5 mins read
It’s a very apt cliche to say that moving house is stressful. Adding children - particularly young children - into the mix can make it seem even more overwhelming.
However, it’s likely to seem more stressful than it’s actaully going to be. A bit of preparation can go a long way, and simply the way you talk about the move with your child can make a huge difference. If you’re excited about moving, it’s likely they’ll be too. If you’re anxious, they are likely to pick up on that. Our key advice is to be honest and open.
Below we outline some things to bear in mind to help you and your child transition into your new home:
Tell your child that you’re moving home sooner rather than later. It may seem easier to leave telling them till the last minute to give them less time to worry. But, increasing your child’s involvement in the move will give them the necessary time to process the change. It’ll also reassure them that it’s a positive decision that they have a role in.
A simple way to involve your child in the house move is to let them help you pack. If you have a small child who can’t really get involved in the actual packing part, make it into a creative activity, where they decorate the boxes whilst you pack.
It’s important to also take the time to visit your new home together, even if you’re only able to see the outside. This will give them something tangible to visualise, rather than being faced with a giant unknown.
Control is a really important parallel to involvement. Even as an adult, feeling in control is a powerful way to overcome stressful situations.
Of course, a child cannot decide major things like which house you pick. But, offering them an opinion on things like: which bedroom they would like, where their favourite pictures should go, or which plants they would like in the kitchen will provide a level of certainty. Having personal input will encourage your child to feel like they’ve created their own little space in the new house. Allowing them to feel like the place is theirs can encourage an easier and quicker transition into their new home.
Maintaining your child’s routine as much as possible can do a huge amount to reduce stress and disorientation. Timing the move so that it disrupts their schooling as little as possible might not be feasible. But, small routine things, like sticking to their regular mealtimes and bedtimes can significantly decrease stress levels.
A good rule to follow is: don’t pack your child’s things last, but do unpack them first. It’s important that the child is aware of the move, and slowly packing up their things will acclimatise them to the change. It’ll be more stressful for both of you if you try and pack their things rapidly at the last minute, and they suddenly have to sleep in a bare room.
However, once you arrive, ensuring they have access to the things they use and interact with everyday will help reduce disorientation. Whilst you might not be able to unpack all their things on the first day, make sure you have one specific box that includes the essentials and some of their ‘necessary’ luxuries. Things like comforters or a favourite book, that are key parts of their bedtime routine are ideal.
Before you tell your child not to worry, reflect on how your behaviour might have changed and whether they are picking up on your fears. Stress is a natural part of moving house, and it can be helpful to both acknowledge your own feelings (because at busy times they’re easy to ignore) and to take their stress seriously too.
Talking through worries can make things seem more manageable, and be an opportunity to also reflect on what you’re excited about in your new home. Reassuringly, research has found that small children under 5 are the least impacted by moving house. This is because their sense of security is almost entirely defined by their parents. If you’re excited about the move, they will be too.
The actual move day
On the actual day, there’s a general consensus that it is best to have a friend or a relative look after your child. However, this isn’t always possible, particularly if you’re moving to a different city. If this is the case, explain to your child exactly what is happening, and what to expect. It can be particularly stressful for a child to see their things drive away in front of them. Reassure them that they are going straight to your new home (which they’ve hopefully already seen). If you’re also driving to the house, see if you can point out the removals van and wave hello.
Once you arrive, it can be tricky to sort everything out and give your child enough attention at the same time. If your child is old enough, give them a specific job to do, such as making sure all the toy boxes have arrived and organising where they’ll go in their room.
It can also help to make sure the first day is not just about unpacking everything. Make the first night special by spending time together and eating their favourite foods.
Remember: It might be a couple of days after you move that it hits your child that this is their new ‘forever’ home. If they begin to act out in this period, try to be patient and listen to their concerns. A change of behaviour is normal. In a lot of cases bad or unusual behaviour at this time is a symptom of anxiety that your child can’t articulate, and will likely stop within a week or two.
For further advice on preparing for your move check out our other blog posts here.
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