Toddlers don’t usually come with their own toddler coping skills other than crying and hitting, so we had to help him ease into the big life change coming when it was time to move.
Moving is hard on families. I moved 7 times in 6 years in college, and let’s be honest, that was a breeze compared to moving a family.
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We have more stuff (do you still have your college notebooks, too?). We have more valuable stuff (like great-grandma’s china). And we have little people emotional stuff.
Kids have some real feelings when it comes to change. They’re people, too, and their feelings are too big for them to handle, so you need to give them kid-sized coping skills to help them get through it.
And when you move 3 times in a year (like we did last year) with a 2 year old in tow, it can be almost impossible to convince them to move yet another time. And the promise of a better home/life/future just doesn’t appeal to them when they’re perfectly happy where they are (even if it’s just a family of 3 living in a bedroom).
It got so sad, that my son would cry if I mentioned selling our “old house” and moving to a “new house.” It just broke my heart. Our old house wasn’t safe. It had mold. And lead. And who-knows-what-else. I am sure he understood that, too, because he told everyone “Our old house made us sick. It had mold.” The grocery bagger was super-interested, let me tell you.
And even the promise of a cool bedroom or his very own swimming pool wasn’t enough to sway my stubborn little boy. Nope, he didn’t want a swimming pool.
So, I chatted with my mom about it. Trying to see if I could find some old-school strategies to build up my son’s toddler coping skills. She said to start telling him stories about a little boy who was sick at his house, so his family moved to a new house that made him all better.
And so I tried it. It went great.
Until we got to the part about the boy moving to the new house. Then the waterworks started with lots of “but I want to live in our old house” arguments. Can’t sneak one past this 2 year old.
So, then one day I was looking through photos of the house we were buying. It had a pool. And the pool had a huge rubber duckie (chlorinator) floating in it. Light bulb moment.
So, that night, I told Graham a story about a rubber duckie that wanted a family. I laid it on thick. Told him how Rubber Duckie used to have a family, but they moved away. And all he wanted was a family to live in the house next to his pool.
And about how a family came to look at the house to see if they liked it and he saw a little boy. And he really wanted the family with the little boy to buy the house so he could play with him. But then the family left, and Rubber Duckie was sad again. But then the family came back again! This time they were making sure they liked the house. Oh, he wished they did like the house. He wanted a family so so bad.
And then the family came to the house with all their things. They stayed there from then on. Rubber Duckie had a new family and he was so happy!
By the end of the story, he was sold. He needed to move into that house to take care of Rubber Duckie. That rubber duckie needed a family and Graham was ready to be his family.
We shifted from looking behind, to having a purpose in our future. Just like anyone, a need to be needed can still appeal to a two year old.
And if your new adventure or life change doesn’t include a pool, don’t worry. It does include something awesome, or you wouldn’t have chosen to make the change.
All you need to do is find something positive or find something with a need in your situation. Build a story around it that will appeal to your child’s need to be needed. Keep it positive as much as possible. And be patient. Change is hard. For little people and big people. They will come around.
Needless to say, our Rubber Duckie has a pretty special place in our hearts. We call him Rubber Duckie for short. He saved the day for us.
Now, still three months after moving into our new home (and still occasionally hearing “I want to go to our old home,”), Graham hasn’t forgotten to look out for Rubber Duckie.
Our pool isn’t particularly close to the house. It’s across the yard and up on a terrace. But tonight Graham walked outside, and immediately noticed that Rubber Duckie wasn’t in the pool.
He’s taking great care of Rubber Duckie. And Rubber Duckie is taking great care of us.