Moving is hard… add a toddler to the mix and it can seem darn near impossible. Moving company, BigSteelBox came out posted an amazing article about moving with a young child, covering everything from when to pack their belongings to introducing them to their new neighborhood. Below are just a few of the topics they cover – to check out the whole article, click here. 🙂
Congratulations, you’re moving into a new home and you can’t wait to set up your family’s life in your new community! There’s just one snag: your toddler has no idea that a huge change is coming. Moving can be a challenge for anyone, but it can be even more traumatic for a toddler who is not part of the decision-making process.
Uprooting a teenager or switching your child’s school is difficult, but moving a toddler has its own set of challenges as they work on understanding what’s happening and accepting this big change in their life. It’s important to let your child know that they are not leaving their bed and their toys behind, and that you will all be there together as a family when you move into your new home.
Helping a toddler deal with change is all about validating their fears and feelings, listening to them, and laying out expectations for them in ways that they can understand. Make your positive message about this change clear and reinforce it many times as you lead up to the move. Here are some ways you can ease this big transition.
See the Move from Your Child’s Perspective
Adjust your point-of-view to see how your child sees the move. Will they be leaving the place they have called home their entire lives? If so, that can be a scary thing. Toddlers prosper with structure and routine, so not only will they be feeling the loss of their home, but they may also be disoriented from the many changes around them. It will be normal for them to exhibit uncharacteristic or frustrating behavior at this time.
Even if your child is verbal, there is nothing they can say that will change your mind about the move, and that can make them feel helpless. Many toddlers act out physically when dealing with a big change and it’s crucial they feel heard and accepted even during an outburst. Only by seeing the reason behind bad behavior will you be able to stop it, so be patient with your child as they deal with their emotions. They will need a little extra attention and understanding, which will put even more demands on your time.
Stick to Your Routine
If you have a bedtime routine in place or a napping schedule, try to keep that consistent before, during, and after your move as much as possible. Children fear the unknown, and this move is a big unknown for them. Plus, toddlers in particular do not like separation. Maintaining their basic day-to-day activities at regular intervals can help calm those fears and anxieties.
Routines help children learn to make decisions for themselves and take charge of their day. When they consistently have a nap on schedule then they naturally get tired at that time. That sense of control is crucial with such a big change coming in the near future. By helping your child take control of their day you are setting them up for success during and after your future move.
Establish that same routine in your new home as quickly as possible. Even though the walls around them have changed your child will feel that their world is still the same. This routine will also help your child go to bed on time, and a well-rested toddler is a happier toddler. This may mean that you unpack a little slower than you’d like, but the payoff is worth it.
Packing Your Toddler’s Things
Dishes need to be wrapped with care and heavy items should go at the bottom of the box. These are moving tips that you probably have heard, but packing a toddler’s things takes a little extra planning (and patience).
Leave your child’s things to the end of your packing. Avoid packing up their bedroom until you absolutely have to so that they have a familiar place to retreat to as the house around them changes.
When you do pack up your child’s things, involve them in the process. Help them fill a box with their toys so that they feel included. Take special care of that box and label it in a way that your child can understand.
Arrange for your toddler to have a babysitter for moving day if you are moving locally. The boxes and furniture being moved and the noise and chaos of the day is no place for a toddler. There are too many distractions for you to give your toddler your full attention, so it’s best to leave them out of it. Just make sure that they arrive in your new home with enough time before bedtime to explore the house or they may not be able to get to sleep!
If a babysitter is not an option for you, take the time to explain what is happening step-by-step to your child. Those boxes will be transported to your new home, they’re not going to disappear. Give them extra attention and include them in the process by asking them to watch over a very special stuffed animal or to take care of that bright blue sippy cup.
When everything is packed and out of the old house walk your toddler from room to room to say goodbye. Let them take their time and answer any questions they may have on your tour. This closure can be good for both you and your child.
After the Big Move
It is important to build a sense of familiarity for your toddler shortly after your belongings are delivered to your new home. If possible, don’t throw out any of your child’s old furniture or make any upgrades. Unpack their things first and bring out their favorite book or toy right away to give them a sense of security. It may be tempting to bring out your dishes or clothing right off the bat, but this small act of kindness sets the tone for the first few days in your new home.
Try to keep your child’s schedule the same for these days. It’s a big chore to set up a new home and you may be feeling overwhelmed, so this consistency can be good for you too. Feed and bathe your child at the same time as always and take some time out of your day to play with them.
In the first few weeks of your new living situation your child is going to need more assurance and soothing from you than they usually do. Make sure you are available to them every day. Take reduced hours at work or hold off on dinner plans until your new house feels like home to your child. Read them a few extra bedtime stories; the unpacking can wait.
Moving with a Toddler Checklist
Moving is exciting and exhausting, but also manageable with the right plan. Utilize the tools available to you to help the move go smoothly and take a look at our moving-to-a-new-home checklist for parents with toddlers:
- Talk to your child about the move ahead of time.
- Make the move a family experience.
- Allow your toddler to express angst about the move.
- Take a tour of your new community to build positive feelings.
- Maintain a schedule for your child.
- Surround your child with their favourite things before, during, and after the move.
- Pack your child’s things last and unpack them first.
- Create a safe space in your new home and put away anything that can be dangerous.
- Remember that moving can be tough and everyone deals with it differently, but it also can be a rewarding experience.
Moving can bring you closer to your family and it will show you how your toddler deals with stress. Your child will learn that no matter what changes around them you are still a constant in their life. By being patient and really paying attention to your child’s needs you can set them up for success in your new home and in their future.