Anyone who has ever moved knows that the only thing worse than moving is moving with kids. Buying and selling houses, temporary housing, mortgage applications, packing, changing addresses and finding a new hair stylist all pale in comparison to consoling your kids over the loss of their best friends, registering them in a new school, and finding a house with the pool you promised them.
You'll feel like a symphony conductor, orchestrating all facets of your move. Your child is the diva flutist who waltzes in late with a list of demands, and refuses to play in synch with the others in the orchestra.
That's why moving with kids takes a special skill. Here are five simple things to remember when moving with kids.
1. The kids have to come first
Don't disregard your own needs and all that you have to do for the rest of the family, but when prioritizing, remember that a move is hard on children of all ages. Kids will feel a sense of urgency to get settled in, so the sooner the better.
2. There is no perfect time to move
The question Which is better, a mid-school-year move or a summer move has been bantered around since Adam and Eve moved Cain and Able out of the Garden of Eden to the wrong side of the tracks. Both have advantages and disadvantages. I'm sorry to say that there isn't a clear answer.
Some experts say summer moves are easier on kids, because when they start a new school year, they'll be in good company: Everyone is nervous about the first day of school and the "new kid" will fit in better. Summer moves are less disruptive as well, and school work is uninterrupted.
Others say that a summer move will leave your child without a way to make friends. School is an instant source of peers and new friends and without it, your child may be lonely, missing their old friends, while even their new neighbors may be on vacation. Delaying a move can put your family in some turmoil, if some of you are separated temporarily, which causes its own stress.
If you face a decision on when during the year to move, weigh the pros and cons and consider your particular family and its needs. Most importantly, don't listen to "experts" who say there is a clear correct answer in all cases. You know your family.
3. Letting your kids make adult decisions is not a good decision
It's always a good idea to allow your kids to take part in the teamwork of moving house. It's never a good idea to go overboard. Allowing the kids too much input into decisions involved in the move puts too much responsibility and pressure on a young person. Plus, it's inappropriate. Some parents let their guilt take over and give the kids too much leeway in decision making. In the end, this doesn't make the kids feel any better and it doesn't help the parents either.
Let your child have input in what school district they like, what neighborhood they prefer, and what house they'd like, but ultimately weigh their input with what's best. Make it clear from the beginning that you value their input and that their feelings will be considered.
Patience, one of the parenting bloggers Supersisters, suggests giving the kids some responsibilities to keep them feeling some ownership. "Give kids simple jobs to keep them feeling connected and part of the decision to move. Call family meetings to check-in with each member about how things are going and what everyone might need throughout the move," she said.
4. Be prepared to pay up
That's putting it crudely, but you know what I mean. When we moved from Ohio to Illinois, we bought a house with a hideous above-ground pool, only because we knew it would thrill the kids and get them excited about the move. Four years later when we moved to New Jersey, we looked for a house with an in-ground pool. We were determined to include at least one perk for the kids, something that would make them look forward to such a big change. You don't have to go outside your comfort zone or spend a ton of money; just keep your eyes and ears open for something that your kids will love.
5. Weave together the old and the new
Your child's move should be the perfect combination of the comfort of familiar things and the excitement of new adventures.
"Reestablish routines as quickly as possible," advises Marie Hartwell-Walker of Psych Central. "The place will feel more like home if the rhythms of family life go on as before." At the same time, take advantage of the new things that your new area has to offer. Consistent, familiar routines combined with something new and exciting is the best recipe for a child's smooth transition to your new home.
More on moving children
Six Tips for Moving With Kids
If you like Diane's humorous take on moving, you'll love her book Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves.