Ok, so there’s really no such thing as a stress-free move - big changes are never simple, and moving into a new home (even a custom home you got to design) definitely counts as a big change, no matter how excited you may be. And of course, when there are kids or pets in the mix (or the winning combination of both kids and pets), it can feel like your move is doomed to be a miserable experience. But it doesn’t have to be! Though your move is never going to go exactly according to plan, there are ways to keep stress and disruptions to a minimum; all it takes is some thinking ahead and careful planning (of Plan A and Plan B both). We’ve got the best advice for moving with kids, moving with pets, and moving with both kids and pets, whether you’re moving this summer or thinking ahead. (And we promise, we won’t judge you for using these tips without kids or pets, either!)
Moving with Kids
Explain, clearly and in advance: If your child/children are old enough to begin understanding, make sure you explain to them in advance what’s about to happen and why. Walk them through the steps, and try to keep it exciting! Show them pictures of a playground nearby, or talk about what their new room might look like. Make sure you’re using language that shows that you have to move so your little one(s) understands there’s no chance you might be staying.
Let them help: If your kids are old enough and willing to help, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t, and it will help keep stress levels down when they can get excited about packing and feel they have some amount of control over something. Of course, you want to make sure you take it slow and keep an eye on what they’re helping with, but in the end it’s ok for their boxes to be a little bit messy. On the day of, even if kids aren’t big enough to carry boxes up steps, there are always things they can help with (like holding the door or finding the outlets).
Know - and be realistic about - their limits: This is true for kids of all ages, infant to adult, if you’re planning a long-distance move. Know how long you can drive without stopping before tantruming starts, and make sure to take breaks for stretching, feeding, or using the restroom if you need to. It might seem like a waste of time but it will help keep everyone in a better mood and help you avoid delays from accidents later on. Even for shorter moves, this holds true when it comes to moving boxes and unpacking; don’t push younger family members to go past their limits and be as understanding as you can (moving can be emotionally charged).
Moving with Pets
Explore the area: Especially if you have dogs, before you make the actual move, visit the new neighborhood for a walk if you can so it’s not so foreign after you move. With cats, try leaving an article of clothing or a toy in the new space overnight and bring it back for them to sniff. For longer moves, make sure you find a veteranarian in your new location and take them in for a visit soon after the move, even if only for a check-up and making sure your new vet has their complete history.
Update their tags: Pet tags are important, especially when you’re moving to a new neighborhood. During the chaos of the move and in the weeks afterward (before the sights are familiar), pets are more likely to become disoriented if they accidentally get out and get lost, and old tags with an old address and/or phone number won’t be much help.
Limit food and water pre-move: Again for longer moves (though this might help for shorter moves too), start limiting food and water for 2-3 hours before you get in the car/truck and stop moving. This will help prevent accidents and unnecessary stopping, and can also help ensure your pet is willing to eat when you arrive (eating in a new location can help them feel more at home).
Moving with Kids AND Pets
Assign one family member per dependent: In order to keep track of kids and/or pets, assign one family member to be responsible for looking after each pet (and each kid, if they’re young enough). You can make sure everyone’s needs are being met, no one gets lost, and stress levels are kept at a minimum.
Keep your own stress low: Both pets and kids can sense when their parents’ stress levels are high, and the effect is the feeling tends to wear off, creating an endless cycle of stress and anxiety. Instead, make sure you’re staying calm, happy, and excited, whether that means getting excited together about the move, taking breaks to stay calm, or even letting a contractor finish the kitchen remodeling project that you could have easily finished on your own. By keeping your stress level low, you’ll help keep everyone else’s stress level low too.
Create an ‘open first’ box: For each family member and pet, create a box that goes with you (instead of with movers) full of things you’ll need the first night or two, along with the creature comforts that can help calm the little ones. From a toothbrush to snacks to a change of clothes, along with a leash, treats, and a blanket for your dogs, it’ll help keep things from getting too chaotic and allow you to unpack when you have time instead of searching through 15 boxes to find your toddler’s favorite teddy bear.