Moving to a new city with kids

frogbox, envionementally friendly moving

I recently got this email from an old friend from Baltimore and I thought I would share the email. I'm sure others can relate to this situation.


Hi Hannah, 
How are you? I wanted to get in touch because we're moving houses this fall, and I feel sort of panicked and unsure where to begin. I remembered that you''ve moved with small children, and that you're a psychotherapist, and therefore I am hoping you'll have some brilliant advice.
We're moving to [a small town], and so physically it's not a huge move, but it's far enough that I'm grieving the loss/change of friendships and what my friend aptly termed the "paradigm shift" of moving from a city to a small town. But I also asking about the practical aspects too.
I hope you all are well and that you enjoyed the summer. We had such a great summer, not particularly because of any exciting vacations or anything, but because the girls are at such a fun age. Plus, it's easier - no toting diapers, no breastfeeding in public or carting jars of pureed veggies, etc. 



Emma and I were friends before either of us had children. I moved away to Edmonton when she was pregnant with her first daughter. Then, last summer I moved to Victoria with my then 3.5 year-old and 1.5 year-old into a rental house. Recently we bought a house here in Victoria and moved again with two slightly-older young children. So, yes I do have a lot of experience with moving & kids. Here are my thoughts.


So, on the practical side:

  • frog boxes made my last move much easier. They are big green bins that you rent and use instead of cardboard boxes. Not only are they good for the environment but you don't need to worry about fully packing them but you don't need to tape boxes shut. And, this is amazing because when you pack with kids, you sometimes accidently pack important items and need to pull them back out. I swear I should be a ad rep for these folks!
  • Pack in a few days. I've packed a couple boxes a day over the course of a couple months and it just really draws out the process. Do it fast. It goes by more quickly and there is less of chance of accidently packing something you still need.
  • Before you pack, do some downsizing. Go through everything and offload it to craigslist or usedvictoria. Or, have a garage sale. Donate stuff to local charities.
  • Pack your boxes in a way that will make it easier to unpack. Label them by the room that they go in and what is inside them. Highlight the boxes that need to be opened first (some kitchen boxes, kids bedding, bathroom stuff). 
  • Let your kids help pack. Give them the important task of deciding which few toys will not be put in with boxes and will be kept out in their own luggage for the move. Let them pack at least one box of their own items.


On the emotional side:

  • Library books! There are some great kids books about moving. Start getting these books early. Read them together and talk about your upcoming move. Use them to help open up dialogue about the move. There are tons out there, here are a few to get you started.
    • Berenstain Bears' Moving Day, Stan & Jan Berenstain
    • Alexander, Who's Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going To Move, Judith Viorst
    • My New Home and Me, Lyn Thomas
    • Saying Good-Bye, Saying Hello...When Your Family Is Moving, R.W. Alley
    • Big Ernie's New Home: A Story For Children Who Are Moving, Teresa & Whitney Martin
  • Let your child have his or her own feelings about the move. Try not to rescue them from their feelings. Agree and validate. "Yes, it is sad that we are leaving our friends. That is the hardest part about moving away." Or "I can understand why you are mad at me and dad for deciding to move. I would be mad too."
  • Say goodbye to friends and other important people. Do take the time to say goodbyes as they are an important ritual and way of handing difficult feelings. We have to say goodbyes throughout our lives so teach them a mature way to handle them.
  • Brace yourself for some extra emotions. My 3 year old had a big tantrum at the Victoria airport baggage claim after I accidently threw away a lolipop (lolipops are great for little kids' ears during take off and landing by the way). The timing of the tantrum led me to believe that it was more about having a lot of feelings about the move than the lolipop. Remember that children have little control over tantrums and are trying to deal with difficult emotions. Offer support, help them identify their feelings - "you are mad that I threw that lolipop away" and then help teach them to self-soothe. 
  • Help your child come up with a project to remember their old friends, neighborhood and house. Make a photo album or make your own book about moving or write a song. Whatever would appeal to your child. 


So, that is more or less what I told Emma.

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