Moving is stressful all on its own, but when you add in the complications that kids or pets (or both) can bring to the mix, it can feel downright impossible. Depending on the age of your children and whether your pet is a cat or a dog (or both), some moves can be easier than others, but any stress you’re feeling can manifest exponentially in your dependents.
The good news is that with a little bit of foresight and a lot of planning, you can smooth the way for your kids, pets, or both to ensure the move is as low-stress for them as possible. When your children and pets are happier, you’ll also feel some relief. Win-win! Before you move your household to a new residence read these tips, then make your plan.
Consider the timing
There really isn’t an “easy” time to move your household, but there are definitely some life events that make moving more difficult for everybody. Some anxiety is natural during death and divorce situations. Adding a move on top of that is generally not the best plan if it’s at all possible to avoid it.
Delaying a move by six months to a year to give all the dependents in the household time to adjust might be completely impossible, which is understandable. Think about whether you can offer your babies a respite from change for at least a few months so that you aren’t heaping change after change on kids or animals.
Research your new area
When you tell your kids about the move, they’re going to have questions. Your pets will want the assurance of some consistency, like the ability to go on a walk or the availability of their food.
Do some research into schools, parks, walking trails, pet stores, veterinarians, pediatricians, local restaurants and attractions, libraries, and more. Find some gems that you know will excite your kids when they hear about them, or your pets when they discover them, and be able to answer questions honestly. Older kids might want to help with research, and you should encourage them to dig into whatever they want to know about their new home, but it really helps to have a solid understanding of where you’re going before you break the news.
Talk to your kids about the move
There are plenty of age-appropriate conversations you can have with your children when you’re getting ready to move in order to help them prepare emotionally for the change.
Explain to your children why you have or want to move and talk to them about what it will mean. Depending on how old they are, their concerns will vary. Younger kids might have more questions about what will happen to their toys, while adolescents are likely to be more concerned about school and friends.
This is a good time to share some of what you’ve learned about your new area, such as whether the local grocery store carries their favorite snacks, or what their new school will be like. You don’t want to overwhelm your kids, but help them get excited about the change by emphasizing some of the positive differences between here and there.
Emphasize similarity too
People (and animals) often dread change because they’re afraid of the unknown. So while you’re having any moving discussions, make a point to talk about what isn’t going to change. If you’ve always hosted Thanksgiving, then tell your kids they’ll still be celebrating by cooking with you in the kitchen. If you take a regular vacation every summer to visit grandparents, talk about when you’ll do that. Tell your sports fans that they’ll still be able to watch or play their favorites, or emphasize to your bookworm that the library is nearby.
Pets won’t be as able to appreciate these discussions, but you can do them a favor by thinking about how you can work to emphasize similarity when they get to their new environment. Can you set up their favorite “room” exactly the way they know it right now? What can you do to acclimate them to some of the new sights and sounds and smells they’ll encounter during the move?
Get your pets used to carriers, kennels, or cars
On that note, if your cat doesn’t see the cat carrier except when you’re getting ready to take him to the vet, and your dog isn’t used to riding in your car, then it’s time for you to help them get accustomed to some of those unfamiliar items and experiences. The more familiar they become, the easier time your pet will have on moving day.
Take any carriers out from whatever dusty closet you’ve stashed them and open the doors. Leave them out for as long as you can and give your cats the chance to walk in and out at will. Take your dogs on car rides to the pet store, the park, and other fun places where he/she can get excited, and help him/her learn to identify car rides as an adventure.
Pack (and remove items) while they’re asleep …
Kids have the strangest habit of declaring that a toy they haven’t touched for years is their new favorite and the most sentimental of all their possessions. Decluttering your living area is a fantastic idea before you move, and sometimes this can be done most easily after the children are asleep.
This tactic really works best for the youngest kids, who are most inclined to forget toys from earlier years. For older kids, try a different approach.
… Or let your kids help pack their own things
Older children will appreciate the chance to find security in the familiar by packing up their own rooms and possessions. Let them decide what to keep and what to toss, and help them get excited by talking about how they’ll arrange their new room. Ask them what you can do to help make their new living space feel perfect for them.
Even younger kids can take advantage of the excitement of moving if you let them pack a small box, especially if you’re letting them pack a few toys and treasured items to bring with them in the car or on the plane.
Give your kids some choices
Maybe you can let the kids pick out their own bedrooms in the new house, or even help you search for possible homes online. If that’s too far of a stretch, there are plenty of ways you can involve children in the move, including letting them pick the paint color in their new room, deciding how to arrange the furniture, or maybe selecting a new bedding set, decor or picture for their space. The more freedom you give your kids to make decisions, the easier it will be to help them get excited about the move as a whole.
Consider hiring movers
Professional packers and movers have turned the chaos of moving into a science. Their efficiency and expertise can save you days of your own life, and they can also allow you to make alternate plans for moving day itself. Maybe you can take the kids to an amusement park or the dog to the dog park while your partner supervises the move? The amount of stress that hiring a pro can alleviate is noteworthy and often well worth the expense.
Make a moving day plan
Moving day itself is going to be peak stressful for you, the pets, and the kids, so to remove some of that stress in advance, plan the day out. For kids, this may involve coming up with safe ways they can participate, or alternatively, planning to get them out of the house while the move is actually taking place. If you have friends or grandparents who’ve offered to help watch the kids, take them up on it!
For pets, a moving day plan may involve dropping them off at a pet hotel or doggie daycare, or keeping their favorite room as intact as possible and locking them inside while everything gets moved out of the house. Change is especially hard on animals, and leaving doors open while people move furniture and boxes outside gives them too much opportunity to escape, so there aren’t really any great options, here. If you have the chance to acclimate them to the pet care facilities in advance, this might be the least stressful option for your fur babies.
Secure your animals while the move is happening
Two things you already know you don’t want to be doing on moving day: chasing your leashless, collarless dog through the neighborhood or coaxing your cat out from underneath the porch. If sending them to daycare or having a trusted friend watch them isn’t an option, then make sure you’re prepared to keep your pets confined and contained while the move erupts around them.
Secure them behind a door they can’t open and leave the water, litter boxes, toys, and whatever else they might need for a few hours out and available for them. Make sure you have a loud, obnoxious sign that you can fasten on the door warning anyone who might open it that there are freaked-out pets behind it and asking them to leave it shut.
Find an activity to keep everyone occupied during the move
If you can get your pets a new, complicated toy, or buy some puzzle books for your kids, you’ll be able to distract them much more easily. Moving parents or pet-owners who hire movers might have a lot more flexibility here to manifest a distraction — take the kids to a movie or go on a long hike with your pup.
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