5 Tips to Surviving Family Transition

For more than three months our family has been living in transition—stacked cardboard boxes, take-out pizza, and cranky kids off schedule.

We moved from Texas to California to clear out my childhood home after my mom’s sudden death—and now we head to Pennsylvania while we wait on God to show us the next ministry position for my husband—life in transition to the max.

Are you living in a transition with your family?

Fresh from the kitchen of chaos, here are some simple ingredients to help you love well while living out of half-packed boxes and clearing out sticky cupboards. 

Pack Extra Grace

Friends invited us over for dinner and a swim. Perfect packing break! Yet one of my sons chose to make numerous unwise choices that night—including a rude attitude and inappropriate language. At the end of the evening he stood his ground and challenged me in front of my friends—and I stood there saying no more than ten times. Embarrassed. Who is this kid? Certainly not mine.

On the drive home I verbally cleared out my mental drawer of every little thing he did wrong—and tossed it at him. Instead of trying to discern the condition of his heart, I focused on his outward embarrassing behavior.

And then I felt bad. Sigh.

He fell asleep and I cried.

Parents, our kids mess up. We do too.

The next day we talked about the evening and he received realistic consequences. I realized more of the condition of his heart and discovered he needed more compassion than rebuke. If I had taken the time to listen well at my friend’s house, a lot of the attitude probably would have stopped.

The rules stay the rules, but when life is tossed in cardboard boxes, we need to pack extra grace for our kids and ourselves. New places, missed sleep, and hurting hearts can cause even adults to struggle with self-control.

Keep a Travel Sized Routine

When we sleep in new places without access to our regular books, spaces, and food, how can we keep the all-important routine?

This summer we decided to adjust our daily rhythm to a new beat while in transition. We asked ourselves these questions:

  • What is the most important thing in our routine we must keep?
  • What are the things we can do away with while living in transition?

We decided we must keep naptime, morning and evening prayer, Bible time, and bedtime songs and cuddles. So no matter what is on the schedule, like today’s movers who just left, we try to make these a priority.

Pad in Memory Making

Sometimes a whole day might pass and I wonder, “How much did I play with the kids today?” I needed to call the bank to change our address, the fridge needed cleaning from dripping ketchup, and the new owners wanted to stop in to make some measurements—oh, wait. Of course, son, I would love to take 15 minutes to listen to your elaborate story about your Lego creation (but do I have the time?).

Little people don’t understand big people to-do lists. Making margin to play hide-n-seek, read some books, or go on a short walk helps our kids to not feel set aside.

Each week as we live in boxes, we plan at least one fun family outing— like a hike in the mountains, day at Disneyland, or a visit to the park. I have noticed that the more I stop to deposit into their hearts, the more patient they act while mommy cleans out cabinets or makes phone calls.

Simplify Devotions

I enjoy creativity in nourishing a love for God in the hearts of my children. But how much creativity is possible when all our art brushes and children devotionals sit in storage? Depending on the ages of your kids, simplifying family Bible time might be necessary.

Pray about it: What do I want my kids to learn about God in this season of transition?

Our family is focusing on keeping worship a priority in simple ways:

  • We read part of a Proverb every morning and memorize a verse in Proverbs each week.
  • We listen to Songs for Saplings (FREE) while eating breakfast. Sometimes we dance, sing, or just listen.

When things settle down, we will jump back into our Bible reading plan and creative worship activities. For now we just want our kids to remember time in worship and the Word.

Talk It Out

Do you need to work most of the day scrubbing kitchen grease and deciding what clothes to donate for your move? Talk about it with your kids and other family members.

What are the expectations for the day? What is something they can help with? What is at least one fun thing you all can look forward to after the day’s goals—like a trip to the park or ice cream for dinner? I notice when I lay out expectations rather than react to needy kids or an unknowing spouse, we all love one another better.

Living in Transition

Living in transition with kids sometimes feels like running five marathons at once. These five tips seem to help keep us on the path and at a breathable pace: pack extra grace, keep a travel-sized routine, pad in memory making, simplify devotions, and talk it out.

May God grant you wisdom as you navigate your own transition journey.