Kids are children. Children find looking at homes extremely boring. Especially several hours of it … on a weekend. You know what? So do adults.
Not only can home searches be wearing, but they set kids up for failure. Their tolerance level, ability to restrain their curiosity in a new environment, and handling the stress of visiting as many homes in a three-hour period as possible are all tested at near-crisis levels.
As regular hosts of Open Houses, we have witnessed very few children be able to overcome the odds. Some kids cope fairly decently to this inhumane experience. Too many kids fall victim to their deepest human instincts with a “fight or flight” response.
Here’s eight ideas of what parents can do with the kiddos while looking for homes.
#1) Leave Them at Home: Show mercy and get a babysitter, a relative, or a friend to watch your child. Maybe even approach a trusted neighbor with the proposition of “you watch my kid now, I’ll watch yours later”. Without your child in tow, it enables you uninterrupted time to look over a house without the distraction of wondering “where’d they go?”
#2) Stay in the Car (Not Alone): Depending on age, maturity, and the ability for your kids not to erupt into a fight while the parents are gone for a few minutes, leave the kids in the car while you look at a home. If need be, bring a grandparent with you to keep the peace in the vehicle while you look at a home. Or take turns by letting one parent go in peace while the other parent spends time with the kids. Then have a changing of the guards.
#3) Prep the Kids Before Going Into a Home: You are entering someone else’s home while they are not there. Even if it’s new construction, someone else owns the home. Depending on the age of your kids, remind them with each home, not to run in the house, jump on furniture, play with toys, touch furniture or furnishings, touch the piano, or race up and down the stairs. It can be confusing to a child that their parents are opening closet doors and cabinets, so let them know that it is okay for adults to do it, but not the kids.
#4) Keep Them By Your Side: Depending on the size of the home, it can be walked through in 5-10 minutes. Hold toddlers in your arms or hold their hands. Keep tabs on the older ones so they don’t get too far ahead, or stay too far behind where you’re at. And when it’s time to go, make sure they’re with you.
#5) Mix Things Up: While trying to hit eight homes straight, why not mix things up? Tell your kids that for every four houses you walk through together, they’ll get 15 minutes at a park to run around. By mixing things up, you can break up the monotony and boredom, and help them run off some energy between Open Houses.
#6) Strike a Deal with Your Kids: What would make this experience worth your child’s time? Bargain with them: a sundae on the way home for good behavior; a special toy for showing good manners at the Open Houses; time at a park for being compliant. Whatever can motivate your child to go beyond their natural tendencies while spending a weekend doing their least favorite thing. Motivation works better than threats.
#7) Engage Them During the Walk Through: Ask your kids what they think of the home. For younger kids, play the “what room is this” game. For older kids, ask “what can you see us doing with this room?” Regardless, the more they talk about the home they’re in, the less time they spend thinking about where they would rather be.
#8) Tag Team: If a child is not complying, or has reached their limit of going through homes, be humane (to the child, other people at the Open House, and the agent on duty) by taking a divide-and-conquer stance. One parent walks through the home alone, while the other parent takes the child outside or to the car. Then switch. Rather than walking through together and talking about the home (while your child is driving everyone else nuts), take notes and talk about the home while you drive to the next Open House.
Here’s a couple bonus pieces of advice.
Take the Meltdown Outside: If your child has an emotional breakdown in the home, take them outside or to the car immediately. Don’t scold them there, especially in front of other people. Take them away from people, give them time to get their meltdown out, and cool down. Talk to your child. More than likely, they have reached their emotional limit, which is a home or two earlier than most sane adults.
Do Not Mistake the Realtor for a Babysitter: The agent on duty at the Open House has a job. It is to represent the seller, or the potential buyers visiting the home. They are there to answer questions about the home, the market, or the neighborhood. They are not there to provide free childcare because the parents did not choose one of the great ideas listed above. Do not ask them to watch your child, or leave your sleeping infant in the room they happen to be in (yes, this did really happen). Your child is your responsibility.
Looking at homes can take a lot out of adults. So, don’t expect miracles from your kids. If you choose to take them to an Open House, and they give signs that they’re at their limit, don’t push it. Don’t set them up to fail … which can cause you and your parenting skills to fail. Finding your next home is important, so use some of the ideas above to it can be as positive of an experience as possible.
1) Discuss with your partner which of the above ideas you want to try the next time you go out looking at homes.
2) Talk with your child(ren) about the importance of finding a home, and give them two to three choices (from the above list) of the ideas they would like to try.
3) Create a Plan A, B, C (and D) for how you will handle situations with your kids that come up while looking at homes.
About the Authors:
Jason and Kelli Krafsky are relationship experts turned Realtors, combining their relationship insights and real estate advice into articles and resources for home buyers, home sellers, and home owners at YourHomeLyfe.com!
Called “Your Family’s Go-to Real Estate Team,” Jason and Kelli serve clients throughout the Puget Sound region of Washington state with John L. Scott, Inc. – Bellevue Main office. They are also members of the National Association of REALTORS and Seattle-King County REALTORS. The Krafskys have been married since 1994 and have four kids.
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