My moving motto has always been, “Home is where my honey is.” Although, as a military spouse I have moved more times without him, so I guess the motto should be, “Home is where they send my honey.” We have been sent a lot of places, so in a dozen moves I have found some ways to make it more enjoyable.
Moving with kids can be challenging and fun
I remember one move when I heard an unfamiliar doorbell and realized it was mine. I didn’t even recognize my front doorbell and I definitely didn’t know anyone that would be on the other side, but since I was eager to meet someone I raced to the door. My new neighbor was there with her two little kids. Just as I opened the door, we heard laughter and loud popping sounds coming from down the hall. The kids were quick to want to join in when they heard giggling, so we rushed to the bedroom and found my kids covered in the packing paper–which went all the way to the ceiling–with bubble wrap under foot. I didn’t have to make much of an introduction because it looked so fun the other kids just jumped in. They made new friends and I had time for a cup of tea with the neighbor. This simple fun is what I have found works best in a move.
The idea is to use what we have, do things that are out of the ordinary, and laugh along the way. It was easy to let them jump and play because the rooms were empty so there wasn’t anything to break. Plus, the supplies were free!
Military families know it’s hard to move, but there are ways to enjoy the journey. For me, that means dividing it into three “Action Plans” of before, during and after.
Before the move:
Host a going-away party to help kids say goodbye. Have a note jar for kids to leave special messages. You can create a group art project your child can hang in their new room: fingerprint art animals with each friend’s prints is special, and splash art makes a unique piece that can be enjoyed at any age. Have friends decorate boxes that will be used to pack the kids’ rooms. Kids will love them at the new house and make it easy to find their stuff.
For those moving during pandemic shut downs, try a virtual Farewell Party where friends draw pictures to tape on to the kids’ moving boxes. Your kids might like to deliver treat boxes (with cookies, frosting and sprinkles) so everyone can decorate pictures and cookies together.
Get your children involved in the packing and the move. Make some cardboard boxes into a personal treasure chest that travels with them, holding their favorite books, stuffed animals, and toys. This will help reassure them that their favorite things won’t get lost on the moving truck, and will be available right away at the new house. Even if military movers do all the packing, let kids decorate and label the boxes from their room so they can be easily identified when coming off the moving truck.
During the move:
I have found doing things that are not our usual helps kids during the move. They get food they normally don’t, stay up later, and get money for a treasure to take to the new home. These simple activities and special treats have made a big difference for us.
If kids are old enough, let them help prepare for the road trip. Each kid should get their own bag to pack and choose what goes inside. This will be their go-to entertainment during the car ride. Consider adding small toys, stuffed animals, a travel pillow, books, and maybe a wrapped gift from the dollar store that they can unwrap when you get to a new state!
In the car, plan car games like bingo, Alphabet search, I Spy, and give prizes! Have a box ready with treats, dollars, small toys or coupons for fast food in the new town. Anything new is exciting to a child, even when it’s s simple gift like stickers or a Hot Wheels car. Prizes encourage even reluctant movers to participate, and make the trip more interesting.
Kids don’t let go quickly of their friends just because we’ve moved. Try to make the transition easier on them. Schedule face time or video chats along the trip to connect them with old friends. Let them show their old friends their new house and talk about how they will set up their room. You can also plan ahead to pre-address and stamp postcards the kids can send at stops along the way. Don’t wait to mail them, because we all know how crazy unpacking is– they’ll get lost.
After the move:
As your family settles into your new place, focus on making the most of this crazy transition time. Try to do new, fun activities together so the kids will remember the fun instead of the stress. Moving is a chance to create new shared memories as a family!
Set up the kids’ bedrooms first. This is their “base” during the move, and children often find comfort getting things set up and unpacked right away. Since the kids’ colorful boxes are easy to find, get them involved in unpacking and let them decide where things go. Some children may want their room to look exactly the way it did in the previous house. Older children may be excited to do something different to decorate their new space.
Find creative and fun ways to use moving supplies. My kids figured this out when their room was full of packing paper and bubble wrap! We also love box sledding down the stairs or skating down the hallways. Let the kids tape together boxes and be creative as they construct a fort or a rocket ship. They will have fun and you can unpack. To celebrate the end of unpacking, consider a drive in movie night: let each child decorate their own box/car to hold treats and pillows. Then have everyone watch a movie in the “car.”
Introduce yourself to the neighbors. Yes, you have to take the first step here! Take treats to neighbors instead of waiting for them to drop by. I love tea so I take a mug and tea with an invite to tea. I let the kids take their favorite candy or a special treat from our old hometown so they can share a little about where they came from.
Give everyone something to look forward to. No matter how old or young your kids are, they will be eager to discover new things in the local area. Do a little research and schedule a daytrip to somewhere exciting nearby. Get the kids involved in creating a bucket list of places to visit in your new town. You don’t have to do them all at once, but it will create lots of positive excitement as the kids realize how many new opportunities are waiting for them here.
Moving is an adjustment, and it isn’t always easy for military kids. Embracing the new and keeping parts of the old makes military life a little sweeter.
Chantel Mathson serves as the Moms in Prayer International Ministry Development Coordinator and was the military families liaison. Chantel is an international speaker, best selling author, coach, college professor, military spouse mentor, community builder and tea enthusiast. Her international ministry, Tea With Chantel, helps women live with purpose, create connection, and build community centered on Christ. As a military wife, Chantel has moved a dozen times and has a heart for helping military wives connect, create community and have hope through their journey. She shares her heart and home with her husband, three kids and two dogs. You can find her at: teawithchantel.com