When my daughters were 3 months old and 21 months old we said goodbye to our home and took a leap of faith. We leaped all the way to England, where we lived for three years before returning to America. Though our destination was something different, we aren't unique; the recent census reports that 12.5 percent of Americans age 1 and older moved in 2010 -- approximately 37.5 million people.
Now I consider myself a master of all things moving with infants and toddlers. My experience isn't just specific to overseas relocation -- what I learned about moving with wee ones is as relevant to families moving down the street as those moving cross-country.
1. Pack your child's room last. Unpack it first. Children of all ages crave stability and comfort. Make your child's bedroom a safe place for them in your old home and recreate that same sense of ownership for them in their new bedroom. Older children may not want their new bedroom to be identical to the old (in fact, new furniture or decor could help dull the loss of school friends and activities), but younger children will benefit from a room nearly identical to the one they left behind. Make the moving disruption as minimal as possible by packing your child's room last and unpacking it first upon arrival.
2. Know (everything) before you go. Have the information handy for the local hospital, a new pediatrician, a dentist, your closest pharmacy, the grocery store, and the nearest chain restaurant that the kids love before you depart and arrive at your new home. If your infant gets an ear infection en route (I had it happen twice), your toddler chips a tooth and gets a bloody lip on that new front step (also happened), or your last bottle of infant pain reliever runs out on your first night in the new house (don't even ask me how many times this has happened when moving or traveling) you'll want to know where to go for help. Moving is a completely different experience with children; move prepared.
3. Enlist help with the kids for moving days. Your moving days are going to be incredibly hectic. Don't subject an infant or a toddler to the chaos. While older kids might want to be around, and may get closure seeing their house empty and their things all packed up, that isn't the case for younger children. We attempted to keep my infant daughter with us on moving day. The result was that I couldn't help or participate, and I actually got in the way more often than not. If you can't find childcare, consider splitting you and your spouse splitting up for the day and entertaining the kids away from the house.
4. Try to keep your cool. Trust me -- I know that moving can be a stressful time. However, if you're moving with infants, toddlers, or both, effectively managing your stress is absolutely essential. There's plenty of evidence to suggest that kids feel their parents' stress, and infants aren't excluded. A calm mom and dad may equal a calmer, less colicky baby. There's already going to be plenty of reason for your baby to be feeling the effects of the move, so try to focus on staying calm and avoiding extra stress when you're relocating.
5. If it's important to your child, it should be important to you. Never make the mistake of letting the movers pack your toddler's favorite toy or special blanket. Keep these items with you at all times. This will help ease any separation anxiety your child may experience from the changes, and minimize your stress when you arrive if you can't put your fingers on it right away. If it's important to your infant or toddler, it should be just as important to you -- don't let it out of your sight when you're moving.