Moving With Kids: Reducing Stress Amidst Chaos

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Moving With Kids Reducing Stress Amidst Chaos

This last year, our family moved twice. First across state lines into a rental home and then thankfully into our home, which was a local move. Moving to a new state with three kids — one being a young toddler — and a rambunctious poodle, led to lots of reflection about moving from both an emotional and practical perspective. 

In the midst of moving (or any kind of home renovation), sometimes the chaos feels like too much. The connection between our inner and outer worlds is so linked that it’s hard not to absorb the clutter and chaos around us. By being cognizant of this however, we can take steps to care for ourselves in the midst of the transition; this, in turn, helps us to continue caring for our children as well as others in our lives.

Some of us are naturally better with chaos. Some of you may naturally be more flexible, go with the flow, able to adapt, and able to switch gears easily. You may be more able to live in a messy house without it completely affecting you. Yet others of you may lean more towards wanting order and are much more comfortable with plans, checked boxes, and all going according to schedule. 

Wherever you naturally fall, moving is an opportunity to expand your bandwidth especially if you are less comfortable with chaos. Even when moving for the best of reasons, it’s stressful. There’s really no way around it. You are going through a major life change simply to change houses, much less all the other changes that go alongside moving to a new community which may mean new jobs, saying good-bye, meeting new people, making friends, missing your other friends, learning your way around, etc. While it can be exciting, it also can feel so overwhelming and disorienting and sometimes grief-filled.

The reality is that moving and/or any kind of home renovation embodies traveling through chaos before you reach a more ordered, settled other side. That being said, the process of moving can be so challenging both physically and emotionally.

Some tips for moving:

  • Start early. If you are packing yourself, start way before you have to be out of your home if you can. In doing this, you give yourself margin which can translate to actual breathing room.
  • Start small. Literally every box is a victory. By focusing on the smallest, most attainable of steps, you will gain momentum. Bring your attention to what you are getting done instead of all that’s left to do. Celebrate and name your progress.
  • Contain the chaos. If your house allows for any extra space, consider setting up a kind of moving station. This may be especially beneficial if there is a door you can shut, so that you can choose to enter into the chaos and then literally shut the door to take breaks.
  • Choose “good enough” shortcuts. One thing that is difficult in the midst of a move is that daily life responsibilities keep coming, so whether it’s eating on paper plates or choosing easier meals while packing and moving, shortcuts are your friend. Anything that reduces time spent on dishes and laundry can be super helpful.
  • Budget. Moving is so expensive. Being mindful of a budget helps reduce extra financial stress. This may mean slowing down and having needed conversations with your partner and/or time to really plan a move financially.
  • Keep your daily rhythms. While so much is changing around you and your family, hold onto daily rhythms that ground you. If your family loves to take a walk after dinner, keep doing that if possible. These daily rhythms provide continuity and are calming in the midst of transitions. Read more about daily rhythms here.
  • One step at a time. When overwhelmed, remember that you can only attend to one task at a time. Give yourself permission to focus on one priority at a time and ignore the rest temporarily.
  • Ask for help. It can be hard to ask for help, but sometimes we really need extra hands, especially in the midst of a move. Remember that no one really knows what you need unless you ask for it.
  • Involve your kids. Even the smallest of children can help pack a box of toys or books, or perhaps make some choices about some toys or books to share with someone else leading to one or more less things to pack! 
  • Consider your kids. What’s important to them? What do they value taking with them? What helps them link their previous home and community to their new home? How can you give them a voice in the process? Can you take them on a scouting trip, so they can start to connect positive associations with your new place?
  • Validate the both/and. Moving is all about mixed emotions. Kind of like in experiencing grief, people do not move through grief exactly the same. Each family member may be experiencing a move with different emotions and a different range of feelings at different times. One person may be so excited and another very much grieving what is being left behind. You may see these differences in your kids, and you give a gift simply when you empathize with their experience.
  • Remember to care for yourself. In doing so, you are more likely to be rooted and grounded as you seek to care for your children.

Despite the stress of moving, I am so grateful to have moved with our crew to the Chattanooga area. We are loving the natural beauty inherent to this area, and we are compelled to explore all that Chattanooga and the surrounding areas have to offer any chance we get.

What about you? If you have made a move to a new community with kids, what was your experience like? What suggestions do you have for fellow moms moving with their children?

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