Friday, 8 November 2013

settling in: How to move house with children

Have you ever moved with young children?  Or when you were young?  Some people seem to just take it in their stride.  Some people travel the world with young children, and then there are those people who you ask if they've always lived somewhere and they say, 'oh no, my Granny lived in the next village along.'  How did you find it?

Today, in another post inspired by Fat Mum Slim's post on 50 things to blog about, I am talking about moving with a young family.  It's an interesting experience, the light at the end of which is settling in.  So how do you achieve that?

What am I basing this all on?  

Well, although I did move house as a child, I never moved home town, so I never had to start from scratch again.  My best friend when I was 12, however, did move town - from Yorkshire to Plymouth.  I remember someone telling me it wasn't the end of the world.  But it was.

Leaving snowy rainy town
Since we have started our family in 2005, we have had to move three times to follow my husband's work.  We didn't move every time his work moved, so we had long periods while he was away as well.  We went from Central Scotland to Suffolk, to the borders, and finally up to Ayrshire.

It has been really hard, but had lots of good points too, the main one of which has been our family staying together, the children getting to see their Daddy.  We are now planning on staying in Seaside Town, where we have Kenny in a long-term position nearby, and his parents so close they can help out, which is amazing for me.  With the economic climate as it is, I guess lots of people are in similar situations to ours.  So, how to manage it?

1. Get ready

We are lucky enough that Kenny has always had a permanent contract with his company, but he hasn't always had a permanent position.  When his time was coming to an end in one place we'd have rumours of where he might be going.  Whenever I heard a rumour I went on the internet to find out all I could about the area, I checked out RightMove, and looked on Google Streetview.  I looked at inspectors reports on schools, and on Netmums to see what there might be to do.

Only once it was confirmed that we would be moving (often without a lot of notice) did we tell the children, put the house on the market, or tell the landlord, and tell the school.  By this stage we had some idea of what our lives might look like in the new place, but it wasn't set in stone.

It is really hard for children to leave behind friends they love, with no knowledge of whether they'd see them again.  We have of course, made an effort for them to keep in touch, but it is really hard with some children.  My children needed to go through a sort of grief process before they were ready to make new friends.  More on that later.

2. Get set
The boy exploring our new park

For us, with the timeframe we had between Kenny's job, he generally had to go ahead of the children and I.  So I would arrange appointments for him to look at houses, and he would look at them.  When we moved to Suffolk it was too far for me to go to check the house, so we bought it without my actually seeing it.  Seaside town was only a couple of hours away from rainy town, so when we thought we'd found the house, we were all able to come and look at it.  That was fabulous.

Before moving we also take the children to visit the school they'll be going to, and hope to goodness they'll like it.  I also check out what clubs and groups they can go to, and what fun places we can go.  Parenting is going to be pretty full on for a while after moving.

Don't forget to buy the new school uniform.

3. Go

The new school uniform
The best time of year to move is just before the end of the summer holidays.  It is not pleasant to have a new school looming over you for too long.  When we moved to Rainy Town we had two horrible weeks of not knowing anyone before the children had to start school.  When we moved to Seaside Town the children finished their old school on the Friday and were driven over to their Granny and Grandbob's for a visit, while we attempted to get the house in some vague sort of order, or at least have beds built, and school uniform ready for starting the new school on Monday.  Job done.  Kenny's parents have helped out with all of our moves, for which I am hugely grateful.

4. Entertain the troops
After weeks without TV, the little girl was
content with anything

I don't know anyone of late who has managed to move without a break in TV, internet, and telephone services.  This is a pain in the nethers, but it's also horrible for children who have lost their friendship networks and are going through massive stress, and could really just do with an hour of Moshi Monsters, thank you.  Do ensure you can find things that don't need TV or internet for the first few weeks, like games consoles, and DVDs, and try to get them out and about to see what's good about their new home.  My children are hopeless on the 'phone, so as soon as we could we Skyped their friends, and just sent photo's back and forth.

5. Cut yourself some slack

I was desperate for my children to be happy when we moved, but let's face it.  Even if change is a good thing, it's really hard to do.  We had to accept that people were sad to leave things they loved behind.  This time it hit my oldest daughter the hardest, last time it was my son.  And it hit me too.  I always find myself wondering why on earth I'm not in Yorkshire.  Making friends takes time, and requires putting yourself out there, which I am sometimes reluctant to do.

6. Encouraging friendships

Like I say, you need to get yourself out there.  You have to speak to people at the school gates, even if they don't speak back.  I made a deal with my children, that we would each find out the answer to a set number of questions each day.  For example, the boy was to find out if three other people in his class liked Skylanders.  I had to offer to sing a song at toddler group.  It's really hard to do, but it's mini-challenges, and you do them together, and before you know it you're talking to people.  To help the children I invited people over for playdates.  The best bet for people to make friends with are of course people with a friendship vacancy.  Another newbie is ideal because you can all make friends quite quickly (and I thank goodness for the lovely new family that moved here over summer), but there is always someone who needs a new friend.  

7. It will come together

It will of course take a while before you build friendships that last, but it will come together.  You will find out the pub that people like you go.  You will find children who make your children laugh, and who bring them joy.  Some places are more welcoming than others, and the process may be fast, or slow, but it will come together (unless you move to Bedford.  Don't move to Bedford).

What have I forgotten?  What helped you when you moved with children?  Or did you find it a walk in the park?

The full list of posts inspired by Fat Mum Slim's 50 things to blog about can be found here.  You might also like to check out my previous blog - Looks Like We're Moving.  It's all about moving house.  You might also like: