Accept help when offered
Family, friends, and neighbors often offer to help with a move, and many don’t quite know how to take them up on the offer. If you trust them with your kids or pets, then having them entertain or watch your babies while you deal with the logistics can be a great way to leverage their help.
This doesn’t have to happen only on the day of the move, either. Kids appreciate trips to the ice-cream parlor or movie theater at just about any time, and dogs like being walked, and cats enjoy playing with feather toys too. If you can’t think of anything else for your potential helpers to do, having them shower your dependents with attention is always a good option.
Give them time to say goodbye
Pets might not understand the meaning of leaving, but it’s all too real for kids. Talk to them about what and whom they think they’ll miss the most, and give them time and opportunities to spend with those beloved people and places. For kids, throwing a “see you later” party or giving them a ritual tour through the empty house before you leave for good can help them adjust to the change more smoothly.
Help them make a plan for keeping in touch
Kids can also benefit by talking through a plan to keep in touch with their best friends and relatives they’re leaving behind. This is easier than ever in the age of technology, so you can help them exchange email addresses with their friends or make sure that they’re connected via phone, but it might also help to talk about plans to come back and visit if that’s in the cards for you. Giving kids something to look forward to if they’re having trouble adjusting in their new home can make a huge difference.
Pets aren’t able to make their own plans to keep in touch with loved ones, but if it’s feasible for you to do it for them, then you should do what you can to ensure that they still get to see favorite people or animals every now and again. Maybe your catsitter can agree to stop by when he’s next visiting your new town, or your brother and fellow dog enthusiast could plan a weekend trip soon.
Get your documents in order
Before you leave, make sure you’ve made plans for transferring your kids’ medical and school records from one entity to another and do the same for your pets’ veterinary records. Any other legal or medical documents that you might need should be considered and managed before you go — because when you really need those items in a hurry, it’s almost never possible to acquire them, so tackle it on the front end.
Prepare ‘overnight’ kits
If you’re going to be traveling for more than a day, whether on a plane or in the car, then you’ll want to get some overnight bags ready for the kids and the pets. Kids can help with this on their own and often find some comfort in choosing the toys and books that will accompany them on the journey, and pets will feel similar comfort if you can surround them with smells and items that are familiar and dear to them.
Don’t forget about medication for any of your dependents, and make sure you’re packing plenty of food and water for your pets. It’s also wise to stash an extra leash and collar or harness for your dog; you don’t want to be tempted to let any animals out of your car before they’re fully secured.
Pets should travel with you
If it’s at all possible, the stress of the move will be less acute for your furbabies if you can bring them with you in the vehicle you’re driving. If your pet is in a carrier or a kennel, draping a blanket or sheet on top of it can help with any distress caused by unfamiliar landscapes or even just being inside a rapidly moving car.
Dogs should also be secured. Consider getting a gate that will keep your dog in a specific area of your car but still allow the pup to move around if they like. Give them toys and talk to them during the drive, and don’t open your car door until the dog is leashed.
Reserve hotels (if needed) in advance
Long car trips sometimes mean stops at hotels in between, so do a little bit of research to see what’s available and make sure your kids and pets will be comfortable there. Look for pet-friendly hotels if it’s relevant, and if you have an option between a hotel with or without a pool, opt for the pool so you can hype it up to the kids.
Unpack ‘their’ rooms first
For kids, unpacking their bedroom first can help them start feeling at home more quickly than you’d expect. See if you can get their bed and bedding set up at the least, and try to prioritize their space. Kids will also be spending time in the kitchen and play areas (if you have one), so those might go next in your order of priorities.
When you’re moving in, much like moving out, pets should be secured in a room until everyone is finished opening and closing doors. If you can, try to set up a scratching post or dog bed in the room — make it as close to the room that was most “theirs” in your old place. Give them water, feed them, show them where their toys are, and take some time to get settled before you let them out to explore.
Once you do open the door, give your dog (and your cat, if it’s inclined) a tour of the new space. Show them where their food, water, and litter areas are at the least. Walk with your dog through all the new rooms and let them sniff. Don’t be surprised if your cat disappears for a day or two once a favorite old hiding spot (perhaps under the bed) has been rediscovered; give them time to explore on their own timeline.
Keep as much furniture as possible, and arrange it in a familiar manner
Remember, you can always get rid of that ugly couch when your kids and pets are feeling more at home, but if you keep it and arrange it as you had it in your old living room, everyone is going to have an easier time feeling comfortable in the new place. It’s fine to start keeping tabs on what’s getting replaced later, but if you can, keep all the furniture from your old house that you can stand, and try to arrange it as closely to what your kids and pets are used to as you possibly can.
Invest in some surprises
Nothing makes a big change more fun and exciting than a positive surprise, so try to plan some for both the kids and the pets. Maybe it’s a trip to a nearby park for a game of fetch, or a pizza dinner out at the new local pizzeria or bowling. Perhaps your kid’s going to get the skateboard they always wanted, or you bought a new scratching post for the cat. Big or small, a surprise can help convert any I’m-not-sure feelings to this-is-awesome ones.
Although you might feel like you need to wake up early to start unpacking, or you don’t have time to walk the dog today, try to stick to your regular routine as much as possible during your first few days in the new house. Wake up and feed your pets at their usual time. Take them out and play with them like you normally would.
This can be more difficult for kids, but it’s still worth making the effort. If they’re used to heading to the pool or the gym at a certain time every day, try to make sure they get there to continue their own routine. If you all are used to sitting down to dinner together every night, then make the effort to have it ready to go, even if it’s takeout.
Don’t make other big changes right now
It’s true, your toddler does need to be potty-trained eventually. Maybe you have been meaning to hire a dog walker to give your dog more exercise for some time now.
Change is hard! Don’t overwhelm your poor pet or your child by demanding even more change from them. Pace any big shifts in what you’re doing so they don’t coincide with the move. Realistically speaking, you’re not going to have much success potty training during a move, anyway, and your pet will be comforted if you’re the one walking him, so try to minimize any additional change while you focus on maintaining routines.
Keep calm and move on
Your kids and your pets have an uncanny ability to tell when you’re stressed out. And it stresses them out to know you’re not happy! When you’re moving, everything can feel like a disaster; do your best to take care of yourself and try to maintain a calm, happy presence even if you’re not feeling very calm at all. If you can keep your composure and present a positive attitude to your dependents, they’re more likely to relax and let you get on with the business of moving.
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