So, in my last post I promised I wouldn’t go all Martha Stewart on you all now that I am preparing to move into my dream home.
But, I do feel the urge to share some tips that I have found through very bitter experience during previous moves. It can be very tricky balancing the stress of moving house while also trying to prepare your special needs kids and deal with their own anxiety issues as well.
This move is number 4 for Gilbert and Matilda, not a bad number for any 9 and 7 year old (I never moved house until I was 17 so they are definitely beating my tally so far!) During the 3 previous moves I have learned different things each time that I am hoping will help us better prepare them for the move ahead.
To put things in context, it took both kids nearly 6 months to get over the last move. Seriously, it took them that long to stop crying over our old house and to start calling this one home. I expect that it will take that long again for them to come to terms with the upcoming move as well.
So here are my top 5 tips for moving house with special needs kids (tips that will actually help any child, not just those with special needs):
1. Expect that it will be bad and plan accordingly
There is no way to move house without stress and strain. No way at all. So accept that it will take time for everyone to adjust, especially for your child with special needs. You know how hard it will be for yourself as an adult to adjust to sleeping in a new room and finding your way about a new house. Don’t underestimate just how hard it will be for a child who struggles with any sort of minor change on a daily basis.
Adjusting your expectations, to accept that the move will not be easy, will help in maintaining your own patience. This will be crucial in giving you the strength to cope with those moments when your child will be overwhelmed with the change and demand to go back home.
2. Prepare, prepare, prepare
Depending on your child, preparing them for the move will either help them better come to terms with change or stress them out even more. But it’s important to talk to them early and often about what’s going to happen, what’s going to change and what’s going to stay the same. Marita has put together a really useful moving house countdown calendar which is a great tool to help kids understand just when the move will occur.
Right now we are
negotiating telling the kids what furniture will be coming into their new rooms. They don’t want to talk about it but they need to understand that things will not be completely the same in their new rooms. It can be a tricky balancing act but preparation does help your child more quickly gain a measure of calm and that crucial control over their lives once the move has occurred.
3. Familiarise them with the new house
As hard as it can be (oh, I have stories about our recent house-hunting experience with the kids in tow *shudder*), it is important to familiarise your special needs child with their new home, prior to the move. Allowing them time to acclimatise to their new surroundings and take in the new smells, sounds and sights of the home before they start living there can really help in their long-term acceptance of the move.
The one and only time that Gilbert saw our new house was a day where he was already in full-meltdown at the thought of looking at houses at all. This state of stress was exacerbated by the presence of a large dog which scared him witless. He lost it and I had to take him for a walk away from the house to calm down. We are waiting for the old owners to move so we can take him there again without the stress of a dog in the backyard.
However, on the bright side, on that walk he discovered a set of stairs leading to a walking track at the side of the house so he is interested in discovering just where the walking path goes and how many steps it will take to get down them. We are seeing that little familiarisation exercise as a positive, even if the rest of the visit was not as successful.
4. Do as much as you can in advance
This goes hand in hand with being prepared, but it pays to be well ahead in your planning so you can concentrate on guiding your child through the change. Even though our move is still a few weeks away we are already packing and making arrangements with removalists and tradesman and utilities to have things in place for the day.
You really want to lessen your own stress on the day – being well prepared and having things arranged well in advance will definitely help this. In turn it will help lessen the anxiety of your kids too by allowing you to concentrate a little more on their needs on the day as well.
5. Make sure their precious items are on hand on the day and they they are properly supported
This goes for all kids, but it pays to pack their special things separately so they have them on hand during the actual move. There’s nothing worse than not being able to find the “swingy things” when they are required, believe me! Having a dedicated box just for them also helps them see that their items are safe and will be coming with them to the new house.
It also pays to have someone on hand to be there just for them. This became an issue during out last move as we were so busy trying to get things organised that we couldn’t spend the time we needed to help them cope with the change. I am really hoping we can better organise ourselves this time around so we can give them all the support and attention they need.
What tips would you add to the list? I would love to hear your suggestions to make moving house with kids as stress-free as possible!