Kris’ Corner – Moving with a Child From Hard Places

August 25, 2022

Moving from one home to another is a highly stressful event, in and of itself. Whatever it looks like…down-sizing, up-sizing, equilateral move…it’s going from one home to another and it’s stressful.

Always stressful.

And no matter how you slice it, there’s a lot of logistics…all those minute details that can swallow you up if you aren’t careful.

It begins with the decluttering (to list the house), and then the packing up and the purging all those things you’ve been storing that you didn’t even remember you had (and obviously don’t need).

Additionally…moving means getting caught up in trips down memory lane as you pull out photo albums or mementos from trips, events or simply from special people in your life. Even thinking back to the memories you made in the home you’re leaving…

On top of that emotional stuff you have to wade through, you also have to sort out the logistics of getting everything (and everyone) from one place to another… Do you ask friends and family to help? Do you hire movers? Do you use a Pod and move things slowly at your own pace into the storage unit and have them move it to the new location? Maybe use a combo of more than one course of action? There’s so many options to consider.

It can be overwhelming.

But when you add a child from hard places into that mix, it can exponentially increase the stress. For everyone.

And to be clear: this is NOT the child’s fault. It is just very difficult for a child who’s experienced trauma to go through this. In many ways, it is another loss and can feel quite painful and angst-producing.

So if it’s going to be so difficult to move with a child who’s experienced trauma, some people might wonder why we would do it. But there are many reasons for a move…sometimes a move is the best thing you can do considering your current situation. Maybe it’s a move to a larger house, or a house that’s better equipped for the child or the family overall. Maybe it’s a move for a new job that’s going to bring more income that will better provide for the family. Maybe it’s a move for a job that will provide more free time for the family to be together. Maybe it’s a move to be closer to family. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of reasons why a family would move, and trauma does not necessarily have to be a reason not to.

To be clear, we are on the front end of this moving journey with our son, so some of what I’ll share is my first-hand experience. And the rest is what I have gleaned from others who are ahead of me on this path.

I can tell you that so far, we’ve been talking a LOT about how all our things and all our family will be moving to the new house. And what things will be the same at both the old and new houses, and what might be different.

And we’ve been talking about some of the things we hope we will have in our new space (which is, as yet, undetermined)….chickens, for instance. We are “all” (ok, to be honest, my youngest son and I are pretty much it, but we are pretending everyone is) super-excited at the idea of having chickens.

Regardless of how much we talk about what will happen, the act of packing things up to declutter and put the house on the market caused some anxiety for him. Fortunately, this was not surprising to me, because I (basically) know what to expect…to some degree, of course; as you may or may not know, trauma likes to throw a wild card in there sometimes.

So we’ve also been going to look at other houses. I honestly debated on this…should I take my youngest son to see the houses or should I wait until we have one “in hand” and then take him to see it.

Well, I decided to take him to many of the houses and it’s not been too terrible (I’m probably not selling it here, but if you live with a child who’s experienced trauma, I think you’ll know what I mean.) And sometimes it worked out that we could have a sitter and that’s been good too.

Not surprisingly, every house we look at, it seems, our son absolutely loves and that’s where he wants to move. So that’s been a little difficult because we are obviously not going to live in ALL of these houses. And so far, it’s NONE of the houses. As yet, we aren’t quite sure what we will do…other than continue looking.

I know going forward once the house is on the market, we will have the disruption to our schedule when we have showings on the house. We are hopeful to have several each day for the first few days so we can just leave the house for the day and not have to come and go, come back in, get settled, and then have to leave again in 20 minutes. Because, for obvious reasons, that’s dysregulating…for all of us.

We know that the day of the actual move will cause a great deal of anxiety for him as well. So he will go with either a respite provider or a family friend for the day. Or maybe even split the day into two parts between a couple different places.

So to help him acclimate to the new space more easily, I have a plan in place (and from hearing from others who have “gone ahead” in this, it sounds like it should work.)

His things (bed, sheets, stuffed animals, etc.) will be the last things to go on the truck at the old house so they can be first off the truck at the new-to-us-place. This way, we can get his room unpacked, bed made and have everything settled by the time he gets to the house. Nothing else has to be in place in the house, except for his room.

Of course, it would be nice if the rest of the house was in order when he got there, because that would (ideally) help with his regulation, but clearly that’s not going to be the case. We will do what we can do and that’s the best we can do.

We know that in all areas, we will need to keep to a routine. We will need to continue to reassure. And we will need to allow him to explore the house over and over (and over again), until he understands this is the place where we live now, and our things are there, and our family is there. And even though there’s a big change in his life, the people and the relationships, have stayed the same.

Does this mean everything will be smooth as silk? Absolutely not.

This is not my first rodeo with trauma so if there’s anything I’ve learned it’s to expect the unexpected. There will be meltdowns, there will be anger, there will be stress, so my job, as one of the two primary caregivers, is to stay in my upstairs brain and stay regulated. When I do that, he will be able to re-regulate more quickly.

But, as with many things with my child, I understand it will still be difficult…but not impossible. And in spite of the challenges that lay ahead, we are looking forward walking through this adventure alongside him, and experiencing the learning opportunity for each of us as we continue to love, and learn and grow together, alongside one another.