Joshua Becker, the blogger behind Becoming Minimalist, moved with his small child a few years ago and suggests an overall strategy for stress-free moving with kids. "Your kids pick up quickly on your emotions. If you are relaxed and excited, your kids will be relaxed and excited," says Becker. "On the other hand, if you are stressed about the move, your kids will be stressed. View your move as an exciting adventure that will bring you closer together as a family."
By following a few simple steps, you can make moving with kids a stress-free experience for you and your children.
1. Validate your child's feelings
Tina Smith, a child psychologist (and parent) based in Chico, Calif. says, "It's important to tell your child what's going on, regardless of their age." You'll want to validate your child's feelings, listen to them, and give them time to process their feelings. For example, some children might get really excited about your upcoming move, whereas other children will feel sad. Let your child know that those feelings are normal.
Second, you'll want to communicate with your child and inform them of the end goal. For instance, tell them you will be moving on a specific date and plan to have all the boxes packed. And you can take validating your child's feelings one step further by making them part of the move.
Smith points out: "Children love to help organize, fill up boxes and sort through stuff. It's a great way for young children to learn spatial recognition skills. While the kids are having fun and learning, you're getting packing done."
2. Have your kids pack a "most important box"
Becker recommends having each of your kids pack their own "most important" box, labeled specifically for their new room. "Upon arrival at your new home, it can be located and unpacked quickly, ensuring that your kids have their most beloved things readily available for the very first night," explains Becker. As any parent knows, certain toys or items give kids a sense of security, so when you're moving with kids, it's important to make sure that those are readily available.
3. Create a "wait bag"
Smith reminds us that young children don't like to stand still for long periods of time. Whether you're waiting for an airplane or moving truck, kids are going to run around and create stress for their parents. Smith says that one of the things that she created to address this problem during a recent trip was a "wait bag." The wait bag is a special bag that your kids get to play with during the times they might get most bored. For example, the wait bag might be filled with games, magnets, or Play-Doh. The basic concept of this special bag is to keeps your kids occupied.
4. Be patient while adjusting to a new neighborhood
"Every child is different," Smith explains. "Some are introverted and others are extroverted. What might work with some kids, might not work for another." So while you want to encourage your child to be interested in their new surroundings, you certainly don't want to force the issue. Smith suggests general tips for moving with kids that you can incorporate into your routine to make them acclimate a bit better.
For instance, on the first day in your new neighborhood take your child for a walk, that way they have a sense of where home is. Introduce yourself to new neighbors, but don't go overboard. If your child becomes tired or irritable, that's a sign that that they need a break. Smith suggests going back home, relaxing, and trying again the next day.
Becker recommends connecting with a kid-friendly church. "If there are kids present at the church, it is a good indicator that kids like being there and the church loves children," he says. "Again, this will provide your kids with opportunities for new friends and offer the parents new opportunities as well. These opportunities can be especially helpful if one of the parents if not employed full-time."
Becker also suggests checking with the local parks and recreation department for kid-friendly programs, because getting outside for some fun and healthy exercise is a great way to reduce stress for the whole family.
5. Keep your schedule the same
Try not to vary from your normal schedule. Kids like security and don't like their routines to be interrupted. So make sure you give them a bath, book and bedtime the same as before the move.
6. Have fun and stay positive!
"Moving should be seen as a positive and helpful experience that can teach kids how to make new friends," Becker says. "Your child will inevitably make new friends following the move, and this reinforces their self-image. It also helps them learn how to make the most of new experiences and how to adapt to change. A move actually helps kids build valuable life skills."
Ultimately both Smith and Becker emphasize that moving with kids is about making the best of a transition and having fun during the process. Being flexible and giving up the idea that things need to go perfectly will go a long way toward reducing stress during a big move.
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