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How to Survive a Move with Little Kids

A girlfriend of mine moved houses when she was eight months pregnant. I thought she was nuts to undertake such a physical project while swollen and exhausted, but now I understand the rush, because the only thing harder than relocating during your third trimester is moving with small children.

I just moved my four-year-old and fast crawling eight-month-old baby from a long-term rental into our first home and, boy, did I get my ass kicked. For weeks, I felt crazed, because with packing and parenting competing for my attention, I wasn't doing either very well. But you can learn from my mistakes, as well as the few things I actually did right. Here my top tips for a low stress move with little ones:

1. Pack Like You're Going on a Trip - Gather everything you'd need for a weeklong vacation and stick it in a suitcase that goes in your car, not on the moving truck. That way, you'll have a laundry cycle's worth of clothes plus toiletries, medicines, gadgets and their chargers, and your kids' favorite books, toys and lovies at the ready without having to search through boxes. Make sure to include any baby feeding supplies (bottles, bibs, infant spoons, etc.) I forgot to put sippy cups in my suitcase and even after unpacking six kitchen cartons, they were nowhere to be found. I'm assuming they'll turn up around the time my kids start drinking from wine glasses.

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2. Babyproof First - If you're making a local move and/or have access to your new home before move-in day, there's a lot you can do to prep the environment so that it's safe and comfortable for kids. Before we even moved in, we covered the outlets, put safety locks on the cabinets and installed baby gates. When you're trying to set up house and mother at the same time, it's reassuring to know your toddler can't run away from home while you're looking the wrong way.

3. Honor Mixed Feelings - My four-year-old, though initially excited about her new home, turned sullen when our moving date approached. "I'm going to miss our old house," she moped. I could have responded, "Don't be silly, the new house is so much bigger!" But she didn't need me listing its amenities like a realtor—she needed me to acknowledge her real feelings of loss and displacement. We talked openly about the things we would both miss, like the flowering tree decal permanently adhered to her old bedroom wall. Taking some commemorative photos and videos helped.

Whether it's a babysitter, grandma, good friend or all three, enlist every bit of help you can muster to keep the kids occupied.

4. Let Them "Pack" – Our preschooler was also really worried about special trinkets not making it to the new house. Her teacher suggested giving her a special moving box that she could decorate and fill with favorite things. Letting kids participate at an age-appropriate level gives them a feeling of control—not to mention, keeping them busy for a while!

5. Enlist Their Design Expertise – Depending on how old your kids are, you can offer them some choices when it comes to the design and layout of their new rooms. I let my little girl choose her wall color, knowing full well she'd opt for Pepto pink, but so what? She loves it and it's been very easy to find matching pillows and artwork.

6. Get Help - Whether it's a babysitter, grandma, good friend or all three, enlist every bit of help you can muster to keep the kids occupied. On our moving day, my mother–in-law took my older daughter to her house for a day of fun and games (and Lord knows how many snacks.) By the time they got back, I already had her bedroom unpacked, so she had an oasis in the madness. If it's in your budget, pay for other kinds of help too. Movers who pack and unpack you, professional organizers and handymen can all help free you up to pay attention to needy little ones. There is no shame in throwing a little money at the problem.

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7. Don't Cook - Eat out, order in, or bring ready-made food from the market with some paper plates. It's stressful trying to get your new kitchen up and running in time to feed hungry mouths, so don't even try. You can be Martha Stewart tomorrow.

8. Save Some Boxes – Don't be in too big a rush to break down all your cardboard boxes, because they are magic to kids. Repurpose for peek-a-boo, play houses, rocket ships, 3-D coloring projects or whatever will keep your kids busy while you rearrange the furniture.

9. Treat Yo' Self - Moving with kids is stressful. I had no idea how stressful. So, that first night in the new house, resist the urge to unpack all night. Get the kids to bed, open a bottle of wine, collapse on the couch (or floor) with your partner and congratulate yourselves on getting through the day.

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