The good news is you or your spouse just got promoted to a position with greater responsibility and higher rewards. The bad news is you have to move your young family across the country and start your life over again. You look around your house as your toddlers run through the mess of toys and baby gear, wearing nothing but a diaper. You ask yourself how you are going to get them and all of this stuff from here to there without losing your marbles. Take a deep breath. Relax. You can do this. Here are ten ways to keep you from going crazy when moving with a toddler.
Have a Family Meeting
Get your children’s favorite take-out food—probably pizza—and have a dinner time family meeting. Depending on your children’s ages, do you best to explain to them why you have to leave your home for a new one. Make it sound like an adventure rather than a burden, but be careful not to make false promises about coming back anytime soon or seeing their friends again. Accentuate the positive and acknowledge whatever negative things they bring up. Listen and respond accordingly. Your library may have age appropriate books which discuss moving.
Enlist Your Children’s Help
You’re all in this together. Help them help you by assigning them simple tasks. Have them pick out one or two toys they want out and accessible for their travels to your new home. Have them put other toys and belongings in boxes. Have your older children choose which toys they want to get rid of. Make those decisions for your younger kids, but do so discreetly. You don’t want them blowing up halfway on your journey to your new home because some precious stuffed rabbit is missing.
Distract and Amuse Your Children
There are some things your toddlers aren’t going to help you with. If anything, they will constantly demand your attention and keep you from accomplishing anything. Rather than blow your stack and rip half the hair out of your head, find some other way to occupy their time. The best way is to get them out of the house, even for a few hours. If you have a friend who can take them on an adventure with their kids for a day, take them up on that. Hire a babysitter to take them to the park or some other place they enjoy. Don’t feel bad about needing time alone. This is a big change, and you need to focus on getting things done.
Downsize Your Move
You’re starting over. Your children can start over, too. Unless your move is being paid for by an employer, everything you take will cost money to travel. Even if your move is paid for, why not use this opportunity to de-bulk and declutter. Have a garage sale. Get your children excited about making some money from things they no longer use. If this is impractical, donate to a Moms2Mom sale or to a local Goodwill or Salvation Army. Whatever you take, you are going to have to unpack and find a place for it. As best you can, start anew.
Plan A Goodbye Party
Give your children a chance to say goodbye to their friends. You will benefit from this, too. It doesn’t have to be sad. Make it fun by planning it far enough ahead of your move so that you still have all of your things, and you aren’t a complete ball of stress. Post mementos of your time living there, have balloons, cake and easy finger foods. Even if this is a move across the country, say “see you later” not goodbye. This is a small world with social media and many other ways to stay connected.
Use Color-Coded Duct Tape.
If you and your children are packing boxes yourselves, use a special color coded duct tape which identifies the contents of the box. It can be based on which room it is from or going to. It can identify a specific person’s belonging. Kitchen items could be one color, while clothes are another. Whatever system you choose, use this method for easy identification later on. We tend to write things on boxes with a Sharpie, not realizing they will stack up on each other and we may not see what we wrote. This will make unpacking much more efficient, and you can have your children help unpack their own items.
Pack A Small Travel Bag
Each kid gets their own bag. When you are finally in transit, inevitably one of your children is going to ask you for something. You are only going to have so much room. Make sure they have a change of clothes, a couple diapers or pull-ups if needed, and any special toy or blanket they identified earlier. In addition, you could have a small bag of treats, such as Cheerios or veggie puffs. Throw in a water bottle and a sippy cup just in case. It’s a good idea to have certain ever needed items at the ready, so you aren’t forced to run to the store or unpack a box.
Make It A Vacation
No matter the length of your travel to your new home, you and your toddlers will need breaks. Assuming you are driving and not flying, pick a spot or two along the way where you can stop and have a picnic lunch. If appropriate, go to an amusement park or a children’s zoo. Allow your children to have special treats in the car, or stop at a known favorite restaurant along the way. You know this is no vacation, but they don’t have to. There are times you simply must get to your destination, but if you can plan for some wiggle room it can make it a less stressful and more enjoyable trip.
Take Your Time Unpacking
When you get to your new home, your things may or may not be there waiting for you. Hopefully, they aren’t because you will need time to relax and unwind. Your kids will run around the house marveling at their new home and fighting over their new rooms. Don’t rush unpacking. If your things are there, maybe pick one previously color coded box to unpack if it contains something you need right away. But just unpack as you need things. You didn’t pack it all in one day, so lower your expectations of when your house will be in order. Let your kids play with the unpacked boxes. Enjoy their creativity as forts and space ships appear across the house.
Explore Your New Community
Starting over in an unfamiliar place is never easy. Take the initiative to familiarize yourself with your new town. Find the library, join some groups where children can interact with new friends. Find your local park and do the same. Familiarize yourself with the street names and where your favorite shopping areas are. Visit your kids’ new school. Get yourself out there to ensure a smoother transition into your new life. Moving is horrible. Even a happy move is full of stress, lost items, broken furniture and screaming children. No matter what you, you are going to find yourself challenged at times, but you’ll make it. Like they say, someday you will look back on this and laugh. Time will tell. Most likely you will look back on it and announce you never want to move again. Whatever the case, planning ahead always gives you an advantage, even when the unexpected arises. Enjoy your new life.