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Wednesday, December 8, 2021
Home Family Parenting Advice Preparing the family for a move — Good Parenting

Preparing the family for a move — Good Parenting

Dear Dr. Debbie,

Our family is moving and I’m so excited about our new place! We have a large family, so the one more bathroom is just what we’ve been missing. It’s only across town, so my husband and I are getting friends to help while the kids (all but two) are in school. Their schools will probably have to change due to school boundaries, but I’ll work that out soon enough. (This move has been scheduled and rescheduled for months, so I didn’t want to do anything until it was certain.) We can get them to their current bus stops until Winter Break any way. Any tips to smooth out this whole process of moving?

My Turn in the Bathroom

Don’t miss last week’s column When a child wears mismatched shoes — Good Parenting

Dear My Turn,

Here are some areas for a family to consider before, during and after a move. Even a short hop away.


Plan your last meal and your first meal as you would a picnic. Your kitchen will be undergoing a process of disappearing into and reappearing out of boxes, but hungry children still need regular meals for so many reasons, both physical and psychological. Set aside a well-marked container with each of these “picnics” so the meal can happen as close to their normal routine as possible. Or plan a fast food meal for the same reasons. You can be “eating down” your perishables, but keep in mind that restocking the refrigerator will need to be done soon after moving in. A large cooler with ice comes in handy for transporting (well-sealed!) refrigerator contents.


The kids will need places to sleep for the last night as well as the first night. Think through whether one or both nights will be a camp out — with sleeping bags or just blankets on the floor. Adults need more padding than children for a good night’s sleep. Little ones seem to be able to sleep most anywhere. So the parents’ bed should be among items last to be packed up and first to be unpacked and re-made. This is one of those “please secure your own oxygen mask before helping others” situations for good parenting. Don’t be surprised if some or all of the kids end up in your bed anyway due to the excitement and uncertainty of what’s going on around them.


Have each child choose a special book or toy (nothing huge) that they will take with them from one home to the other. These could go into a common container or could be carried by each child as is convenient. That way, each child has something to occupy himself with as you and Dad continue the process of reshaping the family nest. A “lovey” can help a younger child cope with the chaos of seeing his home being boxed up before his very eyes, as well as the chaos that will be present for at least a couple of days as everything and everybody settles into the new home.


Out of season clothes get boxed up first with each child’s name clearly marked on the outside. You’ll have months before you have to unpack these. The last day’s outfits and the first day’s outfits need to follow the same protocol as food, beds and toys. Make sure you have spare outfits for the younger ones just as if you were taking them out for the day. With all you have to contend with, don’t fret about laundry beyond whatever system you have going. No one has to know if the hamper of dirty clothes gets loaded up just as it is (makes a nice storage container) and gets put into place at the new house to continue serving its function for the family without skipping a beat.


Supporting children’s friendships is an important ongoing job for parents. Friends are important for parents, too, as you point out. Friends save money on movers! When my daughter was 5 our impending move (a short hop as well) was announced to all her friends in her class, so the parent of one of her buddies asked if we’d like for her to spend moving day at their house — out of the way. They knew from experience how tough it is to manage a young child and a move at the same time. This was terrific help. Could your little ones be set up with playmates (and a caregiver) for at least part of the day? Your school-aged children need to have the phone numbers of friends among their classmates and neighbors. Time together is automatic when your buddy is just next door or at the next desk in the classroom. Parental help will be needed for old friends to spend out-of-school time together as your children gradually make new friendships. As the Girl Scout song puts it, new friends are silver, but old friends are gold.

New Routines

Besides that wonderful extra bathroom, you’ll be transitioning to other new ways of living your life in your new setting. Not only will making your own friends from the new neighborhood help you to feel comfortable, new friends can advise you as to your best local resources. Ask about playgrounds, grocery stores, the school bus stops and all the other things that they have found to be essential to family life there. Maybe there’s a community association with regular meetings, a newsletter, a community bulletin board, etc. Getting connected to the community will have you in the loop for that multi-family yard sale so you can unload the stuff you realize many months from now that you really don’t need any more. Your new neighbors can also become entrusted caregivers when you need them, whether formally arranged so you and Dad can have some couple time or informally so you feel that other eyes are on your children when they go out to play. Neighbors make all the difference in any neighborhood.


When all the paperwork on the new home has been safely signed, a call to the Pupil Personnel Worker (PPW) at a child’s current school is in order. Call the school office to get the name and phone number. This person will steer you through transferring student records and setting up an enrollment meeting at the new school. The sooner the better to avoid a gap in attendance or inconvenience in getting the children to school when it’s that much further away. Bus transportation will be arranged through the PPW as well. You can, however, keep a child enrolled in his current school if your move is anywhere within the entire Anne Arundel County Public Schools territory. Transportation, however, is only granted across school boundaries for children with special needs. But if you want any of the children to stay in the same school to finish out the school year, the PPW can help you with that, too, since you will have to make the change in the records for each child’s address anyway. Besides keeping friendships going, academic stability can be maintained. Furthermore, a student in middle school or high school may be enrolled in a special program which might not be offered at his new school.

Moving your household requires a thoughtful approach to meeting the needs of everyone in the family. Hopefully the long term benefits of your new home will outweigh these short-term challenges.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy@jecoannapolis.com

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