Renovations can be absolutely crazy-making. Feeling displaced from your own home, putting your belongings in storage, never quite knowing where anything is…even when you know that the payoff is an amazing, custom renovation, the process can be agonizing.
Now imagine enduring the reno process from a kid’s perspective. Having the perfect lighting fixtures matters not to them. But knowing where their Legos are, well that means everything.
If you ask Derek what he thinks about the combo of kids and renovations, he’ll quickly say, “Don’t do it.” And he’s only half-joking. Everything about a reno becomes more intense when kids are involved. Even the small stuff, like bathtubs—or lack thereof, can be a big deal when it comes to kids. While living in their house pre-reno, Bethany worried that the lack of a bathtub, which caused Evelyn’s “baths” to consist of splashing around in an inch or two of water in the bottom of the shower, would cause emotional turmoil that would stick with Evelyn long after the renovation. And she was only half-joking.
The fact is that managing kids while managing a renovation is harrowing—for the adults and the kids. One of the most common pain points: chaos. Kids thrive on routine. They like to be in their own space, exploring their world on their terms. Routine is turned on its head during a reno. Favorite spaces are rendered obsolete by construction crews. Clutter abounds, as items get shifted to make way for demolition. And mac and cheese is no longer an option for every meal, if the kitchen currently looks like it was taken out by a small explosive. For Derek & Bethany, chaos and clutter were the primary challenges. Raising a kid who’s just learning to walk, and who has a propensity to explore her world by putting everything in her mouth, in a messy, cramped pre-construction zone isn’t ideal. It might not be what they’d pictured for their toddler–but they managed. And Evelyn seems to have emerged unscathed.
Even if kids somehow manage to be oblivious to chaos, they certainly are not oblivious to the trauma of packing away the majority of their toys until the reno is complete. It can feel awfully punitive to a child to suddenly have restricted access to their own things. Derek & Bethany wrestled with guilt over this forced toy rationing as they placed most of Evelyn’s new Christmas toys in storage. There just isn’t enough space in the one room they are currently occupying in Derek’s dad’s home to drag all of Evelyn’s Christmas loot in. Some of the big ticket items that will have to wait to make their big debuts after the reno is complete: the awesome Power Wheel that Evelyn got that’s now stashed at a relative’s house and the play kitchen that Evelyn will adore—but that currently remains unassembled waiting for the perfect spot in the newly renovated house. These choices, that seem so reasonable to adults, are incredibly difficult for kids, who by nature crave instant gratification. And toys. They crave toys.
So, how do you make a reno easier on a kid?
- Explain what is going to happen during the reno and why. Kids can often navigate situations better if they understand them. If you choose to give them a timeline, though, make sure to point out that sometimes construction takes longer than originally anticipated—and update them when delays arise.
- Let them help pack their belongings. Let them label boxes or take pictures of the contents. This helps them feel in control of what is happening to their toys and other beloved items.
- Give them something to look forward to. Let them choose the paint color for their room—or let them decorate the whole room, if you are brave enough. Even if you want the paint colors to fall firmly under your purview, find something in the house that they care about and can give their opinion on. Making your kids part of the process will make the process easier on them (and you).