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6 Clever Tips to Survive a Move With Kids

Make the transition to a new home smooth, not stressful

Published on: July 14, 2022

Young girl carrying a box into a house

As I write, there is a suitcase placed next to my desk, waiting to be unpacked. My children are upstairs playing in an empty playroom. We just had our lunch on plastic plates — adults, too. We moved into a new house 10 days ago, and, needless to say, a few things are still falling into place.

We undertook a sizable international move, from Ireland to the United States, with two kids, ages 4 and 6. We arrived with four suitcases, two carry-ons, four backpacks and two booster seats. Due to the ongoing shipping container shortage and the shocking cost of shipping, we shipped 30 boxes of our most precious belongings and hope to be reunited with them in several months' time. We arrived at our new house, which currently has no furniture, kitchen utensils or even toilet paper.

This is, of course, an extreme move. Most people move down the street, across town, or even across the country and don’t have such a major disruption to their daily lives. But regardless of whether you’re moving a great distance or a few miles away, moving with kids is an especially difficult and all-consuming project.

But two weeks after our move, we now have places to sleep and to sit down, utensils and dishes (still plastic!), and even a few toys. We’ve made it through the most turbulent phase of moving without any major incidents. So, based on our experience, I’ve compiled a set of tips for surviving a big move with kids that will hopefully help you prepare for your next move.

1. Explain the basic timeline to your kids.

Kids have very different personalities that will dictate how much information you share with them about the details of your move. However, most kids will benefit from having a clear understanding of your general timeline for moving. We made sure our kids understood where they would be sleeping and when, and where specific meals would take place throughout the move. When they seemed to be a bit anxious about the transition, we’d explain that after the flight, we’d go to the new house, swim in the pool and have dinner in our new house before bedtime.

2. Ensure your kid’s space is set up well. 

The first few weeks in our new home have felt like camping in an unfurnished house,  but we made sure the kids felt settled on the first night. I packed a separate suitcase with their stuffed animals, special blankets, pajamas and pull-ups. (They still have occasional night accidents, and I wanted to avoid accidents while they got used to finding the bathroom at night!) When it was time for bed, we asked each kid to set up their bed how they wanted it; this gave them immediate ownership over their own spot within the new setting.

3. Keep important documents close.

Documents such as birth certificates, medical records and other original documents are important to keep close at hand as well, especially if your move involves air travel. We traveled with a carry-on that had those important documents that will allow us to get set up with a new doctor and register the kids for their new school. That carry-on also had their baby books and precious mementos from their first years that I knew I’d be heartbroken to lose if our suitcases were lost or damaged during shipping.

4. Plan a grocery delivery with easy meal options.

Take-out gets expensive quickly, and it might not leave you with maximum energy for the hard work of moving. Running out to the grocery store might not be possible right away, and hangry kids and adults will make the process of settling in far more unpleasant. If you can set up a grocery delivery with some meal options such as rotisserie chicken or premade pasta dishes or salads, you’ll have a better chance at a peaceful move.

5. Arrange child care if possible.

It’s not always possible or financially feasible, but if you can swing extra child care on either end of your move, it can take the pressure off as you try to pack, unpack, clean and organize. If you’re moving during the summer, signing kids up for a week of day camp can help them make new friends in their new neighborhood — and give you a few precious hours for organizing your new home.

6. Ask for help — and say yes to any offers.

I find asking for help tricky, but I’m here to encourage you to push beyond that discomfort when you’re moving because it’s more than worth it. The hardest part is figuring out what tasks people can help with, so take a few minutes in the weeks leading up to your move to consider what elements anyone in your community could take off of your plate.

Likewise, if someone offers to help, take them up on it. Moving with kids in tow is an enormous undertaking, and you’ll benefit from all the assistance you can get.

My last piece of advice is to try to go easy on yourself and on your kids. Moving is messy and affects everyone in different ways and at different times. Before you know it, you’ll come out the other side — hopefully free from moving boxes and plastic dishes!

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