I recently moved with my family (wife and 3 kids under 4) into our new home. Everything from packing up our original house, to living in 4 temporary homes over 2 months until our newly built house was finished was totally exhausting. But I’m finally settling down with my wife to watch some March Madness this weekend and the end is in sight for unpacking.
The most difficult part of the move was the 3 kids under 4 years old part. Now, I love my kids. But I will be the first to tell you that small children living in that many temporary living situations over that long of a time period is not a recipe for easy living. Below are my thoughts on “tips for moving with kids.” However, I suppose these lessons could be applied to any season when your child is going through a transition.
- Adjust Expectations. I tend to be the more controlling type of person, and when things don’t go the way I expect, it can be difficult for me to adjust expectations. When your child enters a transition, focus on loosening up your expectations of exactly how they will respond to things. Obviously, we have standards, I care very much for my children and it is my desire that they grow up to be functioning and contributing citizens to society. But expecting my 3-year old to remember where the bathroom is in the middle of the night at the 4th house we’ve lived in a very short period of time is probably unrealistic. The more I allow for and ‘expect’ my children to go through some behavioral challenges, issues in mood, or simply being unpredictable, the better. This is not negativity – this is adjusting your expectations at the beginning. Realize that everything will most likely not go exactly as you think it should. Realize your child will most likely not respond exactly the way you think they should. To take it a step further, if you struggle with handling unmet expectations as I do, you can bet your child has a way harder time with it than you do. Don’t expect them to know how to do this because they don’t! They need you to show them how to adjust and deal with unmet expectations.
- Absorb and Vent the Emotions. Your job as a caregiver to young children especially is to absorb the emotional junk. This doesn’t mean validating or affirming their negative behavior or attitudes. But you arguing with your 3-year old that they need to ‘handle life better’ is not helping them, and definitely not helping you. In some ways, a child’s home is the 2nd most ‘secure’ object in their world besides the caregivers themselves. When they don’t have that, or if it is constantly changing, that child is likely dealing with quite a bit of internal instability. And, it probably comes out as emotional highs and lows, uncharacteristic disobedience, or moodiness. As Henry Cloud says in his book on parenting, children need us to ‘absorb’ their emotional ups and downs without fear of rejection. I think most of us would say moving is difficult. How do we think it is for our kids, especially if they see us constantly stressed out? The second part of this is ‘venting’ the emotions. I know with my kids, they need the freedom to vent their feelings (the counseling term here would be ‘catharsis’), without fearing rejection. And, if you don’t want to end up emotionally KO’ed by a move with kids, you absolutely need to vent your feelings and emotions too, but probably not in front of your 3-year old.
- Accept Help. Does this mean asking your one buddy to come help you move ‘a few things’ into your U-Haul, and 12 hours later you and he are still deep cleaning your cluttered cabinets? Of course not. Asking for and accepting appropriate levels of help from others is hard. We live in an extremely individualistic culture – putting aside your pride, and realizing that you might not have everything together in your life, and might benefit from the help of a friend or family member is huge.
I write as if I have it figured out, but I hope you can hear my heart in it. I absolutely don’t have all this figured out. My hope is to grow in how I care for my children in seasons of transition and to be a consistent source of love and acceptance for them no matter what. It is a privilege to be able to care for and guide our children through seasons of change and transition. Hopefully, this is helpful for you!
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