We recently had the one year anniversary of moving to Canberra from Sydney with our two young children. My husband and I had both lived in Sydney our entire lives, so it was a huge change for us.
Moving is hard work regardless of your situation; throw in a couple of kids, and the addition of it being interstate, and it's monumental.
Here are some tips I picked up along the way ...
1. Get to know the area. If you know where you'll be living before you move, research the location; find out which schools are in the area, are there parks and cafes nearby, is it safe, is there easy access to public transport? We knew where my husband would be working and that we would only have one car, so chose a suburb with a direct bus route to work for him.
2. Join local Facebook pages. There is usually a parenting Facebook page for a local area or city. For us it was Canberra Mums and they were fantastic for advice on good schools, local playgroups, GPs and where to get the best coffee (a priority for me).
3. Visit if you can. We were lucky as Canberra was a short car trip away. One weekend we took the kids with us and explored, then my husband and I took turns going for a couple of day trips to scope out schools and suburbs. We attended a few open inspections to get an idea of what was around so that when the time came to move, we had a plan in place for where we wanted to live and what we were looking for in terms of space and budget.
4. Think ahead about childcare or school. Put their name down as soon as you have narrowed your area down to a couple of suburbs. Our eldest was in preschool and would be starting school the following year (we moved in May) so getting her into preschool was a priority for us - not just to continue her learning but to get her meeting children her own age and making friends as soon as possible. It also got her into some kind of normal and consistent routine. I also enrolled her at the local primary school.
5. If you can, take your kids to see the new house before you move in. If that isn't possible, take photos and show them regularly, plan where all your furniture will go and talk about all the great things the new house has to offer. Take photos of local parks and cafes and talk about how fun it will be to explore.
Moving house is huge for kids and moving house away from friends and family is even bigger. My daughter was really upset when we told her we were moving because she thought she would have to leave her bed and toys behind! So we involved her in the planning of where everything would go in the new house and reminded her often that she could bring everything.
6. Involve the kids as much as possible. We had the kids help us pack their things into boxes - this got them excited and involved and helped with reminding them that all of their things were coming with us.
7. Allow them to feel sad. This was a hard one. I wanted to avoid any negative or sad feelings (I was sad, too!) but I let my daughter cry if she felt sad and validated her feelings. "Yes, we are going to miss our friends very much, but we will make new friends and we can write letters and visit."
8. Say goodbye. We drove around and took photos of our favourite parks, preschool, our old house and other favourite places so we could say goodbye and remember them. Again, we reminded them that we can visit. With my daughter's friends, we tried not to say goodbye but instead "see you soon". As a gift to her besties we gave each of them a letter writing set, stamps and a framed photo of them together. One of the best memories I have of moving was arriving at our new house and one of my daughter's dear friends had already posted a letter and it was waiting for her in our new letter box. Amazing!
9. As soon as you can, get out doing things and meeting people. I went to a local playgroup and on the first visit I met the person who is now my closest friend here in Canberra. It was a stroke of luck that our kids get along too! It can be hard to make friends; my daughter slowly made friends at preschool and my youngest was still very happy to have me as her bestie, but don't forget that you need to socialise too.
I found it very confronting not knowing anyone. I had one old friend living here who was a godsend in the early days, but aside from her I knew no one. Be bold, introduce yourself to parents at preschool or playgroup. I have never met a mother who was unhappy to be chatted to, especially when they find out you are new to town. They will most likely want to share their tips on the best parks and things to do with kids.
10. Finally, give it time. It was a good 9-12 months before my eldest stopped talking about wanting to go back to Sydney and really settled in. Starting school here has really helped with that, but it does take time.
We have visited Sydney a few times and found that it's always so lovely when we're there, but there is always some residual sadness when we come home, so we have been doing it less often.
Go easy on yourselves and treat it like a holiday. We love being tourists in our new home. There's so much we haven't done yet and can't wait to explore more.
Our kids are thriving and I like to think that we have made them more resilient by moving.
Christy is a Canberra-based mother of two. You can connect with her at Sweet Baby Daze.