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Moving is hard on everybody, but most especially young children. To toddlers, moving is akin to having their entire world taken apart, which literally is what's happening. First, make sure your child knows that everyone is moving, so she doesn't feel as if she'll be going on her own or will be left behind.
Before the movers come, if it's possible, visit the new house a few times so she can get used to both her new space and the idea of switching from one place to another. She may react in two ways: She could become excited about her new digs, or she'll get upset that nothing looks familiar to her. Then, take pictures of every room in her old house. Is there a particular nook that she enjoys hiding in? Have you been marking her height against a wall? Document all of it for posterity, and collect the photos in an album that she can flip through whenever she wants. If you're moving to an entirely different neighborhood (or state), you may even want to snap pictures of the grocer at the corner or the florist down the street. If your toddler is used to seeing them on her way to the park or daycare, she'll miss them.
When it comes time to start packing, ask your toddler to help you pack up her room. This will reassure her that all her toys and treasures are coming with her, and she'll also be more comfortable knowing where her things are. Label her boxes clearly and put them with the things that you plan to unpack first. If you are going to arrive at your new house before your furnishings and other things arrive, you may want to pack a particular box separately with your toddler's most important things and take that with you in your car. Assure her that nothing will get lost in transit.
On your last day at the old house, accompany your toddler on a tour of every room so she can say good-bye. While this exercise may seem silly and time-consuming to you, it means a lot to a toddler who wants and needs a smoother transition. And who knows? These good-byes may help you find closure, too, especially if the place you're leaving behind has been home to you and your family for a long time.
Your child needs consistency to feel secure, so once you're at the new house, set up her room first — no matter how chaotic the rest of the house is or how much you're dying to unpack the silverware. Make sure she has access to all the things she loves and uses all the time — such as her art supplies or favorite books. If you do this, then she has a sanctuary to go to when she feels overwhelmed by all the unpacked boxes in the rest of the house. Unpack the kitchen next, so she knows she can get food or juice from the fridge or ask for something to eat whenever she wants. Kids are pretty simple — they want shelter and sustenance. They also want their parents to soothe them through this unsettling period, so in the first few weeks after moving, try to be more available to her. If you work, take some time off or get up a little earlier in the morning so you can give her the extra attention she needs right now. You may also want to put off any vacation plans, at least until she's settled in. Any more changes right now — even small ones such as a family trip — could make her feel even more lost or discombobulated than she's already feeling.