When we found out I was expecting our second child, we knew immediately we would need to move. We lived in a small townhouse and wanted to find a forever house before the new baby came. So we immediately set about selling our townhouse and looking for our next house.
One large concern, however, was how it would affect our toddler. After working with toddlers for so long, I knew how much large changes like a new house or new baby can throw them for a loop. Imagine my surprise that after having settled into our new house two months ago, my toddler has still not shown any large signs of being affected by our move. How did I do it? Read on for the 7 things I did to help my toddler settle in.
(And if you are moving while pregnant like I was, check out the ebook I wrote with the 8 tips that helped save my sanity!)
The easiest and best thing you can do is talk about it. From the day we decided to move, we started to prepare Mac for a new house simply by talking about it. We told her we wanted someone to buy the house we had been living in, so we needed to clean and repair it so it looked good. We staged our place and moved our things to storage. When we did that, we took Mac to visit the storage place so that she saw where our things were and that we were.
My point is, we were very open with Mac about exactly what we were doing and why. We explained that we wanted a new house so that we could have space for the new baby and a backyard where she and our dog could play. She loved that idea.
One of the best ways to explain something big to a toddler is to find books about it. Toddlers can’t always voice their fears or questions. Reading a variety of books may answer the questions they have without them struggling to voice those questions.
The big thing is to make sure that the books are at least somewhat realistic. The more realistic the books are, the more understandable they will be to a small child.
When we went to look at houses, we frequently brought Mac along. It was important to us to get her opinion. Now, obviously her opinion usually had to do with some toys she saw there or a picture she liked on the wall, but it was nice to let her be a part of the process.
It was also nice to have her along to see how child-friendly a house is. Letting her run around a little may show us that the deck would need work to allow her to be safe there or maybe a backyard would be too steep for much playtime. It was nice to get some insight into how a house might fit a family with a child.
Obviously moving is stressful. Things never go according to plan and the unexpected pops up constantly. But when your toddler is around, you need to focus on the positive. You need to continue to be excited about the new house and all of the positive aspects.
Children pick up on your emotions. If you are feeling anxious or stressed about the house, your child will pick up on that and mirror those emotions. If you do need to talk about something negative, make sure you turn it around.
For example: “Packing is hard work. But it will be nice to unpack all of our things when we get to the new house!”
Mac spent a lot of time watching us pack boxes. (You never know how much stuff you have until you have to pack it all in a limited amount of time!) She started to try to pack her things in our boxes, which meant she would put crayons in a box of kitchen things or a tambourine in a box of linens. It was a little annoying since I was trying to get things packed up fast.
The solution? We made one box and let her do what she wanted with it. We told her that it was her box and she could put whatever she wanted into it. We left it open so that she could put things in and take things out freely. She was also allowed to color on the box with her crayons. She had been watching us label boxes, it was only right we allow her to label her box.
As much as we let Mac be a process of looking at houses, she hadn’t actually seen the house we chose before we actually moved in. (Heck, I had only actually seen it in person for 5 minutes and that was after our offer had been accepted!)
Mac spent the morning of moving day at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. She came once the movers had left and we had all of our things in the house. So when she arrived, it was only right that we went on a tour of the house. We let Mac set the pace, but we showed her each room as we got to it.
“This is the kitchen, just like we had a kitchen in the old house. This one is bigger though.”
“Here is your bedroom where you are going to sleep. This is your bathroom where you will go potty.”
We explained what each room was and what we would do in that room so that Mac would know right off the bat what the house was like. We also explained that we would slowly be getting all of our belongings out of boxes so that our house would look more like a house soon.
After we gave Mac the tour, we let her decide what she wanted to do. We let her open cabinets and doors and drawers and look inside. We let her do what she wanted, within reason. It is important to let your toddler feel comfortable in their new house. If they want to climb up and down the stairs, let them. If they want to open and shut a closet door, let them. It isn’t harming anything and will help them feel comfortable.