This question might seem odd, but if you move more frequently – not necessarily internationally – do your children have moving skills?
We’re not among the most mobile internationals since we have children, we only moved 4 times since my son was born (now 15yo), but during our latest move with 3 children who were not all very enthusiastic of moving house, I got to put all those theories concerning smooth moves I talk about in my workshops and trainings to the proof again.
Let’s go per age group…
Moving with babies
Moving with babies is very easy especially if they are not moving a lot yet: you do the packing, you’re the most important “thing” in their world, so wherever you go, all you need to do is to take your baby with you, right? Yes… and no.
Babies feel the excitement, the anxiety and frustration of their parents and they can feel difference in smells, taste of food, temperature, noises as older children. If their bed faces the window and door of their room in another angle than they’re used to, it can make them struggle with sleeping and adjusting.
My tip: keep on using the same detergent, food, drinks for the first months in the new place. Make sure the bed has the same orientation in the room and in order to make your baby feel comfortable in the new place, maintain the same bed-time rituals, including nursery rhymes, songs, night lamps etc.
Moving with toddlers
When children start walking moves become a bit more challenging. They see you packing and start worrying that something gets lost or that you forget to pack their favorite items. Involving toddlers as soon as possible in the transition process will make them feel less anxious.
My tip: Give them a box to fill with their toys or favorite items, let them label it (with all kind of stickers they love). They can also fill their suitcase if you tell them what they need. 2 yo children can already pick jumpers, socks etc. and put their things ready.
Moving with school aged children
One children attend preschool or school, moving becomes even more a teamwork. They can be involved even more in the decision making process and if we give them time to get used to the thought that there will be a move, showing them that being upset, sad, tired and enthusiastic about the move is totally normal, they will be very collaborative eventually.
Before our latest move, one of my children was not convinced about it at all, she had made many friends in our neighborhood, attended after school clubs and was part of the local scouts, not to mention her love for her weekly horse riding lessons: saying good-bye to her friends and the horses needed some time. Visiting the new house several times, moving some of her belongings before the actual “big” move and gathering information about the new location helped her to visualize herself there and made her eager to move within a short time. But she was not the only one struggling with this decision. I had some ups and downs myself. We would be moving from the home where my daughters took their first steps, where my children took their first bike ride, where I met many very good friends. It was the first home I’d repaint some walls… I had never lived in a place long enough before to need to paint the walls at some time. Although all this made me feel anchored in that place, I was ready for change and so was my teenage son who was the driving force for us to move.
My tips about moving skills for tweens and teenagers:
1) Declutter their belongings
What we can ask our tweens and teens is to declutter their belongings. few weeks before the move I asked them to separate toys, books, clothes etc. into the famous three groups:
a) what I want to keep,
b) what I might want to keep and
c) what I can and want to give away (because I don’t use or like it anymore).
This allowed them already to get through all their stuff and organize it. It makes it so much easier to later put things into boxes and label them. We don’t want to have boxes with “stuff” or “a bit of everything” that takes ages to sort out in the new place… We actually do this every 6-12 months anyways, but before a move there is so much more that we can let go.
2) Pack the boxes
If our children can pack their bags and suitcases, they can pack their belongings for a move. I explained to them that every box needs to be clearly labelled, i.e. that we don’t mix books with clothes and that we want to avoid the label “various”… – As we are a multilingual family, our boxes ended up being labelled in several languages: BG, EG, GF for begane grond (Dutch), Erdgeschoss and ground floor… Our movers pretend to be “international movers”, so I didn’t worry too much, also, we were there to help them when one label wasn’t too clear. – I made a note to myself: the next time we’ll be clearer to label the boxes in the language of the moving company.
3) Move some boxes
When the move is not an international one and we can actually already move some things before the moving date, our children can decide what items can be moved first. Knowing what one box can weight is a great maths exercise:
- How many boxes do I need to move all my books, toys, etc.?
- How do I pack the items in order to fill out the space in the most profitable way?
Taking care of our own belongings makes us also be more considerate about them. It’s not about filling boxes and get things done as quickly as possible, it is also about taking care of them.
- What do I need to do so that my breakable things won’t be damaged?
4) Dismantle and rebuild
Being able to dismantle furniture and rebuilding it is also one of the skills I want my children to learn. I think we prepared them for this already when we built and rebuilt all kind of constructions with lego for years. My husband and I loved watching our children build all kind of things and often participated in the process, not to show them how to do it, but for our own amusement.
I don’t only find the practical aspect of it important, but also the conscious process of emptying one place, preparing everything for the move and rebuilding it in the new place so that we can function there again. It is all part of the transition. The more we know about the single steps, when to take them, how to do them, the more we live all this in a conscious and healthy way. At our last move we bought some new items in the famous Swedish shop and my children were all keen to build them. – In the pictures here below one of my daughters is busy building her new shoe cabinet. It didn’t take longer than if I had done it, but even if: this experience is priceless for our children and the sense of contributing to the process is so important, not to mention their feeling of competence and self-confidence. A very important life lesson.
© Ute’s International Lounge 2018
When our contractor cancelled on us (because of health reasons) a few days before he should have started, I decided to go ahead with plan B. As a family we decided that painting the walls in three rooms on the ground floor was first priority and we had enough time buffers so we bought the painting and enough paint brushes for everyone to contribute. As taking off all the wallpaper would have gone beyond our time constraints, we opted for painting them instead. It took us 2 days to paint and repaint twice to cover the wallpaper – on a side note: in one of the pictures here below my son is encouraging one of his sisters. What you don’t see is that he did most of the first layer painting in 2 rooms (and I haven’t taken pictures of all the walls).
One of my children’s following tasks was to paint the garage, which they did in 2 hours time. I know this might sound like we exploited them, but they really love to paint and as they were arguing a lot the day before – part of the transition process is that we are more vulnerable and irritable… – I suggested that they collaborate on this project which they did brilliantly!
These teamworks made us all connect even more and we got to know new facets of each other – which is priceless.
One very important side effect of doing most of the job ourselves is that we connect better with the new place.
Painting the walls of your new home and cleaning it thoroughly made us discover details we probably wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
It was a very useful mindfulness exercise for us all. We were very conscious of what we were doing, how much time it took and focussing our attention on the task made our move not a passage from A to B, but a memorable journey.
6) Taking initiative
At some point, I was so tired of painting, building and moving boxes that I had to sit down a moment. As it was lunch time, my daughters asked me to sit down, take a break and made a wonderful lunch for us all: pasta al tonno, insalata and a very yummy antipasto “tapas style” (I forgot to take a picture of that, but it was very delicious!).
This was not the only time my children took initiative. Once they had packed all the boxes and their suitcase for the days “in between”, they went through the other rooms and packed books, kitchen items and helped me brainstorm the to do list for the following days, thought about what to cook in the next days so that we would be eating healthy – there needed to be “fresh fruit from the market for our daily smoothy and enough vegetables”.
I can’t deny that I am incredibly proud of my children! They have done a fantastic job and they are a pleasure to work with. I planned the whole moving with a lot of time and help that we, finally, didn’t really need but was nice to have. The buffer time allowed us to easily switch to plan B’s and the help we scheduled – the packers – worked less than we agreed on because we, as family, were faster and did more than expected. I wouldn’t change anything in my planning though, because this extra time and the luxury of having people carry the heavy 200 book boxes for example, is a healthy choice for us.
If you wonder why we don’t get rid of the books: I already got rid of many books during the former moves. I am an avid reader and usually “work” through my books, i.e. I put many marks, comments and I need the touch and smell of paper to really enjoy my reads. I have many books on kindle and my tablet too, but it’s really not the same kind of reading. At least not for me.
What I loved during this move was that we regularly checked on each other and made sure that we took breaks not to get overwhelmed and too tired, and we maintained our rituals – but this is the topic for another post.
I would love to know from you:
– What is your experience when moving with children?
– What moving skills do your children have?
– Do you involve them in all the steps?
– What would you do differently the next time?