Moving With a Family, Even if Your Pets are Your Kids

You’ve settled on the perfect new home. Now, you just have to move there. Moving is a drag—there’s really no way around it. There’s the packing, the loading, the unloading, the cleaning, the logistics. And if you’re moving with kids or pets, it can add even more complexities. Keep reading for insight on how to make the process as seamless as possible for kids and pets. 

Moving With Kids

Moving with kids may seem daunting, but there are ways to make it a seamless move / Shutterstock

Infants or Toddlers

Planning a seamless move with kids will depend largely on their age. If your children are babies or toddlers, you won’t have to prepare them as much for the emotional side of the move. This one comes down to logistics: If they’re used to staying with an alternate caregiver, plan to have that person available on move day. If you’re a stay-at-home parent, you may consider some “practice” babysitting sessions so your child acclimates to being in someone else’s care. Coordinate with that same person to take the reins on moving day. Chances are, you’ll have enough to carry without a baby attached to your hip.

Young Children

If your children are school age, you should plan to include both emotional and logistical prep work into your moving plan. Take time to help them understand what a move really means—you can even enlist the help of several age-appropriate books (like “My Very Exciting, Sorta Scary, Big Move,” “Ira Says Goodbye,” or “The Moving Book: A Kids’ Survival Guide”), some of which include special activities to help children plan for the big day.

If your parenting style allows for it, consider taking steps to make the move feel like an adventure rather than a burden. That might mean a fun sleepover in the new house before you move in or taking them to all the best playgrounds or parks in their new neighborhood. If you’re planning a long-distance move and your child is old enough, you can help them take a virtual tour on the computer or bring them along for an exploratory visit. A long-distance move might require some additional emotional planning, too. Consider hosting a party for your child to say goodbye to his or her friends, or help them make a memory book to write down all the things they love about their old house and town.

Making A House Into A Home

You can also help ease the emotional toll by making a point to keep routines in place as best you can. Do you always make breakfast for your kids on Monday mornings to get the week started right? It’d be better to stick to that. Once you move, unpack at a pace that doesn’t create chaos, but try to make the new space feel like home as quickly as you can: Even a few family photos and cozy extras like blankets and pillows can go a long way for kids. From the logistical side of things, you’ll want to not only label your kids’ stuff clearly but also plan to keep a couple separate bags for your kids’ favorite toys and books as well as extra clothes.

Timing Your Move

If you have any control over when you move, opt for a calmer time in your child’s life: For example, probably not around the holidays or when they’re starting school.

For children who aren’t old enough for school, you may want to try to avoid moving during disruptive milestones like teething and potty training. And if your kids are old enough to safely help you pack, feel free to let them. They’ll feel a sense of ownership, and you’ll be left with a bit less on your to-do list. Last thing—don’t forget to baby-proof and kid-proof your new space. Formerly empty homes are especially prone to decidedly not kid-friendly items like left-behind cleaning supplies, painting supplies, or tools; loose nails; sharp corners; or open electrical sockets.

Tips and Resources

Fortunately, there are a lot of online resources to help you, including these useful tips from The Washington Post, a guide from Better Homes & Gardens, a health-focused approach from Nemours, and a straight-from-the-horse’s mouth list from a mom who’s done it six times. You may also want to talk to your child’s pediatrician, care providers, and teachers about how to make the move as harmonious as possible.

Moving With Pets

Moving with pets isn't as hard as it seems if you know what you're doing / Shutterstock

Your pets are part of your family, and there’s no such thing as being too careful with their emotional and physical wellbeing during a stressful move. Unlike children, there’s simply no way to explain to your pet what’s going on, which can take a toll as much on a loving owner as it can on a pet. Fortunately, both the ASPCA and The New York Times have excellent tips when it comes to moving the most common types of pets—cats and dogs. If you have a more exotic pet, you may want to consult your veterinarian. 

For Cats and Dogs

One of the best things you can do is help your pet get used to being in his or her crate. Associate the crate with positive experiences like treats and plenty of belly rubs and head scratches. If your dog is already crate-trained, you’re way ahead of the game. Cats, who are less likely to be crate-trained, will especially benefit from some extra time getting used to their carrier. Even simply having it out for them to rub up against can be beneficial—cats have facial pheromones they use to mark items as familiar. Pro tip: You can fake it by placing a sock over your hand, gently rubbing your cat’s face with the sock, and then rubbing the sock on the crate.

Long-Distance Moves

For long distance moves that require flights, you’ll need to take extra care to make sure all the necessary paperwork is in place and get the all-clear from your veterinarian that your pet can make the journey safely. Vets can also prescribe anti-anxiety medicine to help facilitate a more peaceful move for all parties involved. If you’re moving internationally, set aside plenty of time to research that country’s policies and required documentation.

Keeping Everyone Comfotable

Remember, your pets pick up on your own vibe, so do your best to keep calm throughout the process. There are also some Zen products that can help: The Thundershirt for dogs, Feliway for cats, and this remarkably effective calming spray suitable for both cats and dogs alike.

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