by Claudine Kurp
I recently moved to The Woodlands, TX from Northern Virginia. Despite the fact that I was told about the move/company relocation in June of 2011, I still wasn’t quite ready to relocate my ENTIRE life when the time came in February. The experience was both mentally and physically taxing on my family. I think if this move just involved my husband and I, I would not have had all of the emotionally baggage that went with the journey.
While moving some 1,500 miles away from everything you know is fairly brutal in the base case, doing it with children takes it to another level. For over a month prior to our move, my 9-year-old daughter would break down before bedtime and cry and tell me she didn’t want to leave her friends, her soccer team, her home and her everything. I tried to be positive, but I knew change was coming and some of her fears were warranted. Despite the great distance we were moving, in reality whether you move 15 miles or 1,500 miles, if your child has to switch schools and leave neighborhood friends it will be traumatic! Psychologically moving out-of-state is worse especially if there really isn’t an easy way to go back and visit friends and family with any type of ease. So what is a parent to do?
I did my best to tackle this move with my children in mind. I tried to manage the logistics of the move and the emotions of the event. It wasn’t easy, but we are getting there day by day.
Here are some of my tips to help you navigate a move with children.
1. Get Your House Settled As Quickly As Possible
Yes, we all want boxes out of the way, but make a list of your must haves to get your home working and functioning as quickly as possible. Prioritize your room load in before the actual move date. I set my girls rooms up first. I let me daughter weigh in on paint colors and I let her select her bedroom so she had a vested interest in her new house. I painted my preschooler’s room the same color as her room in Virginia and set up her bed and stuffed animals immediately. My preschooler’s room was her escape as the mover continued to dominate our home for two solid days. I set an iPad up and downloaded some fun movies.
After the girls were squared away, I tried to get the kitchen and game room set up so that our daily routine would start to flow. If possible, try to make a trip to the grocery store before the movers get to your new home. Even having lunch meat, nuggets, bread, cereal, milk, yogurt, cheese sticks, goldfish, aluminum foil, a cookie tray for baking said nuggets, etc. helps when hungry kids come your way and you are knee-deep in boxes, cable guys and movers. Paper plates, cups and plastic utensils are a lifesaver during the early days.
2. Set Aside Special Items Before Loading Begins!
In the midst of the chaos the movers packed a backpack and lunchbox and it created some strife when my eldest started school in Texas. The movers had an overflow truck that didn't come until a week after we arrived. My daughter was desperate to have her STUFF on the first day of school and was just short of tears when she was told that had to wait another week for the rest of her items. By the way, her glasses were in the backpack. Ugg! Pull special stuffed animals, electronics, books, toys, etc. aside before the full loading begins. Let your kids have a special carry-on bag, etc. that they can use to store their most special items. They can hold onto the bag during a flight or a car ride. There is some comfort in having your favorite things close at hand during a move.
My friend and co-author, Amy Suski, had a great suggestion for me. She told me to make sure to set aside a box that contained sheets, towels, bathroom essentials, paper towels, coffeemaker, etc. Mark the box and make sure it is the last one loaded and the first one off the truck.
3. Get Back To School & Life
We purposely moved during the school year to allow time for our eldest to make friends at her new school. Friends who had relocated with some frequency recommended getting settled before the summer began.
I had both girls in school within days of moving to Texas. My eldest loved her school and would have created a shrine to Mrs. Hixon at Oakton Elementary (shameless shout out for an amazing teacher and school) if given the opportunity. She also adored her classmates. She was anxious to try to replace that magic. Well…we obviously couldn’t replace a school that she had started as a kindergartener, but she was at least meeting new people and getting to know the school. Also, I would add that if you are having any last minute parties or send-offs with school friends, execute it in advance about one or two weeks before your move. My sweet girl missed her last day of school because Fairfax County had to close for snow. I can't begin to describe the tears when she heard that she would not be able to have a proper going away celebration with her friends. Thankfully her teacher allowed her to FaceTime the class the following week. It helped a bit.
My preschooler went with the flow and was able to acclimate to her new school with ease. Prior to the move, I did a lot research about preschools and did a number of phone interviews and also asked a local friend to get feedback from people who lived in the area.
Also, selfishly I needed them in school. It gave me time to unpack, find new doctors, register our cars, etc.
4. Hobbies & Sports
If your child plays an instrument, participates on a sports team or has a weekly karate class, assuming they enjoy it, try to get them involved when they get to their new home. I have tried to replicate the hobbies and sports that my kids loved in VA. I was quick to tell my daughter that they DO play soccer in other states. For a child they often think their world begins and ends with their current community. I tried to get my girls to acclimate to the area. My 9-year-old dove right into soccer. She might not know the girls, but she knew the sport and it was her entrée into a new world of friends. I won't lie, tween girls can be tough and a team sport takes trust. She just completed a partial season with her new team and she has made some nice friends. Other girls are coming around and are starting to get closer with my Gia. As a mother it absolutely kills you to see your child suffer through the early days of a move. In the end, I hope this move will remind her that she can get through significant changes in life that will inevitably come her way.
5. Tackle The Administrative Insanity
I can’t stress this enough, the administrative monster will be one of your biggest issues during any move. Be kind to yourself, some balls will inevitably drop, BUT do your best to ensure a smooth transition by getting ready well in advance of your move.
MAIL: I started a list months in advance and captured every bill, catalog and miscellaneous mailing that we received. I kept an ongoing list on my TO DO app on my iPhone. They were simple entries such Fairfax Water, Washington Gas, Pottery Barn catalog, etc. I was able to pull the list into MS Excel and build a sheet that showed each entry, contact number and status. You can easily do this in MS Word or just keep it on your TO DO application. It, at the very least, gives you some mechanism to capture all of the vendors and companies you need to update with your new address.
SCHOOL & DOCTORS: I started the school process as soon as we bought our new home. I contacted the school and filled out all of the paperwork in advance of our arrival. I was able to secure the needed Fairfax County paperwork, report cards, etc. while still in VA. I was also able to get a summary from my pediatrician that showed the girls’ medical records and vaccination information. That information was needed for school, camps, doctors and our new gym. Again, requesting the information and running by the doctor’s office when I was still local helped.
PRIORITIZE UPDATES: Schools, doctors, utilities and any type of insurance should be on the top of your update list. If you are good about e-notices, you might want to consider converting your bills to paperless, email notices. You avoid address issues and will be told on a timely basis when you have a new balance. Also, if you have a automatic draft for annual items like life insurance, cord blood registries, membership fees, etc. you will still want to make a note to let those organization know about your address change.
INSURANCE & TAXES: Make sure you get your car registered as soon as possible. Seeing out-of-state plates on a daily basis is yet another reminder of something you still have to complete. Most states only give you a 30 days grace period. Whether you are leaving the state or staying local, let your state DMV know. The State of VA needs to know where to send that fabulous personal property tax bill. Also, I was quick to let VA know that we moved as I was still incurring personal property tax on my car until I notified them. Virginia bills personal property tax in October for the current calendar year. For me, I will still own a fee for January, but they needed my new address to send the bill. The last thing you need is to have an outstanding tax bill that you are unaware of…yikes!
While the above certainly doesn’t cover every facet of moving with children, I hope you find it to be a useful tool. I wasn’t able to cover international moves. Chances are if you are going through an international or military move there are internal resources or relocation companies that can assist you with comprehensive “To Do” lists and government paperwork. The web also has a number of moving checklists and advice sites. I have listed two sites at the bottom of this post that have some tips as well.
Chances are if you live in the DC Metro area you will move locally due to a growing family or a job assignment will mandate an out-of-town move. Know that it will be stressful and filled with bumps along the way. Planning helps but give yourself a break, it will all work out and those boxes will eventually go away. We are two months into our move and I am still sorting through boxes, sifting through pictures to hang and talking my daughter off of the occasional ledge because of school or new friend woes. I have to remind myself that moving is one thing, setting up a new life is another. It is a marathon not a sprint and I need to take it slowly. Friends and familiarity will come. Focus on this time to bond as a family.
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