Moving house with kids: a survival guide

How to get through a house move and make moving house easier for kids whatever their age

Moving house with kids: a survival guide

Moving can be one of most stressful time in a parent’s life. As not only do you have to organise moving into an entirely new home one of the initial worries is the impact it will have on the kids. You’ll want to consider your children’s comfort throughout the process as well as managing you own ‘how on earth you I possibly pack, move and unpack an entire home of possessions with young kids running about?’. Here’s our guide to coping with a house move whatever their age:

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  • Moving House: with a newborn-1 year old

Babies, frankly, don’t care too much about anything beyond their bed, food, a clean nappy and you (not necessarily in that order). This is not the time to change her cot, run out of cuddly muslins or wash the familiar smells off of Teddy. Transport your baby in a bubble of familiar comfort. On no account vary mealtimes.

Ensure you have everything you’ll need (nappies, milk, bottles, comforters) for the first few days in their baby bag or a small overnight bag.

  • Moving House: with a 1-2 year old

Mobile babies are hell on moving day. If you can find someone they like to look after them during the critical hours while vans fill up and unload, do so. If you must have your toddler around all day use a playpen. Yes, even if you never have before, and never intend to again. Fill it with really interesting new toys (borrowed if necessary). It will be so much easier to focus on clearing and cleaning the house if your children are elsewhere.

Call in a favour with family or pay for childcare. Whatever you need to do, this will make your life so much easier. A teenage niece/willing teenager is an excellent person to have around, generously tipped to do nothing but keep toddler safe and happily out of mischief.

  • Moving House: with a 2-3 year old

Bigger toddlers, on the other hand, don’t want to be left out and actually find the business of the ‘Big Van’ very exciting. What they need is a couple of personal boxes in which to pack and unpack a few favourite toys. Get removal boxes and plaster jolly stickers all over them with the child’s name; let them ask the removal men (or Daddy) to put the boxes in the van last, and unload them first with due ceremony. This will prevent any tears and tantrums when your child is desperate for their toy which is buried in a mountain of brown boxes and will make the move as stress-free as possible for both them, and you. When all you want to find is the kettle?

Involving your toddler will keep them occupied and keep the moaning and nagging to a minimum, as your toddler will be desperate to help as they watch lots of activity going on in the house. 

  • Moving House: with 3-4 year old

A tricky age, because they have just started realising frightening things about change and loss and death. This is the stage where children get upset about not being able to take the view, or the stairs, with them. If you have a pet, it helps to involve the child in discussing how to make Fido or Felix feel comfortable; you will pick up a lot of clues about what your child is worried about too.

Make the move itself a bit more fun by playing games with the moving boxes – kids love boxes as they give them a safe place to escape into their imagination – and will keep them out of your way for a while!

  • Moving House: with a 5-7 year old

With kids are at school age, if you can avoid moving during term time it may help the overall transition. As starting school half way through a year means they will not only have to catch up with all the schoolwork that the class has undertaken, but friendship groups will be more clearly defined. Moving during the summer holidays makes the transition easier and gives them time to discover the new route to school.

With older children you can encourage them to write some poems and do some paintings about the old home and the new one. Keep a collection of works of art from the old kitchen walls and instantly Blu-tak them up in the new place, to show that this is as much theirs as the old one. If you are still in the neighbourhood, let them have friends round to view it and play in the boxes as soon as you’ve moved. Never mind the hideous chaos. Children like chaos.

Ask them to make a ‘first night box or bag’ and fill it with all the essentials they will need on the first night spent in your new home and in the morning. Think pj’s, teddy, favourite blanket, toothbrush, nightlight. You may have to double check they haven’t packed their entire room but it will keep them busy and focused on the first night in their new home. 

Moving House with Kids: Top Tips

Involve children in the move

If you can try to prepare and let children know they will be moving between a month and two months beforehand, so they have time to think about it and process what this will mean. If you can show them the local area and point out the new things like the shops, school, playground and parks so they can imagine the fun they will have there. Also visit the house with them before the move, and point out their new room.

Let them make some decisions

Maybe you can let them choose which room they would like or the colours of paint, furniture and other decorations they can have to make the new room their own. By including them, they will feel excited about the new house, rather than worried.

Stick to usual routines

Continuity is important, so do the things that you did beforehand, such as game nights and family meal times. Also, invite people they are close to, such as family and friends, to come and visit. This way they will feel like they have just changed house, rather than losing their home.

Don’t show your stress

Your kids look to you for emotional cues. So if you are feeling stressed and tired – and who isn’t with a house move? But, showing this can lead to your child to becoming more anxious  and thinking that the move is a negative thing. If you can be positive (even just in their presence), they’ll have a sense that everything will be okay.

Forget changing the beds

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It’ also a good idea to hold off on putting brand new, fresh bedding on your child’s bed right away (as well as saving energy and time). Sleeping in a new environment can be confusing and unsettling for a child and using the same duvet with the comforting scent of your child’s old bedroom may make that first night in the new house a little easier for them.