Moving With A Toddler {Part 1} :: Prior Preparation

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Moving With a Toddler :: Prior Preparation

My husband often repeats a saying he refers to as “The 5 Ps” which states, “Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.” Being the Type-A personality that I am, I have adopted this saying as well, although in reality I have unknowingly lived it most of my life! However, before I proceed further, let me state: we have never moved with a toddler (specifically a four-year-old boy), which is why I have chosen to break this piece into two parts based upon the aforementioned “5 Ps” — the hypothesis being, our initial Prior Preparation for the move, will lead to a successful move from old home to new home, thusly Preventing Poor Performance {read: catastrophic failure and meltdowns galore, post-move.} If there was ever an undertaking requiring this mindset, moving a slightly emotionally unstable, tiny dictator from the only home he’s ever known, into a brand new space . . . THIS is it, folks!

Moving With A Toddler :: Prior Preparation

First things first: Talk about moving.

We have been living in our current home since 2009! Not only is it bursting with memories, after over a decade it’s bursting with stuff too. Making a move is necessary for us and as we began to realize it needed to happen sooner than later, we immediately included our son in the discussion. Because we are dealing with a four year old, we are sensitive to the fact this is the only home he’s ever known. While he has been on vacations and visited friends and family members in their homes, the concept of permanently moving from his safe space was initially confusing for him. Gently explaining the process, over time and on his level, really was a solid kickstart to the moving process.

Participate in the process: Allow your child to visit some houses with you.

Once the concept of finding a new house took hold in our son’s mind, he really jumped on the bandwagon. As we would drive around, he would point out the car window saying, “Mommy and Daddy I found our new house!” Looking at real estate with a toddler is not easy. My recommendation of letting your child go with you is directed toward the period when you narrow down choices or revisit properties. Have your child participate in that aspect of “house hunting.” Not only do you get their opinion, having your kid physically in the home can help you see how they move around the space and if there are any major concerns (stairs, yard, layout, etc.) that might sway one property over another. Taking them every single time could prove overwhelming.

Reinforce feelings: Read books about moving.

Reading books about moving is an easy way to continue the conversation as well as allowing your child to see that it’s okay to be nervous and ask questions in a safe space. There are LOTS of books on this topic, but we stuck with three centering on characters he’s familiar with: The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day, Little Critter: We Are Moving, and Moving to the Neighborhood (Daniel Tiger). Having a familiar friend explain the moving process full circle, really reinforces the idea that not only is it okay to move, it’s fun and exciting too! Check with your local retailer for more ideas tailored to your child. 

Moving With A Toddler :: Prior Preparation is key

Once moving is a reality: Let them help pack and plan their room in the new home.

How this last part looks will vary depending on your specific situation, but I will explain how it’s worked for us. We were fortunate to be able to take our time during this process, first purchasing our new home, then moving items from our old home to the new home in order to stage it for sale. This allowed our son to participate on several levels:

  1. He helped sort and decide what toys we could go ahead and move to the new home and what he wanted to stay until the final move. This has increased his feeling of control over both his old and new environment.
  2. We are having work done on the new house prior to move in. He has been coming back and forth to see the progress for several weeks now. He knows where his new room will be, and luckily, in relation to the floorplan of our old home, it is almost identical to where his room is currently – right across the hall from us. His room will also have roughly the same layout as well.
  3. In terms of staging, we stripped down most of the house with the exception of our son’s room. We decided removing too many things would stress him more than the aesthetic was worth. Our realtor is a mom of twin boys and agreed that his room mostly being left alone (but very tidy) for showing wouldn’t be a detriment.

Moving is such a fluid process, and as first time “toddler movers” we are hoping our instincts are correct. Time will tell, so stay tuned for Part 2 once we are settled!

Do you have experience moving with a toddler? What worked and didn’t work for you? Please share your anecdotes in the comments!

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Laura Prewitt, 39, is a proud native of Birmingham, having lived here all life with the exception of college at Florida State University in Tallahassee, and a semester abroad in Spain. After graduating in 2004, she moved back to attend UAB, receiving a Masters in Communication Management. Laura has worked in fields ranging from service industry and event planning, to waste management and business development/marketing for a local startup company specializing in custom software development. She is currently a full time SAHM but does take on the occasional freelance marketing project, and is excited for the opportunity to write and share with other parents. Laura has been married to Michael, a senior financial advisor for Merrill Lynch, since 2012 and they have one son, Tristan (4). In her *limited* spare time Laura loves cooking (also eating!), watching sports (mostly football), travelling, reading, going to concerts and experiencing all the fun things Birmingham has to offer!