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Moving, with children: A survival guide

  • Moving stinks for adults, but it can be even worse for a child
  • Leave some toys at the old place until the very end
  • In-laws or a DVD player will suddenly come in very handy
Moving, with children: A survival guide

Zach Rosenberg,

Editor's Note: Zach Rosenberg is co-founder of, a site that offers a daily shot of fatherhood news, interviews, dadvertising, and fatherly opinions on parenthood topics. You can find him on Twitter @zjrosenberg. He lives in Southern California with his wife and 3-year-old son.

When your friends or family are moving and you ask how the move is going, no one ever says “great!” It’s never really very fun to move, even if you’re movin’ on up to that deluxe apartment in the sky. Moving is physically, emotionally and mentally exhausting, and some unexpected problem always occurs.

Now imagine that you’re a kid that’s never done it before.

We move a lot. In fact, 36 million Americans changed residences in 2008 alone, according the Census Bureau. We’re jaded. We go buy boxes, pile all our stuff in it, hire a company (or friends) to move it somewhere, and try to unpack as little as possible, in wait for the next move.

So by the time you’ve settled down in life, gotten married and had a child, moving is a little different than when you did it yearly during college. My family just moved into a new place and here are six things I learned along the way which might help you survive moving with a kid -- assuming you’ve got a walking, talking one, and not one of those baby types.

1. Let your kid help: This sounds easy to remember, but when you’re just trying to get things done, a scampering kid underfoot can frustrate you. The best thing you can do is pack some boxes that are small and light enough for your child to carry. Then, you both win -- they get to help, and you aren’t constantly yelling “don’t touch that!”

2. Keep your kid occupied: When they’re not helping, keep your kid busy with something around the new/old place. You might normally limit your kid’s TV or video game intake, but now might be the time for an electronic buffet. If your child likes a particular movie, try to set up a laptop and play the DVD in it for them. If you have any handheld gaming systems, now might be the time to get an age-appropriate game for your kid and let him zone out with it. This buys you some un/packing time where you can’t be constantly supervising.

3. Make a box fort: As you empty boxes, your first thought is to flatten them for the next move, or throw them away. But your kid just sees a cardboard mansion. Take a couple of your biggest boxes and during your lunch break, make a fort. Cut some windows, tape a couple boxes together. Maybe you can unpack your child’s crayons and let them color the boxes. This will keep your kid busy for hours, especially if you couple it with No. 2.

4. Keep a box of their toys at the old home until the last trip: What you don’t want to do is move all of your child’s toys to the new house right away. Kids freak out if you just change environments on them completely, and keeping a little box of their toys at the old home is like an emotional anchor that helps them cope as you haul your stuff away. Plus, it gives them stuff to play with at the old home while in transition. When your old home is cleared out, let them pack that last box on the truck or in the car themselves and bring it to your new home.

5. Have family watch your child: You might be lucky enough to have family that’s willing to pack, unpack and move boxes for you. But it might serve you better to have one of those family members take your kid back to their house instead. While you’re stressing out and risking back injuries, your child can be elsewhere having fun with your parents, in-laws, or their uncle or aunt. Remember how fast you moved in and out of that house in college? You didn’t have kids back then.

6. Don’t stress and don’t take it out on your kid: It’s tough to keep things in perspective, but remember, you just turned your kid’s world upside down. So they’ll likely be a little cranky, a little needy, and probably tired. Make sure that you don’t take your own frustrations out on them.

They don’t know that you have to bring all of your food to the new place.

They don’t know that you dropped the box with your printer in it and now don’t know if it works.

They don’t know that you’re angry at the plumber because of some leaky pipe. Kids just want to play and be like you, so if yours is all picking at your boxes, take a breath and remember that they’re not tough old jerks like us (yet).

Moving is no fun for most of us adults. Imagine whatever you don’t like about moving, and magnify it for your kids. They just watched everything they own get taped up inside of a giant box and shipped off to a new home, the least you can do is be a little understanding with their feelings.

With 36 million of us changing addresses each year, they’ll probably move again sometime in the next five years … might as well get them started out on the right foot.

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