In the Couple Chat series, we pose one or two topical questions to a couple and ask each person to answer privately. Each person then reads the other’s response and the couple discusses their thoughts on the topic. They share their discussion together in the reflection.
For today’s Couple Chat, we asked Stephen and Karleen West, parents to two-year-old Elliott, about their upcoming move to a new state and how it will affect Elliott. Here’s what they said.
What do you think will be the most difficult change for your son when you move?
Karleen: Our son is a creature of habit, and not by accident – Steve and I have worked hard to provide a stable routine for him each day, especially surrounding naps and bedtime. Because of that, I anticipate the most difficult change will be his ability to fall asleep on his own – and sleep through the night – in our new home. When we travel, our son is reluctant to fall asleep in new places and wakes up frequently, needing to be soothed. I think that it could be a process of a week or more before he trusts the new space enough to fall asleep on his own and stay asleep through the night.
Stephen: I think the adjustment to a new “home” will be the most difficult for Elliott. For the past two years, Karleen and I have traveled A LOT with our son. Because of that, Elliott has become good at dealing with brief changes to his routines.
But traveling does tax him. Elliott misses the familiarity of his house, his dog, his toys, and his crib the longer we’re away, and it shows in his eating and sleeping habits, his loss of patience, and in needing his mom and dad more. He misses his home and all of its comfort and familiarity, and we can see this in the way he runs around chanting “Home! Home!” and laughing giddily when we get home after a trip. Until our new house becomes our “home”—and provides all of the comfort that word represents—I think Elliott might show some of the symptoms of fatigue we see when we’re traveling.
How do you plan to address that change?
Karleen: Our son is two and a half, so he is at an age where he could transition from his crib to a toddler bed. However, with the move, I do not think that we should make that transition anytime soon. In order to make him comfortable in our new home, I would like to try to provide as many consistencies for him as possible. From his nap and bedtime preparation routines, to maintaining familiar objects – including his crib – I want to provide him with the comfort of routine in all aspects of time, activity, and space.
Key to that routine will be a bath and three books before bedtime – activities that we do every single night now, and that we should prioritize when we move. Key objects will be his crib, his blanket, his humidifier (for noise), and his little stuffed monkey that he sleeps with every night.
Stephen: I think it will be crucial to keep as much of Elliott’s routine in tact as we can throughout the moving process, from what kind of food we feed him to when he takes his daily nap. I also think it will be important to quickly establish new comfort zones with familiar items in our new house, like getting his room set up with his bed, books, and toys, and arranging the living room with his chair so he can watch his favorite TV show.
I think the routine that needs to be most consistent is the attention and time we spend with Elliott; we will have plenty to distract us as we build our new home, but as long as we pay close attention to Elliott’s needs and comfort, I think the adjustment will be just fine.
Karleen: Steve and I were happy to see that we were both on the same page about what will be difficult for our son, and how to handle that difficulty. It was interesting to see that we both brought slightly different perspectives to these questions. While Steve focused on the general issue of routine and comfort for our son, I focused more on the specific issue of sleep that I view as the most significant challenge that will arise from the change of routine.
In addition, talking about our responses encouraged us to think more deeply about the move and the effect that it will have on Elliott. In particular, we realized we want to constantly prioritize our son and his needs throughout the entire process of the move. We will have so many tasks and responsibilities during the move – packing, cleaning, fixing, arranging – that it could be easy to get so distracted that we start to compromise our time with Elliott. In fact, we had noticed that we were doing just that during the process of selling our current home and buying our new one. We would both be sitting with our computers open, having conversations over our son’s head, while he acted out more and more regularly to get our attention.
After this Couple Chat, we now both realize that as much as possible, we need to comfort and care for our son in every phase of this transition to our new life. After all, it is the three of us who are going to make our new house a home.