by SM Ford
Moving with preschoolers? Here are a few tips to make it easier.
AT THE OLD HOUSE:
Take pictures of special things and special people. This will provide nice reminders for you and your child for the future.
Prepare your child for the move. Explain what is going to happen. A great resource to use with little ones is a picture book. This post has 10 titles to recommend. Or go to your library or bookstore and find some preschool books on moving—read them for appropriateness, then share one or two selected ones with your children. Let them ask questions.
Make moving an adventure. Talk positively about the move. You may not be thrilled about the prospect, but your little one doesn’t need your worries. Encourage your daughter or son to be excited about the “new” house. Select something that will interest her and say it enthusiastically. E.g. “Did you know our new apartment has a playground?” or “Look your new bedroom has lovely blue walls.”
Make it clear to your child that all items being put in boxes are going to the new house. You might want to pack his room last. It can give him a place to play while you work and also may make him feel less fearful.
Don’t pack his “comfort” object. Whether it’s a security blanket or a favorite toy, the item that comforts your child should be out and available. “Transitional objects are real important for preschoolers since the environment is changing,” says professional counselor Rose Rathbun, MSW.
Sometimes it’s helpful to provide something “new” to occupy your child. Has he wanted a new book about his favorite character? Has she been wanting some matchbook cars like her brother has? Or, wait until you get to the new house to give them something. One parent had a special stuffed animal waiting in her child’s new bedroom. If your move involves a long car trip or plane ride, you may want to have a variety of small items to entertain your preschooler.
Reassure your child about their friends. “Yes, you won’t get to see Cody every day, but we’ll visit or Skype. And he’ll still be your friend.” This may not come up until later. Or at all. But if it does, be encouraging about the new friends, he’ll make, too.
AT THE NEW HOUSE:
Set up your child’s bedroom as soon as possible. Perhaps you’ll want to orient her crib or bed the same way as in the old bedroom. The new room can be made to “feel” familiar by putting pictures, mobiles, shelves, toys, etc. in a similar relationship to the bed as in the previous bedroom. Then when she wakens in the morning or opens her eyes after a nap, surroundings will look less strange. She also may play with her familiar toys while you are busy unpacking in other rooms.
As you unpack, use the empty boxes to your advantage. If you’ve used professional movers, wardrobe cartons (with the metal bar removed) make fantastic toys. But whatever kind of boxes you have, kids love playing in them. Your child might draw on the cardboard and turn a box into a race car. Or a house. Or a set of boxes may become a city on the moon or a maze of tunnels. Once our girls used a flattened box as a slide on a slope in the lawn. Don’t be surprised if it’s weeks before your children are ready to give up the boxes.
Help your child make a memories poster. Remember those pictures you took? Once things have settled down, make prints. Use a poster board, glue sticks, and a marker to make a poster. Or if your child will be staying with grandparents during part of the move, perhaps they can help her create a poster.
FOR EITHER END OF THE MOVE:
Try to keep routine things as normal as possible. If he always has a nap after lunch, put him down for a nap. If she always has a story read to her before bedtime, have a book available and read it. Don’t throw discipline out the window either. Your child needs those comforting limits.
Be sensitive. Is your child extra tired? Does he need a hug? A few minutes on your lap? Some time to herself? You may find your child sticking close to you. Be patient—he needs the reassurance of your presence.
Check into available resources. There are a variety of books on moving at your local library or bookstore. Professional movers often include information about “moving with children” in their packets. Besides a 16-page booklet with tips and advice on moving with children of all ages, one moving company provided an activity and coloring book for younger children.
Don’t expect to be settled overnight. Unpacking and finding the right place for everything takes time.
Most importantly, don’t worry too much about your children. Preschoolers are flexible. They adjust. I’ll never forget the time we moved with a 14-month-old and a three-year-old. The first week in temporary housing, the baby learned to walk and the toddler potty trained herself!
It takes some planning, but there is hope for a smooth move with preschoolers.
About the Author
SM Ford is a Pacific Northwest gal, who has also lived in the Midwest (Colorado and Kansas) and on the east coast (New Jersey). She and her husband have two daughters and two sons-in-law and three grandsons. She can't figure out how she got to be old enough for all that, however.
Sue likes traveling and animals, especially those in the cat family, and has a dog and cat who own her.
You can read Sue’s “Real Parenting” column on the 4th Thursday each month here at Pandora’s Box Gazette.