Moving to a new apartment is a challenge, even when there’s only one of you; but handling a move with children can seem whole orders of magnitude more difficult, especially given that they may not be old enough to understand what’s happening at all; and if they are old enough, still might not be able to grasp all of the implications of the move beyond that their entire live is about to be uprooted so that it can happen in an entirely different place. That’s a lot for a small person to wrap their brain around; so here are a few tips that will help make the move to a new apartment easier for your children, and for you!
Get organized early on. A successful move to a new apartment has a lot of dynamic elements, from searching for and finding a new home all the way to timing your move (if you have the luxury of moving over the summer vs. interrupting the school year), planning the kind of move (self or serviced), choosing a mover or truck rental, gathering supplies, sorting belongings, packing, loading, transporting, unloading, unpacking, organizing and putting away, and finally resuming a routine that will probably include lots of new particulars like new surroundings, new schools and new friends. There are just too many opportunities for things to become difficult—if not go completely wrong—if you try to make it all happen too fast or leave things to chance. The Internet is full of moving guides, tips and checklists; so start early and take the time to look for and use the information and resources available to you. Be good to yourself by getting plenty of rest, because you’ll need it; and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even if you’re hesitant to lean on friends for big jobs like packing and loading, you might be able to rely on someone to help keep the kids occupied and involved while the “grunt-work” is underway.
Explain what’s happening. As adults, we’ve gained the experience to understand the implications of moving; so it’s easy to overlook that this might be completely new territory for our kids. Make a plan for communicating information about the move to your children, including details that are appropriate to their age and ability to grasp, like why you’re moving, what the actual experience of moving is going to be like and what life is going to be like on the other end. Be certain to reassure them of what won’t be changing—that they’ll still have you, their belongings and that life is going to stay mostly the same … that people and families move all the time and that it’s not a bad thing. It can be exciting to make a new start in a new place; and that they’ll miss some things, but they’ll also have lots of new awesome things to love and enjoy when the move is done. Start pointing out moving vans while you’re out for a drive. Ask them about the last time they had a new kid at school. People move all the time.
Familiarize them with the new neighborhood. If it’s possible to actually visit, take them there and show them around. Let them see for themselves where the new apartment is (let them see the actual apartment you’re moving into, if possible) including which room is theirs. If the new apartment comes with a pool or playground that you’ll be enjoying together, make that a prominent part of the tour. Visit their new school; new church; new neighborhood play spot; new grocery store; new library, movie theater, and other entertainment options; etc. Keep the emphasis on the fact that you’ll be right there with them, transitioning to the new place together, so they won’t be in any way alone; and that lots of other adults and kids will be there to help them feel welcome and a part of this new world. People move all the time.
Let them pack their own things. This will require some supervision on your part, but that’s where starting early comes in … you don’t want to be rushed when it comes time to putting their precious things into boxes. Let them participate in the sorting and boxing, and in labeling the boxes so they’ll know what’s inside. To help them have reassurance that their things aren’t going anywhere, choose a brightly colored duct tape and put a big, visible stripe on all of the boxes that are theirs, so they can identify them as they’re placed in the loading stack, onto and off of the truck, then brought into the new apartment. You can also give your kids special jobs or projects along the way. Older kids can be responsible for keeping track of the moving checklist. Little ones might not be able to maintain the moving checklist for you, but they can do a bang-up job packing all of the plastic containers in the kitchen, or gathering up all of the stuffed animals into one place.
Make each child an overnight bag. If you’re super smart, you’ll pack and mark “Unpack Me First” boxes with the essentials you’ll need for the first few days in your new apartment. You can make this even easier for your kids by packing each of them an “open first” overnight bag with all of their dressing and bedtime essentials, clothes and a few toys for the next day. If you’re making a move across a significant distance, don’t forget a travel bag for the car, including snacks and games to make the trip go by faster.
Say goodbye. Kids need closure, so make time for them to say goodbye to the old neighborhood and to their friends. Visit the places together that you’ve always liked to go. Visit friends and give them a chance to explain that they’re moving and make it possible for them to stay in contact where appropriate. Take pictures and/or video. You might even want to create a moving scrapbook (or board) that their friends and classmates can add messages to, and that you can add photos and other keepsakes to.
Plan ahead for the first week in your new apartment. Make a schedule for what will happen and (approximately) when once you’ve reached the new apartment. It won’t be possible to be exact, but knowing what you expect and would like to do will help you keep things on track. This might include time devoted to unpacking and organizing (room by room); bringing kids to their new school; introducing yourselves to neighbors; taking a walk around the new neighborhood to see what’s where; etc.
Say hello! One of the best things about moving into a new apartment is that your new neighbors are likely to be around while you’re moving in; creating an ideal opportunity to introduce yourselves and make plans to get together later to get to know each other better, once the moving madness has passed. Pay particular attention to neighbors who have kids that are close in age to yours and start the conversation about a potential playdate so they can get acquainted, or whether or not they’ll be at the bus stop together or attending the same school … making new friends will help them to more quickly feel like the new apartment really is home.
Maintain familiar routines. When the biggest part of the move is done, the biggest key to making the move a peaceful one for you and your kids is to help everyone stay focused on what hasn’t changed about your lives. Tell favorite family stories. Once the kitchen is unpacked, cook a favorite family meal. Once the TV is set up, watch a favorite family movie together. Stick as close as possible to familiar daily routines while you gradually work in the new opportunities that the new location offers so that they have time to get their bearings.
Finally, remember that moving into a new apartment—while it’s a lot of work for a family of any shape or size—can and should be an adventure. Keep a sense of humor, have fun every chance you get, enjoy your children and help them enjoy their new apartment home!