The first move is certainly a daunting task, even more so when there are kids involved. It probably seems you’ll have an easier time wrangling the squirrels in the attic so that the power doesn’t inadvertently go out when the prospective buyers come in. Before you scurry off to watch vermin control shows on television for technique and inspiration, keep in mind that there are a few things that you can do that will make the experience not just bearable, but enjoyable for the kids. This isn’t going to be a list of tactics to turn your home into a 20th century mill; the assumption is that of course your kids won’t be too much of a help during the move. The entire affair comes with pressure, even though they don’t have to worry about all that icky adult stuff. There is a change of scenery and the idea that they may be switching schools, both aspects of the move that could put tremendous stress on your little ones. Follow these simple practices and you can transform a moment of anxiety into an awesome memory that stays with them for a lifetime.
Declutter when the kids are in bed! Before we get into all the fun stuff that gets your kids hyped for the move, we should address some of the dirty work that may have a subtle psychological effect on the children. At your desk at work, in your car, and in your bedroom; when these places are messy, you feel scatter-brained, anxious, and all around gross. The same thing can happen to your children if they see you decluttering in broad daylight. The act of removing and disposing of items that once belonged in the house can be a traumatic thing; it’s like removing a piece of the home. So instead of explaining to the kids that Mr. 10-year-old coffee maker is going to kitchen appliance heaven, it would probably be best to do all that decluttering when they are resting. As a bonus, any excess toys can be disposed of as well (and we both know of those toys that they claim to like and play with, but haven’t seen the light outside of the closet for 2 years).
Let them map out their new room! One of the most exciting aspects of getting to a new place is, of course, scoping out the new bedroom. Play this to your advantage and use this excitement to subdue some of that anxious energy. All that it requires is a quick sketch of the new room on your part, and a crayon to pass over to the little one. Sketching out all their belongings on paper helps to remind them that their things aren’t gone forever (except all the stuff you trashed from the first tip…) and they have the freedom to make something entirely new from the experience. You know this activity is a hit when your kids come to you with several different plans for how they want their room arranged. At the very end, when you are putting stuff inside their new room, it will be a tremendous boost to their self-esteem. Something that they planned and worked on became a reality. Congratulate them on all the hard work!
Make a memory board or scrap book! Kids today certainly know how to take pictures, unlike little Josh who couldn’t tell the difference between an aperture and a compensation dial. Granted, picture taking was a little more complex when I was a tyke, but technology has advanced enough that your kids can take as many pictures as their little heart’s desire. You’ll probably be sitting for an hour afterward deleting pictures of the inside of their noses (that burst feature is dangerous), but you’ll get the kids perspective of the move. Print those things out and stick them on a board or inside a scrap book! You’ll have memories that you can share with the kids as they get older and familiarize themselves with the new home. If you ever move again, you can remind them of all the fun you had so that there is less stress.
Always listen to their concerns! Though it may seem like it at times, the kids aren’t acting out because they want to annoy the mess out of you. They are acting out because there are legitimate fears and stresses that are gripping them, and they don’t have the emotional maturity to deal with it. The best thing you can do in this situation is to be understanding and calm. If you give off an air of insecurity, doubt or anxiety, the kids will certainly pick up on that and reflect those emotions. Pay attention to how each aspect of the move is affecting them. As I mentioned before, the decluttering bit, for example, doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, but it could have major consequences for the child’s emotional health. Of course, it doesn’t seem like they’ll appreciate it now, but they certainly will when they are older.