We’re finally home owners! After years of renting places all over the area, we finally have the security of our own four walls not too far away from the girl’s school. Gone are the days of dodgy boiler maintenance, dubious rental arrangements, waiting for repairs, which will never be carried out, substantial rent increases every 6 months or being moved on from what should have been long-term arrangements, because the landlord has suddenly decided they want to live in their property themselves. Gone, too, are the days of magnolia walls and having to ask permission for every nail secured into a wall.
I’ve moved a lot over the past decade and a bit. 17 times, to be exact. That’s a lot of box packing for you. 9 of those times I have moved with a child in tow (not counting the 4 times I had to move while pregnant with my first). The girl was 11 months when we moved the first time; the boy is 5 months now. It’s not always possible to get a babysitter, especially if you have a significant overlap time and need to carry out maintenance on either of the two places. So here’s what I’ve learned:
- Start early and take your time.
Moving with young children – especially babies – is going to take much longer than if you were to move house without them. Young children have many needs they cannot fulfil themselves, from making and consuming food to nappy changes, to packing their own boxes.
Make no mistake: your efforts at getting things done are going to be interrupted a lot, so plan for plenty of overlap time and start packing as early as possible. The standard notice period for you is one month, for landlords it’s 2 months and if you already own a property, you knows many months in advance you’re going to sell up, so start packing as soon as notice has been given. Every little helps, as the ads say, so even if it’s things you don’t use very often (those Christmas decorations, the clothes you don’t currently fit into, but don’t want to give away just yet etc.), make a start early and it will save you a lot of stress and tears in the long run.
- Reassure your children
For babies and toddlers especially, moving can be quite a distressing experience. We spend ages getting our routines with them perfect (mainly to get some sleep), but moving is going to interrupt this significantly. It is nigh on impossible to arrange for everything and stick to our daytime routines. You will have to check on your new property. You may have to show prospective tenants or buyers around. You will most likely have to take in deliveries.
Then there is the fact that everything around them changes. Suddenly, their shelves look empty, their curtains are gone, their wall stickers have been removed. It can seem to them like every time they enter what is supposed to be their own space there are new changes. Changes can be frightening, especially if they occur at rapid pace. So do what you have to do to reassure them. The boy is sleeping in my bed again for the time being. Not only is he going through sleep regression time, but sometimes he is waking up just to hold my hand and I am sure that some of that is down to him waking and not knowing where he is. And every time we’re in the new house, I show him around and I show him his new room. He likes the colours.
- Keep it familiar.
This goes hand in hand with the previous point. Changes are scary, so having little, familiar items with you at all times will give young children – especially babies – some comfort. If you can, pack their rooms up last and ensure that their rooms are the first to be set up in your new home. That way, everything else may change, but at least they have a safe haven to retreat into of it all gets a little too much. So don’t deconstruct their bed or cot until moving day, leave their curtains up (and immediately put them up again in the new home) and make sure they have their favourite soft toy in their grip at all times.
Then show them around the new home as much as you can. Walk between the rooms and explain to them where everything is, walk them up and down the stairs and let them familiarise themselves with the layout of your new home. It’s one of the reasons why overlap time is so important. It may seem pointless with a baby at times, but believe me, they take in much more than we give them credit for.
- Get older children to help out.
This is a no-brainer, really, but it can save you many stresses of moving. If, like us, you have older children, they can be a life saver. Use them. Need to keep baby occupied while you just Polyfilla that hole? Read them a story. Need to feed baby, but there is so much packing to do? Have the older sibling pack. It’s a useful life skill, learning how to pack a box properly. Sit with them while you feed and instruct them on which bits fit into the box and why it’s a good idea not to fill that large one up with the contents of their library.
Children as young as 7 or 8 can help you paint walls. The girl has painted her own and her brother’s walls in our new house. It’s nerve-wrecking at first, but with plenty of masking tape, painting sheets and time, the potential of mess everywhere is going to be greatly reduced. Dress them in something they hate or have almost grown out of, show them how to use a roller properly, let them paint some silly pictures on the wall before covering them up – it’s all part of the fun. Just be prepared to paint the top of the walls yourself.
- Make time for them.
If you start early enough, making a little time for each of your children shouldn’t prove that difficult. Children need you the most when everything around them changes, so by playing familiar games with younger children, taking them out to the park or just spending quality cuddle time in each other’s company is going to help them forget how anxious they are.
And older children will relish the responsibility that comes with sorting out their new rooms – planning the colour schemes (if you have any), carrying out little tasks for their new home, deciding how to arrange the furniture so they own their spaces.
Not only will it maintain or improve your relationship with your children at a very stressful time, but it will also lessen that anxiety that comes with unfamiliar surroundings.