them that everything will move with you. Especially make sure that your toddler gets that you are all moving and not just them (this is very important). And remember to reassure them that all of their toys, clothes and furniture will come with you. One thing that was really important for Eva to remember was the awesome step chair Anton got for Christmas and that we had yet to unpack. She kept telling us to remember Anton’s chair and got upset in the beginning as she though we’d forgotten it. Asking them to help pack their own stuff can also be a great way of reassuring them that all their little treasures will be coming with them.
3. Say goodbye to the old place. Whenever we had a last visit to a store or a play ground we remembered to – quite litterally – say goodbye to it. And on the last day in the apartment we went through every room and the elevator in the hall and said goodbye to it. Whenever Eva has talked about some of these places or our old home we have reminded her that we’d said goodbye to it and it seems this little gesture has really helped her understand that we have moved. Saying goodbye at her daycare was also a big deal for Eva. She had a small gathering just like all the kids before had had when they graduated from daycare to kindergarden or they’d moved. They than sang a special goodbye song for her, which she had talked about every day since we told her we were moving. She still talks about some of the children and adults at the daycare, but mostly just random anecdotes.
4. Let them help with packing things in and out of the boxes – and not just their toys. This was a lesson we learned the hard way as we packed. In the beginning we asked her to play by herself or sat her in front of the tv instead of taking our time to let her help us. But after a short while she started acting out. We tried with a handful of other distrations before it dawned on us: she felt excluded from us and the move. From there on we instead began inviting her in to join us with the packing and her attitude changed. She really loved helping us and feeling like part of the proces. Which in hind sight she of course should have been from the beginning. After the big move we’ve tried to include her as much as possible in the unpacking. Something as simple as helping carry things to the closet or helping unfold a box will make her happy. It’s not about the size of the job – it’s about feeling included and needed and finding her place in the move and in our new home.
5. Pack a bag for the first night or two with the essentials. I made sure we had enough diapers for both kids, some favourite toys, extra set of clothes and a beloved night time story book. And I’m so glad I did. I couldn’t find anything in the moving boxes with a baby on the arm and a tired toddler, so having that bag packed with the essentials was a life safer.
6. Take your time and remember to take breaks. This one I constantly had to remind myself about. It’s easy to get caught up in the packing and in the setting up your new home – and sometimes you do need to get something done fast and your little one’s attempts to help will be in the way. But whenever possible we’ve tried to take some breaks to play with Eva (and Anton) or simply be present in the moment and dwell a little over lunch. We’ve been very fortunate that I’ve been on maternity leave during this move and Ben’s had time to unpack with us, And yet it was still easy for us to forget to slow down. When we remembered we were however rewarded with a much happier child.
7. Get as much help as you possible can. We moved closer to family and have been so fortunate to get help with everything from painting and putting down floors to helping unpack and entertaining Eva. But we’ve also gladly accepted their help and we’ve been so happy that we did instead of thinking we could and should have done everything on our own. Even if you are not moving closer to family remember that everyone knows that moving is a big deal – especially with children – and even smaller gestures like coming by and playing with your kids for an hour, bringing some screws from a store or dropping by with some lunch or groceris can be a much needed help when you have your hands full with getting settled in – and taking care of one or more children at the same time. You could also prioritize paying movers to help with both packing and unpacking. We packed as much as we could and then the movers took care of the rest. This was a great solution for us, as we didn’t have to stress with packing everything down – anything we didn’t pack down they would take care off.
8. Explore together and say hello to your new home. That goes both for the house and for the neighbourhood. We moved to an area close to Eva’s grandparents, so Eva already knew much of the neighbourhood, Our primary focus was therefore the house, the garden and the awesome nature close by as well as the routes to her grandparents, the supermarket and her future Kindergarden. We also brought Eva to visit her future Kindergarden before we even moved. All of these little excursions have been a great way for Eva to say hello to her new home and her new neighbourhood.
9. Make room for meltdowns and trouble coping with the move. It’s perfectly normal for your little one to have meltdowns, trouble sleeping or become more clingy – and though it might feel like it, remember that they are not misbehaving (I do admit it can be difficult to remind yourself of this in the middle of everything). I like to use mantras, that I tell myself over and over in my head when I need to calm down instead of getting myself all worked up. During this move I quite often had to tell myself “This is much harder for her than for me. Everything is new to her” and my all time favourite “it’s just a phase”. Having already made room for potential breakdowns in my mind also made it easier to cope with them when they came. Remembering to include her as earlier pointed out has also helped with a lot of the acting out. Regressions in your children’s development is also normal and can be expected like suddenly not sleeping through the night or starting to wet the bed again.
10. Get their bed and toys set up first. And anything else that they associate with home. We slept at Eva’s grandparents on the day our furniture arrived so we didn’t have to wait for everything to arrive in an empty house. But we still had to face what feeled like an ocean of boxes and furniture together with Eva, so Ben spend a few hours in the house before Eva and I arrived, and unpacked a few boxes of toys and set up our bed (Eva still sleeps with us), so that it looked like “home” when she arrived. And it worked really well. She was so excited to see her guitare and our bed and soon found her way to her play kitchen on the first day. But one thing that really helped everything feel more like home was setting up the couch and plucking in the tv. Eva went from wanting to go home to feeling at home in an instant.
11. Try and keep as much routine and consistency as possible. Especially don’t miss their naps (I’m talking out of experience here. It’s just not worth it). We made sure that we still had our meals together, stuck to the bedtime and the rituals, said no to the same things as we usually would (with small exceptions) and remembered to eat some real food. We were fortunate that we had grandparents close by to help with a lot of the meals, but otherwise tossing some pasta with a storebought pesto and defrosted peas will make a great meal and cereal for dinner is a perfectly fine dinner. That being said we did have a take away or two, but then remembered to have some fresh fruits, crackers and similar snacks ready. Also don’t let the tv completely take over if they are not use to watching a lot, but don’t be afraid to use it strategically either. We let Eva watch more shows on the days where it was difficult to incluce her, like painting the walls (I didn’t want her in the fumes).
12. Give them something they can decide on. Even just small random stuff that you really don’t care much about. Like “should we put your Lego’s in this box or in this one?” or “what colour do you want the carpet for your room to be: red or blue?”. Since Eva is just 2,5 years old I always give her two, sometimes three options, to choose from. This simple little gesture was a great way of including her.