Picture it: moving day. The day you’ve been working towards since you decided to put in an offer on your new home. All that deliberation over mortgage deals, all those searches and surveys, and now at last the money has left your bank and been transferred to the seller’s solicitors. Completion day has gone without a hitch – the money has left your bank and been successfully transferred to the sellers and you’ve been able to collect the keys as planned. Now comes the hard part!
You may have hired a removals company, or you might have decided to hire a van and move your possessions and furniture to your new home yourself – either way, it’s now time to clear everything out and install it in your new home. That can be a difficult and stressful enough thing in itself: trying to do it with your children in the middle of it all might be like trying to walk through a monkey enclosure holding a bunch of bananas... you’re not exactly going to get much peace.
As well as being hard work, moving day can present a surprising number of hazards for your children:
- Chemicals and other household products that would normally be kept out of sight and out of reach may now be easily accessible
- Safety gates on the stairs may have been removed in your old house and not yet be installed in your new house
- Furniture that is normally screwed into the walls may now be loose and can fall or be pulled over
- Large items of furniture might be stored temporarily out of their normal positions, creating irresistible climbing opportunities (particularly dangerous if these are close to windows)
- Heavy items of furniture will be being carried to and fro and children have an alarming tendency to run around when people are carrying heavy things or cups of hot tea
- Your new home will probably not be child-proof yet and if there are any parts of your new house that are likely to prove dangerous, you can rest assured that your children will find them before you do, especially if your attention is elsewhere! Take particular care to note if there are any cords dangling from window dressings that could pose a strangulation hazard.
Whilst it is important to have involved your children as much as possible in the whole notion of moving house (it is a massive transition for them, of course), involving them in moving day itself might end up causing more friction and could pose a risk to their safety. Much depends on the age of your children, but there are basically two ways of getting through moving day whilst keeping your children safe and sound.
1. Don’t be a hero
The first way is to try to give your children to someone else to look after for the day. You are moving house, which can be stressful in the best of circumstances – make life easier for you and them by arranging for them to stay elsewhere. Enlist the help of grandparents, aunties, uncles, neighbours (unless they’re the reason you’re moving, of course), friends or their friends’ families to give you a few hours to do all the organising, last-minute packing, heavy lifting and final checks. If possible, see if your children can stay overnight wherever they are so that you have plenty of time to move out of your old house and at least put all the boxes in the correct rooms at your new house.
By ensuring that your children are elsewhere on moving day:
- your children will be out of harm’s way
- you won’t end up spending the day saying things like, ‘Get down from there!’ or ‘Don’t touch that!’
- you won’t have to keep stopping work to investigate where they are, or what they’re doing if you lose sight of them
- you can prepare your new home for their arrival – for example, you can make up their beds, so that they feel instantly more at home or, for very young children, install all necessary safety equipment such as stair gates, cupboard locks and child-safe window blinds.
2. Involve them
If you have absolutely nobody who can or will take your children for you (or if you have very high expectations of how well your children will control their curiosity and behave themselves and intend to keep them with you on the big day), you really, really need to get them involved. The more you do in advance, the better – plan the day with them, give them jobs that they can manage with relatively little supervision and give them very clear rules. Those rules could include:
- Do not open or try to lift any boxes
- Do not touch any bottles
- Do not climb on top of any furniture
- Do not get in the removals people's way
When moving day arrives, your children will be naturally very excited. They may also be nervous, and ‘nervousness’ can appear an awful lot like ‘giddiness’. If there are two adults in the household, you may need to take turns to care for the children whilst the other deals with the removals process because the children will be bouncing off the walls and drawn like hyperactive magnets to all the dangerous things you’ve tried to hide, like all the chemical bottles from under the sink or the box-cutters that the removals people have left lying around.
As well as reminding them of the rules, you could give them a particular room or area of the old house that is designated ‘safe’ and keep a few games (and electronics) to keep them occupied. Make a game of it – you could build a little fort our of blankets and pillows. When everything else is loaded into the van, you can pack up their games, pillows and blankets into the car with them and make the journey to your new home. If they’re old enough to help, enlist them in packing a big box each of their own toys, reassuring them that those toys will be packed on the van last so that they can be unloaded first. At the new house, choose a new safe area for them to set up 'camp' or involve them by allowing them to unpack their toy boxes in their new bedrooms.
Whichever way you opt for, your children’s safety is paramount and your nerves will only stretch so far. If you have the time and somewhere to stay temporarily, you could consider putting your belongings into storage for a few days following completion: this would give you time to clean, child-proof and even decorate your new home before moving in properly. Whenever you do move, it will be a stressful day, but remember that once all of your belongings are in the new house, the stair gates are fitted and the bleach is stowed safely away, your children can spend their first night in their new bedrooms and you can sit and relax with a nice cup of tea. (If you can find the kettle.)
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