Monday 22 January 2018

Pack up your troubles and smile

Moving house, we're always told, is one of the most stressful things you can do so what's it like trying to move with young children in tow?

Moving experience: Oonagh Montague, with children Theo and Eve, who recently survived a cross-country move
Moving experience: Oonagh Montague, with children Theo and Eve, who recently survived a cross-country move

Moving to a new home is hard work. It taxes your brain, tugs at your heartstrings and it's murder on your back. All that and you still have to look after the children.

We recently moved cross-country with our two small children. During the process we made two discoveries. The first was that the incorrect labelling of cardboard boxes leads to irritability. My irritability. The second was that my three-year-old daughter had packed Dorothy the goldfish into her suitcase.

Yet we were lucky. We were only moving one county away. Nowadays many Irish families are contemplating moving much further afield.

When Maria and George Ainscough moved from Greystones to Saskatchewan, Canada, with their sons Levi (two) and Saul (one) they did their best to stay zen throughout the process.

"For us it was very much a case of trying not to think about it too much, writing lists, lists and more lists and trying to remain calm."

Given the boys were so young, one of the main issues was preparing for the long-haul flights ahead.

"For a couple of months beforehand we told Levi we were going and told him that we would be in an aeroplane so that it was not a total shock to him. Eventually, according to him, every plane we saw in the sky was going to Canada."

From the outset Maria was keen to ensure that despite any mixed feelings the adults might be feeling, the children would not be upset.

"Most of the goodbyes were very low key. I did not want the children to feel that what was happening was negative in any way."

One tip that Maria gives for avoiding upsets on the day of a big move is to do it in stages. "We did not stay in our own house the night before we came here, we checked into an airport hotel, and that helped as well I think -- there was no big drama that morning leaving the house."

Once they arrived in Canada, Maria made a point of reinforcing the boys' idea of home and identity.

"We talk about Ireland all the time. Levi knows that it is home and, as he will happily tell you, our hoover lives there. He says that he lives in Regina, but he is from Ireland. I find this very important, but everyone is different."

When Rob and Amanda Ravenscroft and their daughters Sinead (three) and Roisin (one) moved from Cork to Chicago it was the packing which proved challenging.

"It really was a bit-by-bit packing experience as you only have so much time when you've kids at home. It's definitely one of the more stressful parts of moving."

Amanda had to find ways of keeping the children occupied. "I mainly packed at night and when our youngest Roisin slept. I gave a box to Sinead and got her to pack stuff from the playroom during the day. There was more playing than packing done, but it kept her busy."

Despite the distance they were travelling, Amanda opted to travel light.

"We didn't ship anything as it would have taken too much time and we needed stuff straight away, so we brought one bag each for myself and Rob and the girls had two bags.

"One bag had clothes and the other had sheets, pillowcases, teddies, and toys. Their main teddies, Patch and Big Red, came on the plane with us." Once they arrived in Chicago, Amanda settled the girls back into their daily routine as quickly as possible.

"Having the girls here with me during the day made the move away from home a lot easier for all of us. My routine stayed pretty much the same with them so that made things more normal and not so strange."

It didn't take long for the family to start to make friends.

"I met a neighbour in the local park and have stayed good friends with her. She has two kids. I've also met a lot of mothers since Sinead started pre-school and the neighbours have all dropped over to meet us at various stages also. It's really easy to meet people here." In Canada, Maria has also made a point of getting to know her neighbours.

"Meeting people was helped a lot by our accent and having children. The library is a great place and even the supermarket. It helps that the boys are, as they say here, 'super friendly'. Being red haired and Irish does have its advantages."

Now that they have settled in, Maria's advice to those contemplating a big move with children in tow is to be prepared to adapt.

"People have children everywhere, so as long as you are willing to change and adapt to slightly different ways of doing things, then you should be OK."

Dublin-based parent coach Marian Byrne believes the most important tip when moving home with children is to stay in the moment.

"Parents can understandably get so caught up that they forget to think about the possibilities of how wonderful the move might be.

"Whether you have tots or teens if, as a parent, you're in the right place it means you can respond to your child's needs.

"If you're anxious about the move, you'll react differently, but if you are dealing positively with the move then your children will unconsciously absorb that message."

So whether it's across the water or down the road, if moving house with children is in your future the secret is to stay as calm as possible. Someone should probably have mentioned that to Dorothy the goldfish.

  • Marian Byrne, Parent Coach, can be contacted at

Irish Independent

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