By Susie Bray
The top five stressful life events are said to be: death of a loved one, divorce, major illness, job loss and moving. Add moving with young children and it can go to DEFCON 5 level of stress!
Moving can be an exciting life adventure. You could be moving for the happiest of occasions; to be near loved ones, start an amazing new job, move to a paradise location or the home of your dreams, and it would STILL be stressful! Why? Because we are creatures of habit and a move majorly disrupts our routine. It’s also a PAIN in the neck – getting moving boxes, packing belongings (and wondering why you have so much junk), hiring movers, then unpacking and getting settled in.
My own family has been on the move basically since day 1. My husband is fortunate to work in California and Florida, so we have been living bi-coastally for over 9 years. It was easier prior to kids. Once they got to be school aged, we needed to settle in and have a more consistent routine. We spent the last two and a half years in Tampa, FL, where we have a tremendous support network of family and friends. I was happy there, and fulfilling my desire to give back to my community as a board member of High Risk Hope.
This summer, work shifted and we moved back to Newport Beach, CA. In fairness, our move was unique, because we weren’t starting from scratch. We were lucky enough to be coming back to a town where we had already established a wonderful life, with top-notch friends, doctors, church and schools. Also, you can’t beat the SoCal weather…how many places do you have the beach, desert and mountains all within driving distance? Still, it was very difficult. My family, my heart, my hometown was in Florida.
The hardest part of all was worrying about how our three kids would adjust. They are still so young at 7, 5 and 1, but their little worlds revolve around order and routine. They were thriving in their schools and environment, and we would be upheaving all of that.
As a parent, a lot of times our own happiness is dictated by our kids’ happiness. It’s like in that movie “Parenthood” where Steve Martin plays the dad of an anxious son. His boy happens to make the winning catch at his little league baseball game, and Steve Martin’s character throws himself on the ground in glee, kicking his legs and waving his arms, so thrilled and relieved that his son had a victory. Now, add that pressure to moving your kids. The worry and stress can cause sleepless nights, marital tension and second guessing your decisions as a parent.
Well, I can say now that it’s been two months since we moved, and it wasn’t the traumatic event I envisioned. In fact, it’s been great and truly gets easier every day. So, here’s my Top 10 Tips for keeping sane during a move with kids, and having a fun adventure in the process.
2. Bring loved ones with you. I know they can’t stay forever but my parents were generous enough to fly with us and stay that first week. I can’t tell you how helpful it was to have loving grandparents there. Extra sets of hands and eyes are always needed, especially when unpacking.
3. Maintain a normal routine. Bring their favorite lovies or stuffed animals, keep bed times consistent, and have favorite meals like taco night.
4. Involve them in the process. Maybe they could decide on the particular shade of purple to paint their new bedroom, or where to put their special Legos table. Let them feel like they are part of the decision making process too.
5. Have a positive attitude. Keep your explanation of why you are moving short and simple. This move may be out of your hands, and the kids pick up on your own moods of stress and sadness. Remember if Mom and Dad are okay and happy, they will be okay and happy. Chances are if you present the move as a fun adventure, they will feel the same way about it too.
6. Play Dates. Try to plan as many play dates as you can realistically handle with classmates from their new schools. Kids, just like adults, feel much more comfortable walking into a new place if they see familiar and friendly faces. Also sign them up for some extracurricular activities. Being friends outside of school makes them better friends inside of school.
7. FaceTime and social media. We are lucky to live in a time where we don’t really have to lose touch with people if they don’t live in the same cities. Heck, I feel like I know more about what’s happening of some friends that live in Nashville, Chicago and New York through Facebook and Instagram than I do my next door neighbors. Put dates on your calendar to have your kids FaceTime with family members and friends, they’ll love it. Also, I am still just as involved with High Risk Hope from afar. I am attending Board Meetings through web conferencing, and spreading the word out here. Who knows – maybe Newport Beach will have it’s own High Risk Hope affiliation one day!
8. No man is an island. Military families may be dealing with moving to new cities every few years. I have heard they rely heavily on their own community. Everyone is in the same boat with no family around them so they step up for each other by bringing meals and watching each other’s children. Accept help when it is offered, and remember to return the favor when you can. If you know someone on bed rest while pregnant, consider sending her a High Risk Hope Bed Rest Basket from the HRH Store http://www.highriskhope.org/shop/. It is filled with goodies to make her stay easier and will be one of the most thoughtful gifts you could give.
9. Make new friends, but keep the old. Remember that Girl Scouts song? There is a lot of truth to it. This goes along with the bullet point above, but as moms of young kids, we need our girl friends. You will be lucky to have friends in multiple locations. True friendships always pick right back up where they leave off, no matter how much time has passed.
10. Give yourself time. Getting settled in takes a while. I read recently you should expect 6 weeks for elementary age children to be settled. I think 6 months could be more accurate. They may miss their old home, neighborhood and school. My experience is they become especially nostalgic when over-tired. Be sure to talk to your children, listen to what they have to say and reassure them. Talking to a family therapist could help as well.
By having a united home front, it will make the adjustment go more smoothly for the entire family. Good luck, and happy trails to you!