Moving is often a complicated process for anyone, but when you’re raising children on your own, it can really get tough.
You’ll have one less set of hands for packing and lifting, and also be stuck making decisions on your own – like whether to hire movers or just rent a truck yourself. This guide can help make some of those decisions easier and help you tackle some of the unique issues that arise when moving with children.
You will also find printable checklists to keep you organized along the way. Use one or all of them to aid in planning, packing, picking a mover, loading the truck, and covering all your bases after the move. And check out the money-saving tips section for ways to make your move in a single-income household.
Some popular parenting bloggers have also joined us to provide some tips to make your life just a little easier during this hectic time.
Planning Your Move
Once you know you’re definitely moving, it’s time to get organized. Moving preparation starts long before you start packing boxes.
From sorting your belongings and selling what you no longer need to turning off the phone and internet before you leave, there’s a long list of things you’ll need to take care of.
Sometimes a new job can demand a quick turnaround, but ideally you’d want at least a couple of months to plan your move.
GoodCall® created a checklist that should help you get your move in order.
Prepare the Kids
One of the hardest parts of moving with children is changing schools. Many people try to avoid moving in the middle of the school year, or maybe even put off moving until after their child has graduated. But often that’s just not an option.
The good news is it’s easier today for kids on the move to stay in touch with old friends – especially those in middle or high school with smartphones and social media accounts. Even if you’re moving to another country, your child can stay in contact with their friends through Snapchat, FaceTime, Skype, video games, or any number of messaging apps.
Talk to your kids about moving as soon as you know it’s going to happen. They can probably tell if you’re trying to keep a secret from them, and that will just make the move seem like a more negative change. Be prepared to answer questions, especially about their new school and whether they’ll be able to keep doing their favorite activities, such as sports teams or ballet classes.
Children of different ages and maturity levels will probably react differently. Some teens find it especially difficult to leave the friends they’ve been in school with for nearly 10 years; others are mature enough to understand how important a new job is for the whole family.
There are also some things you’ll want to take care of before and after the move to make the transition simple for your kids.
- Research schools and/or daycares in the area. Pay attention to school boundary lines; even if your house is closer to one school, it might not be the one your kids will attend.
- For charter or magnet schools, look for information about registration or lottery deadlines – it might already be too late for the next school year.
- Get copies of your child’s school and vaccine records, and if possible, contact the new school before your move to find out about any special requirements. The district may require different vaccinations, and certain courses may not transfer as expected.
- Discuss how the move might affect your living arrangements. Will siblings be forced to share a room, or get their own space? What about bathrooms?
- Will the move affect how often you see relatives, like your child’s other parent or grandparents? Talk about this and try to develop a plan for visits.
- If you’re moving in the middle of the school year, tell your child’s teachers about the upcoming move so they can watch for any unusual behaviors and help you prepare their student records.
- Find out if any after-school activities require early enrollment or summer practice attendance.
- Try to arrange a visit to the school before your child’s first day to help with anxiety or nerves – especially for younger children who might be afraid of a new place.
- Even if you’re worried about your child’s ability to keep up with school work in the transition, don’t express that. Instead, provide encouragement and confidence that he or she can do it.
The Moving Truck
When you’re single, you likely have one less set of hands – and one less paycheck – to help with the actual move. Don’t be afraid to call on friends or family. You don’t have to go it alone.
Even if you aren’t comfortable asking your friends or older parents to help you lift your furniture, look for other ways they can help. Could your sister babysit for a couple of nights to get the kids out of the house while you do some uninterrupted packing? Maybe your well-organized friend could help you set up a yard sale.
Sooner, rather than later, you’ll need to figure out how you’ll get your stuff to your new place. You have a few options:
- Full service. If your new job affords a moving allowance, you might want to make your move easy with a full-service moving company. Those will pack, ship, and unpack your belongings, leaving you time to deal with the other hassles of moving, like making sure your kids have their coats and shoes on and tied.
- If your budget doesn’t allow a full-service company, or you’re more comfortable handling your own things, you could instead consider the option to do it all yourself. In that case you’d rent a moving truck, pack it, drive it yourself, unpack it, and return it.
- You pack, they ship. But driving a moving truck – especially as a single parent and hauling kids along with all your stuff – can be daunting for some. A good middle ground is using containers, which you pack yourself. When you’re ready, the company will pick up your container and ship it to your new home, where you can unpack it.
Not sure what option is right for you? GoodCall® has a tool to help you find a quote.
If you’re going with a full-service moving company, you might consider using this checklist of questions to ask before you sign.
Packing the Boxes
Once you’ve lined up a moving date and have the truck rental or movers reserved, it’s time to get packing and cleaning.
Some general advice:
- Pack like items together. Go room by room.
- Start packing each box with a layer of padding – it can be newspapers. Then put the heaviest items in.
- We cannot say this enough: Label each box by room and by contents.
- Pack one or two first day boxes of stuff that is essential – screwdrivers, hammers, snacks, drinks, toothbrushes, toilet paper, a change of clothes, disposable plates, plastic utensils and cups, a first-aid kit and medications.
Use the printable checklist to the right to help you pack in an organized fashion.
When the big day arrives, there’s going to be a lot going on. If possible, see if a friend or family member can help keep young kids occupied and out of the way. (Put those teenagers to work!) Children running around with people carrying heavy boxes and furniture could result in injury.
If you’re packing the truck yourself, be sure to keep things organized to reduce confusion and the risk of damage. Well-labeled boxes mean fewer friends asking “Where should this go?”
This printable worksheet to the right will give you a leg up when packing your truck.
Once everything is moved out, spend some time walking through every room to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Now is also the time to clean up – the old place and the new one.
The printable checklist to the left lists things to take care of on moving day and beyond.
Once the boxes are off the truck and unpacked, you still have some tasks to complete, like changing the locks, updating your voter registration, and finding a new dentist. But it’s also time to get back to your normal routines – or your new normal – and start enjoying your new home.
For many single parents, one of the hardest parts of moving is dealing with the cost with just one source of income. Finding ways to lower the cost can make a big difference for a moving family.
Let’s look at some potential areas where you can save some money:
- Boxes: Reuse boxes from the office mail room or grocery store. Alcohol boxes tend to be sturdy, but might not have lids. But know your risk: Used boxes could be less stable, and fragile items could get damaged.
- Cushioning: Save up newspapers or ask neighbors to share theirs when they’re done. Newspaper is a good alternative to packing peanuts or sealed air. Just don’t wrap too tightly, or it won’t have much cushion. Towels, T-shirts, and blankets are also useful.
- DIY: Instead of paying the movers, rent the truck and move yourself, with the help of friends and family. You’ll see significant savings here, but might struggle more finding help with the big items. There’s also a greater risk of injury or damaged belongings when you aren’t using the pros.
- Timing: Most people tend to move in the summer, so rates are higher then. If possible, try to schedule your move in other months to avoid the peak season.
- Taxes: Under certain circumstances, you can deduct moving expenses if you’re moving for a job.
- Extra junk: It’s the time to get rid of stuff you don’t need or use anymore. Don’t pay someone to move a box of baby clothes that will never fit your kids again. Reducing your load can reduce your cost. Bonus points: Sell those items online for some extra cash!
- Food: Pack sandwiches and snacks for the road so you aren’t spending extra cash in the drive thru or buying a bag of chips at every gas stop.
- Lodging: If you are traveling a long distance, see if there are friends or family on your route. Staying with a cousin for one night could save a ton over the cost of a hotel.
- Deposits: If your utilities or new apartment require a deposit, ask if those can be waived or paid in increments instead of all at once. Sometimes these companies are willing to work with customers, especially those with good credit.
GoodCall reached out to writers who focus on parenting for some advice to help with your move. Here’s what they had to share.
Moving can be stressful, but it is also a blessing. I moved for job opportunity to a place where I had no family close by 11 years ago. Best decision I ever made!
- Assess the new area. Try to pick a place to live close to your work (within 10 miles). Know your wants and needs and look out for move-in specials. Rent.com was my friend. It had pictures and location details.
- Ask new employment for relocation assistance. You never know! You may get it.
- Pack ahead. Research your moving options. Pick reliable and feasible.
- Check on all of your deposits at current places and utilities as well as new area. You want your refunds to put on new expenses.
- Have the talk. Ultimately, you are the adult, so you make the decisions. Tell the kids in a way that they can understand and make it a win/win. Assure them they can keep in touch with friends. And again, tell them why this is the best decision.
- Prepare for push back. It’s coming. You will make it through.
- Help them adjust in new area. Share tips on how to make new friends. It will take a few weeks.
- You take care of you and stay sane.
- It’s going to be amazing!
- Enjoy this new chapter if your life.
Take it from me, a single mom who’s moved three times for job opportunity. My big move was from Louisiana to Texas. Since moving in 2006, I’ve moved cities twice. I now live closer to Dallas and my teen boys have always hated it at first, but loved the new area and schools once they got adjusted. Do what you have to do. Change is hard at first. Your new life is worth the rough parts! Good luck!
Kaywanda Lamb is a single mom, coach, author, and blogger at www.kaywandalamb.com.
The Art of Happy Moving
After moving 10 times in 11 years, I learned a few things about moving. I moved with my husband and three kids several times. Although I haven’t personally moved as a single parent, I’ve interviewed single parents who moved after a divorce.
1. Keep It Simple When You Tell Your Child About the Move
Explain why you are moving, when you are moving, and give three reasons why this is a happy move for your family. Ask your child if he has any questions and answer each one honestly and simply. It’s okay if you don’t know the answer. You can explain that this is new for you, too, but you’ll let him know the answer when you have more information.
2. Say Positive Things About the Move
Your child will look to you for how to feel about the move. If you act sad and complain, your child will react in the same way. If you can see the move for the exciting new chapter in life that it is, then you will spread that enthusiasm to your child.
3. Take It One Day At a Time
Moving as a single parent isn’t easy. There’s only so much you can do in a day. Take it step by step, one day at at time, and the packing and logistics will come together. The earlier you start the process, the less stressful it will be in the end.
Ali Wenzke’s blog, The Art of Happy Moving, helps people who are moving and looking to find happiness in their new life.
Every Single Dad
7 Moving Tips for Single Parents
1. Find enough help. Over invite, because not everyone will show up. If you offer free lunch, you’re sure to attract strong young men who will work for food.
2. Start early, especially on a weekend, so your help can be done by noon. Nobody likes to spend an entire Saturday working.
3. If you have pets or younger children, utilize a sitter at least until noon, so your help can work quickly, safely and without distraction. To save time, arrange to have the kids delivered to your new home later that day.
4. Make sure all boxes are labeled so your child can find their possessions easily.
5. Get all utilities turned on and beds assembled before nightfall. These things relax your child and fosters security in the new home.
6. Ask your kids to pack an overnight bag for their toiletries so they don’t have to search through every box in the morning.
7. Make friends. Introduce yourself to the neighbors within a week. If you wait for them, it may never happen. Look for new friendship opportunities for your children as well.
Tez Brooks was a single father for seven years before re-marrying. He runs the blog Every Single Dad.