One oft-given reason people prefer to move in the summer is that the kids are out of school and the interruption to their life will be minimal. Some, however, would argue that the middle of the school year is the perfect time to transplant the kids – but this is another story, to be addressed at another time.
For now, Summer is upon us, meaning lots of families with kids will be on the move, even locally as younger couples with growing families need to upsize. And those kids, with no school and no homework, are ripe for getting in the way on move day. Kids vary as much as the jobs we do. The children standing behind their parents’ legs when the front door opens may or may not pose a hindrance to your getting the job done. But don’t wait too long to find out.
Besides saying hi and introducing ourselves – and short of bribing them with money like their favorite uncle every time he visits – how can we go about establishing and maintaining our own form of kid control? Here are a few ideas, some readily obvious, others quite creative, all of them tried and tested to a fair degree of success. Which tricks of the trade you employ is, of course, your call. Whatever ways you use, a minute or two devoted to the little ones at the outset might be fine, but once you and your crew are rolling, spending more than a few seconds here and there on the kids might seem to the customer a bit inefficient if not outright lazy. Let the parents’ attitude toward their own kids be your guide. Because parents vary too.
Whether you give your estimate over the phone or in person it’s obvious when there are kids in the family: the bunk beds, the swing set, the video game consoles. (Actually that Xbox may belong to a grown man’s inner child, you may want to inquire with diplomacy about that.) And just like if there are pets, particularly dogs, you’ll want to discuss with the customer ahead of time what they plan to do in order to keep the kids out of the way since, unlike dogs, kids can’t be locked in the bathroom. Not for long anyway.
Some customers will send the children to grandma’s or a friend’s house. But sometimes on move day the kids will be right there in front of you. Or next to you, or behind you. Or under you. Thus it can be helpful to have a chat with mom and dad ahead of time instead of when the crew shows up, large strangers about to take everything out of the house including the Lightning McQueen bed.
Explain that while the crew will be in just about every room and corner of the house at some point or another there will be areas of relative safety and other areas of high activity or heavy traffic that the kids should know to stay away from. Mom and dad may or may not be helpful in this regard (or any regard) so we offer the following for you to arm yourselves against the potential hazards known as ‘the kids.’
If possible, find out something about the family’s new home that relates to the kids. Do they get their own bedrooms? Is there a big back yard? Is the basement finished or have they designated a space specifically for the kids to play? This sort of info can come in handy when we…
Establish a Rapport with the Kids
Bring up that new bedroom or that big back yard that they are getting. Ask them how they are getting to their new house – are they driving or flying? Taking a little vacation along the way? If possible, find something about where the family is moving to that the kids will (or at least might) be excited about. Tell them there’s a playground, a park, a pizza place near their new house. (Note: Kids can be forgetful, but it’s probably best not to start making stuff up to get a smile out of them. The parents might end up hating you retroactively.) The point, and the trick, is to get their little minds on the positives of their upcoming new world.
Younger kids might be excited enough to show you their rooms and their stuff if you ask. In the interest of saving time, incorporate this into your walk-through with the parents.) Tell them you want to know which things are theirs so you know to take extra special care of it all. Ask if he packed or helped pack his stuff, if his boxes are heavy, what’s in them. If he or she hasn’t already, invite the kid to write his name on each box, or draw pictures on them before you take them away. This lends an added sense of importance to them and their things. Tip: Don’t give him your sharpie for any of this, because if he uses it to draw all over the rug and the walls the blame will fall on you!
You might also offer to show the kids the inside of the truck, let them check out the equipment and walk up the ramp – all with the clear understanding that this will be the only time they can do this. Tip: This sort of thing could backfire; consult with the parents before giving their kids the tour.
Older kids – maybe the eleven or twelve year old and likely any teenager – might be less interested the truck, or drawing on their boxes, or in sharing at all their private world with a stranger like yourself. This is fine; show them you respect their desire for privacy by telling them you’ll be giving them a heads-up right before it’s time to move their stuff out of their rooms. This can help the hormone-ridden creatures feel like they have some sort of control over the situation – even though they don’t – and they will probably at least respect you enough in return to stay out of your way when you’ve got the master bedroom dresser halfway down the stairs. This assuming they aren’t holed up in their rooms all day in silent protest.
Games With Frontiers
To the point of keeping the kids out of your way, the older ones should understand well enough why walking in front of you is not a good idea. For the littler ones a bit more creative assertion is called for.
Establishing boundaries is critical for the more mobile and energetic child. Show them where the high-traffic routes are, calling them something they’ll understand, like where the lava from the volcano flows or where the river with the crocodiles runs. This helps them visualize the ‘safe’ areas in a fun way. Ask them what their safe areas are – a racetrack, a jungle, a castle – and what Cars, Madagascar or Shrek/Frozen character they are. The game might not last very long but it is something you can try to return to throughout the day when the kids get restless and bored.
When this stops working completely look for ways to let them help if they are interested and able enough. This means holding a door for you, even if it doesn’t need holding. Or asking them where the kitchen is, even though you just spent the last two hours in there packing up. Ask them where they think is a good place for you and the guys to eat lunch. This sort of question comes with the added bonus of getting them thinking about their own lunch which will keep them occupied and out of your way for a little while longer. In the right circumstances you might be able to encourage an older child to take care of a younger sibling. The common expression for this is ‘killing two birds with one stone.’
Like we said in the beginning, kids vary as much as the jobs we do. So there is certainly no one set of strategies that will work for all kids. A lot of kids won’t even be cause for much concern. But there will be times when you’ll want to lasso them, hog-tie them and lash them to the fence out back. This won’t get us a very positive review, however. So we need a few tricks up our sleeves.
Having dealt with children on moves yourselves, what do you find works well?
Photo credit: Emilio Labrador