A moving experience
Our first night at a new address did not go well. At 2am on Mother’s Day my three-year-old daughter, Stephanie, woke with vomiting and diarrhoea.
She had never been this sick before. It was our first time with a washing machine and dryer in the house, and as her sheets went into it I was so happy to have it.
However, her need for clean sheets quickly outpaced the rate at which we could wash them and pretty quickly she was lying on towels. Once in a while she would moan ‘I want to go home’. This broke my heart because she would not accept my explanation: ‘We ARE home’. My advice for anyone moving house with a young child would be to know what box contains the medications and make sure you have plenty of sheets and towels on hand.
Over a year later, we are settled in, but she still occasionally says she misses our old apartment because “it had steps”. (Three in the living room).
The move was a happy one for us, but with today’s economy a lot of families are on the move. Many families are choosing to leave the Island, while others are economising by moving to a smaller place or sharing with relatives. This can make a move particularly stressful when children are involved.
Here are a few tips for easing the transition to a new home:
l Younger children may need a sense of familiarity and stability when they move house. Consider painting their room the same colour as their last bedroom and arranging the furniture in a similar fashion. Have their favourite stuffed toys out and ready when they go to sleep at night. Older children may prefer to pick a new colour for the room and help in decorating. Maybe the move is a chance to transition to more sophisticated furnishings.
l Moving can be more disruptive for children than parents realise. Be prepared to handle tears or unusual behaviour as children adjust to their new setting. If they are in school, let the teacher know what is going on. Some psychologists estimate that it might take as much as five to six weeks for children to adjust to a move.
l Don’t take it personally if the children don’t like the new place. It may come as quite a shock for many children to have less floor space for their toys, or to switch to sharing a room with a sibling. A hard but sometimes necessary part of a move like this is purging toys and other clothes to make more room for basic living. It is important to stay patient and provide a listening ear to your children’s thoughts and fears. You can put a positive spin on things by discussing with them which charity they would like to give some of their old toys and clothes. For those items that are not needed right now but can’t be tossed, consider using vacuum bags to condense clothes into one container. These bags have a little hole in them. You attach your vacuum cleaner hose to the hole and it sucks out the air from the bag and therefore shrinks the package. There are also space-saver options and closet organisers that might help with space considerations.
l Parents should discuss the move openly with children as soon as they decide it’s going to happen. The more information the better. Be as up front as possible.
l To make the move more fun you might want to plan a goodbye party at your old house if you are leaving the neighbourhood; or hold a housewarming party for your children’s friends at your new house.
l Pack children’s things last in your house, clearly label them, and unpack them in the new house first. At the very least it will be easier to get things done if they have their own toys set up and a space to play in.
l Introduce children to their new home, and if applicable their new school. Try to take them there and show them around ahead of the move. Another possibility is to show them photographs of the interior. You might also want to take a photograph on the doorstep of the old house or apartment, before you leave.