Friday, March 21, 2014

Moving with little tykes

Before we moved from Eglin AFB to Turkey in 2010, I asked my blog readers for their best tips in preparing children for a big move. (My boys were 1.5 and 2 at the time.)

I asked for advice in preparing/dealing/helping little children with a big move. And you came through big time! Your advice was incredible. I decided I should compile it. Not only for my sake but for the sake of people in the future. I'm still editing this list but here is what you suggested. If you have something to add, please leave a comment as I will be continuing to add/improve this and will post a link on the side of my blog.

I used these again when we relocated from Turkey to Portugal in 2012. (My boys were 3.5 and 4 at the time and my daughter was 1.)

And now, 2014, and we are preparing for a move from Portugal to the USA. (This time we will have a 5.5, 6, 2.5 and 8 month old.)

I have decided to post this again! What a great list. Have something to add? Please leave a comment or send me an email ( so I can add it to the list.
  • article on preparing kids for a big move.
  • Keep explanations clear and simple.
  • Use a story to explain the move, or use toy trucks and furniture to act it out.
  • When you pack your toddler's toys in boxes, make sure to explain that you aren't throwing them away.
  • If your new home is nearby and vacant, go there to visit before the move and take a few toys over each time.
  • Hold off on getting rid of your child's old bedroom furniture, which may provide a sense of comfort in the new house. It might even be a good idea to arrange furniture in a similar way in the new bedroom.
  • Avoid making other big changes during the move, like toilet training or advancing a toddler to a bed from a crib.
  • Arrange for your toddler or preschooler to stay with a babysitter on moving day.
  • I was older than your boys when my family made the big move from NC to South FL, but I remember a family friend bought a book called "Moving Day for Kelly" - I know the Berenstain Bears have a book about moving and I'm sure there are others - just something to give them some visuals. :)
  • We did a big military move when our kids were your boys age and we made a picture book that included snapshots that we had taken of our old base and then of our new military housing. We made sure to include pictures of things that they would see everyday and pictures of them talking on the phone to their grandparents, as we would not be seeing them as frequently. We also included a picture of our cat so they knew that we were bringing our cat along. We also took a picture of their room and used it as a model to set up the new room in our new townhouse.We read the book every night and they took it on the plane with them during the move, I think it eased the transition as the house seemed somewhat familiar.
  • Remember that at your kids' age YOU are home to them more than the place.
  • I'm sure you know, but it's okay for your kids to see you cry a bit (maybe not ALL of it!) when you say goodbye to those you love!
  • Call it "Our new house in Turkey". They don't understand this so-called place named Turkey. And to even make it harder, Turkey is a bird and something we eat. So adding the "our new house" or "our new home", those are words they understand - what a house or home is. Also, add the word "Turkey" to it, so when you are in conversation with others about Turkey, they know what you are referring to. As well as they can at that age.
  • Don't give away any of their toys in their sight, unless it's in bags and they can't see it. It will only add to the stress for them and you of trying to explain why they don't need it or play with it. Now, with mine being a little older I can explain it better. With your's ages, I would suggest the easiest is to put it in the garage while they are sleeping and give it away from there.
  • Use pictures online to help them through the story. Even print them and put them on the fridge. "Here is what the airplane looks like that we will fly on to go to our new house in Turkey", "here is what it looks like in Turkey", "Mommy, Daddy, Scrubs and Bubby will be ALL going together", "all our toys, couches, car, and everything in out house will go in the mail to see us in Turkey."
  • I understand your hesitation to show them a picture of the housing, but maybe the base. Also some surrounding pictures of items. Such as a park, swing, ice cream place, zoo. Those are familiar places now to them, and to show them that it's there too and they can go to those places will help.
  • When you box up toys or their items, give them crayons to write on the box once it's closed. Tell them you are decorating their boxes so when they get to Turkey, they know to deliver it to Isaac and Elijah.
  • Have them say "see you soon" or "see you later" to the items as they get packed up and moved. Rather than "Bye-bye".
  • Start preparing them the day before about the new thing happening the next day. Such as "tomorrow some helpers are going to put our boxes and house stuff on a truck so they can mail it to our new house in Turkey." That way they don't freak out in the midst of this happening and you are pulled into 15 different directions. Not saying that you still don't have to tend to them, or remind them through out the entire time they are loading your stuff up to explain what they are doing. But having that initial conversation when they are more calm before the chaos happens can help.
  • I know you will do this, but I'll say it anyway - bring a few familiar items on their flights such as stuffed animals, fave toy, and some familiar dvds and music.
  • They will be more clingy to YOU while changes are happening. Even people in their lives that they LOVE might not be able to pacify them at a certain time. It can be frustrating when you feel like you have SOOO much to do, and you are the ONLY one that can do it, but you have little ones on your hips. Step out of your head a second, take a breath, regroup, calm down. Take them aside and sit with them a couple minutes. Sing a song. Then gently after that say "can you do show {insert friend's name} your car for Mommy?" and try to distract them to go see your friend that is all to ready to help you.
  • We had a going away party with all of our friends about a week before leaving (even as very young children).
  • Lots of pictures were taken so that we had albums of previous homes to help solidify early memories.
  • Our rooms were the first things set up at each home we moved to.
  • A "moving package" was created by our parents and grandparents as well as close friends so we could find new toys, letters and pictures during the move and immediately upon arrival at our new home.
  • My parents found playgrounds, children's mu  seums and aquariums relatively quickly and took us on lots of day trips to some of the local attractions once we moved before my dad had to report to duty.
  • Probably not applicable to your young boys but my parents always arranged a tour and meet and greet at any new school or daycare before the year started. They also took us to the schools to play on the playgrounds during the summer. (Not applicable when I hit high school age)
  • I kept pen pals with friends and relatives left behind, my parents helped me "write" the letters and I drew pictures before I learned to write for real....maybe not applicable now with Skype and email but I loved getting mail in the mail box.
  • TRY not to worry, I know easier said than done! I cried sometimes when we left our old home but what I gained is so much more important than a few tears. I learned my home is always wherever my family is. At 34 that means wherever my 4 kids and husband are is my home, as long as we are together I feel whole. This is a gift given to children of the military, the ability to adapt and form strong ties to those who care for them and for whom theycare.
  • My daughter was not there when the movers came and I was hesitant to let her back into the empty house, but she was fine and we didn't stay long. She doesn't have the verbal abilities of Isaac, but I would think he could understand better since his vocabulary is larger. Finding the right words may be difficult for you.
  • We got the keys to our house the day before our movers came. We gave her a choice of two rooms and let her pick. (I actually like her choice better than the one I was planning on!) She was at daycare when the movers unloaded our stuff. Her room was the only room we set up before picking her up. We didn't set it up the same as at Eglin, but I think she likes it better! All her toys are in her room now since we don't have a space for them like before. Her little face was priceless when she walked into her room and got to see all her toys again!!
  • I think someone mentioned it already, but I definitely wouldn't move them from their cribs to big boy beds during the move. It may be too much change all at once! I think it will be easier on them than you. All the moves to come will be way more difficult than this one, in my opinion!


Jess said...

It all seems sooo overwhelming! I never moved as a child and was even a little sad when I moved the ONCE to our house when we got married! :)

The boys are young and will bounce fast. Good luck!!

Unknown said...

We moved a few times when I was young and us 4 kids didn’t like it 1 bit! I remember the first time and how I howled because I didn’t want to go. However the feeling didn’t last for long and kids bounce back, we were in a better environment, in The Gold Coast of Australia actually, and soon made friends and settled into school.

Unknown said...

Completely unpack and set up the kids rooms first, clearing all boxes from their rooms. It lessens the chaos for them, and having their familiar toys and blankets helps them feel comfortable and "at home" in their new space. Keep their old bedding for a while, even if it doesn't match the new room. It provide familiarity and comfort. Also, if it can be helped, don't change their sleeping arrangements. If the older boys slept together at your last home, keep them together, at least at first, at the new one. I had a friend who moved when her fourth child, a girl, was 2 months old. At their new home they had more room, so the baby went from sleeping in the parents room to sharing a room with her sister. Beginning the first night in their new home, she began to sleep fitfully, crying for hours in the night. After a couple of weeks they moved her back into the parents room and the nighttime troubles ceased. I will be praying for you all as you set out on this new adventure. Much love to you!!

Unknown said...

Great tips!! Wow! Thanks for choosing to write about this.
I'm sharing your post in the Google+ Military Homeschoolers community. I'm sure the members there will truly appreciate these tips.

This is the link for the share: