Moving with a Toddler: 4 Tips for a Smooth Transition


moving with a toddler

I stepped on my last toy at 3 a.m. in the narrow, narrow hallway of our narrow, narrow apartment. It was time. My family and I took the plunge and traded our right-in-the-center-of-it all apartment for a quieter block, in a quieter area, for more space and most importantly, parking.  

As everyone knows the housing market in the Bay Area is nuts, and our three-week close felt like, well three weeks.  Between the documents, the packing, the purging and finding a new nanny share, we couldn’t believe how much had to get done.  However, as soon I pulled out the first few packing boxes, I started noticing some changes in my 14-month old daughter. After her initial excitement of climbing in and out of the boxes, she appeared to know that something big was happening. She became clingier when we left for work in the morning and she began waking up multiple times a night. Ten days before the move, my daughter’s stress was evident.

From a psychological standpoint, this makes complete sense. My daughter had only lived in one place and she received so much safety and security from all the contents in our home.  We could go somewhere new but once we came home she would be back in a familiar place. Seeing the boxes around and slowly seeing house staples disappear created a lot of distress for her.

And so, we had to assess, how do we move successfully while trying to balance the emotional needs of a toddler?

Talk about your new home.  

Once the closing process was underway, I started talking about our new house.  I talked about my daughter’s new room, what would be there and how my room would be next door.  I tried to mention the house every day. I only had one picture of the house on my phone and so I showed her that picture often.

Visit your new place before the move.

So this was not something I thought we had time to do at all.  Between closing and the actual move, we had six weekend days and two of them were at my in-laws (we clearly timed this well). However, when my daughter stopped sleeping through the night, we found the time.  One Sunday afternoon, we drove to the house. We talked about it the whole drive there. We brought her to her room and brought one of her favorite stuffed animals and a brand new toy. We played with the toys in the room and then left them there.  That way, when we went back on moving day, there was something familiar waiting for her.

Keep reminding your child.

On the day we went to the house, I have never taken so many pictures on my iPhone – not even the day she was born. We took pictures of her in every room, walking around, playing with toys, sitting in my lap.  Every day from that day until the move, we showed her the pictures. We talked about how much fun it was going to be to play there and how her grandparents would be there for the first few days (Thank you, Gaga and Papa!)

Be gentle with yourself and your toddler after the move.  

Even though we packed my daughter’s toys up last and had her room set up first, it was a tough transition.  A new room, a new caregiver, a new place to play was a lot to ask of a 14-month old! We had multiple wake-ups a night for two weeks. Often, when she was left alone in her room at bedtime, she would throw-up everywhere. We were tired, she was exhausted. It was rough.

As they say with children, “this too shall pass” and it did.  My daughter’s room no longer constantly smells of vomit and somehow, even with more space, I am still always tripping on blocks. In the last three months, we even managed to unpack a few cartons. As hard as it was to step out of the get-it-done mindset before (and after!) the move, helping my daughter through the transition was the best way to help us all get settled into our new space.



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