Over the river and through the woods, or moving cross-country with kids

(Editor’s Note: Martin Zepeda is a Long Distance Fleet Planner in JK’s Residential Moving Division.  Today, he shares his experience from when he moved his young family cross-country.)

Our youngest son – two at the time – woke up on moving day to the sound of a tractor trailer in front of our house. He ran downstairs in his jammies holding his favorite stuffed animal by the foot. Our two older kids finished their breakfast, not quite as enthusiastic. The driver and his crew rang the doorbell; moving day had finally arrived.

A cross-country move can be stressful, so explaining to your children what will take place is important.  Also, keeping children actively involved in the moving process helps them cope with leaving their home and friends behind.

In the months leading up to my family’s cross-country trek, we explained to our three children that I had accepted a new job in a new town. They would be leaving our home in Utah to move to a new world 2,500 miles away in Virginia.

Our children – nine, six and two when we moved – were very curious about what was going to happen during this journey.  Below are a few things that my wife and I did to help make the move a little easier on our family.

1. Give them a sense of place.

My wife took a U.S. map and placed one red dot on Layton, Utah (where we lived at the time), a second one on Stafford, Virginia (where we were moving), and drew a line along our travel route.  The concept of distance is hard for kids to grasp, but we reviewed the map each time we stopped to show them where we were in relation to the “old house” and the “new house.”

2. Involve them in planning the trip.

We asked our children to make a list of things they want to travel with, keeping in mind that we would have limited space in the car.  We helped our youngest with this task, which was easy since all he wanted was his “Puffy Bunny.”  Once the list was made, we posted it on their bedroom doors so they could keep track of the items for the trip.

A few days before the move, they separated out their “car items” to ensure they wouldn’t get packed by the movers.  These items were placed in a safe haven, and the kids were in charge of checking each item off the list.

3. Keep them entertained on the car trip.

We also asked the kids to make a list of snacks to take on the trip.  Low-sugar was our main objective, but of course, they wanted only sweets! We settled on carrot sticks, sugar-free gum and juice boxes.  Since our kids were young at the time (this was in the days before “Angry Birds” on your mobile phone or in-car DVD players), we played games along the way and listened to kids’ music CDs.  Of course, we stopped for many bathroom breaks, checking the map and tracing our progress along the way.  In just five short days filled with excitement and anticipation, we arrived in our new home in Virginia.

4. Make them part of decorating committee.

Before the movers arrived to unload our belongings, we took the kids to the new house and had them draw diagrams of their rooms with the furniture arranged as they wished and taped these to the doors, so the movers would know where to place everything.

When our truck arrived, we brought the kids to meet the team unloading our goods.  My wife and kids returned at day’s end to find everything inside, and our children went to work, unpacking their toys so it would feel like home to them.

Our moving experience was pleasant, and even though the drive took longer than we would have liked, it was a memorable experience for our family.  As I mentioned, moving across the country was stressful, but by keeping our children involved in the process, we were able to help them feel excited about the new adventure instead of anxious about all the changes.  Our children loved their new house, made many friends, and adjusted well.

My kids are now grown; one has left the nest to start a home of his own with his wife.  Our other two still live with us, but sometimes they talk about moving out. I suspect that with their next move, they will not choose carrots as a snack, and Joe Scruggs’ music will be replaced with Incubus.

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