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Tips for moving with children

Your home used to be spacious. But then the kids showed up, and so did the piles of stuff. Cozy is no longer cutting it—it’s time to move.

Can you really pull off a move, though, when just getting the kids packed up to go to the park is a major feat? Add on the extra stresses that moving brings, and you’ve got a heck of a situation on your hands.

First of all, remember: you’re not alone in this. A Gallup survey shows that one in four Americans moves every five years. Yet no matter how often you change addresses, moving is often overwhelming, and especially so for the kids. It’s OK, we’re going to get you and your crew through each step of the journey, sanity intact, with these tips for moving with young kids.

Before the move

Break the news to them in full

Parenting experts like Betsy Brown Braun, author of “Just Tell Me What to Say: Tips and Scripts for Perplexed Parents,” suggest that communication is key. By clueing your kids in well before the moving truck arrives, you can keep the fear of the unknown from making a likely upsetting situation even more so. Explain why you’re moving, where you’re going, and why it’s exciting. Talk to them about their new home and take them on a tour if you can, pointing out the details that are likely to excite them, like that park across the street.

Create a timeline

Creating a calendar and hanging it in a high-traffic area helps keep the kids on track, gives them daily reminders of what’s happening when, and may even keep them from asking those same questions over and over (you can dream, right?).

Make packing fun

Our advice? Gamify it. Turn the stages of packing into levels of the game, and offer incentives for each level (bonus points for not shattering any plates!). If you have multiple kids, and friendly competition is such a thing that can exist between the siblings, offer up a grand prize for the winner.

On moving day

Visit your new home

If possible, give your kids a chance to run around their new house while it’s still empty. They can imagine how they’ll set up their new rooms, while you create an unpacking plan for later.

Keep their prized possessions nearby

Do your darlings have a favorite blanket, stuffed animal, or action figure? Don’t put those precious items in a box. Keep them handy, but try to limit each child to one item so that nothing gets (gasp!) left behind. If they’re concerned about their other toys and things getting to the new place safely, ask one of the movers to offer some quick reassurance. And if they can stay out of the way, let them watch the movers load and unload their things.

Unpack according to plan

Once all the boxes and furniture are (mostly) in place, begin executing that unpacking plan. Because they’ve had the chance to visualize everything beforehand, unpacking should be seen as a fun activity. And letting them unpack their own stuff gives them a real sense of responsibility and ownership. 

Settling in

Maintain old traditions (and create some new ones)

Routine breeds familiarity and familiarity breeds comfort, which is especially important during a big change like a move, according to psychologist Doug Ota. Whether it’s a family game after dinner or Sunday afternoons at a park, find the ones that fit best in your new surroundings. At the same time, be open to new family activities, from regular barbecues with the neighbors to bike rides around town. You may not have to try too hard here: the best traditions are the ones that happen organically.

Listen and share your feelings

Let your children express their concerns and fears. It’s perfectly natural to worry about being the new kid at a new school. Maybe you’re even feeling it at a new job, too. Sometimes, all a kid needs to get past the fear is a little confidence, and one surefire way to boost confidence is to make them feel like they’re not alone.

There’s a lot to think about to make a move with kids a success. One thing you shouldn’t have to worry about, though, is whether your family will be covered if something happens to you. If you’re moving to a bigger home with a bigger mortgage, the last thing you want to do is saddle them with that debt.

So before you pack that first box, take a few moments to lock down your life insurance. It’s probably simpler than getting your kids to pack their own rooms, and offers more protection than even the best bubble wrap.