There are many reasons why one family may move, and sometimes that happens often, whether it’s for a job or something else entirely. Whatever the reason may be for the frequent moving, packing up a whole life and starting a new life chapter is challenging and overwhelming, especially for kids. It affects them on a cognitive and emotional level, and some have a harder time than others. However, you must be aware of all possible psychological effects of moving frequently on kids, as well as solutions for easing the transition process and adapting more quickly.
How frequent relocations impact kids?
Frequent moves are tough for adults, but even more so for kids. Even though there are many moving tips to help you, the whole transition can be difficult. Moves can disrupt meaningful friendships, as well as some healthy habits and routines they’ve adopted. Relocation is even more problematic for kids who are introverted or those whose sensitive personalities tend toward anxiety. Some may show better flexibility than others, but those are usually exceptions.
Psychological effects of moving frequently on kids may include struggling to keep high-quality relationships and maintaining personal well-being and life satisfaction. Children who move often may perform poorly in school and have more behavioral problems, especially if their psychological health is neglected.
Relocations are sometimes triggered by a problem in the family, such as a divorce or job loss. Whenever parents are stressed and upset, their parenting may suffer. The kids will notice and suffer as well, even if it’s subconsciously. If the relocation coincides with some other complex transitions in a kid’s life, such as puberty or a change of school, that makes the situation even harder. Middle school seems to be the worst time to make such a big transition. On the other hand, younger kids seem to be slightly more adaptable to moves because they still haven’t made solid friendships or other strong connections to a particular place.
How to help your kids to adapt and adjust faster after a move
Research has found that the more frequently a child moves, the more likely they are to experience feelings of unhappiness and dissatisfaction. They are likely to have fewer quality social relationships. However, some children simply thrive despite frequent moves. For example, most extroverted children will flourish in a new environment, as they can make friends quickly and easily. When you plan a relocation, consider all the factors carefully and determine the potential positive and negative effects that a move can cause for all of you.
Parents need to think long and hard about how to make the transition easier for each of their children. Talk with them about various advantages that a new place has, and try to be enthusiastic about the move. Tell them about all the things you’ll do after the move and point out the valuable aspects of the transition whenever possible. Maybe you’ll have a bigger backyard, a bigger home, and perhaps they’ll have a more spacious room, etc. There’s undoubtedly some benefit to your new home which you can highlight for them. Remind your child that there is a lot of value and life lessons in each move, such as meeting new friends and learning new things.
There are many tactics that you can use to help your kids adjust to new surroundings, and make the stress of moving more manageable for them, so consider the following.
When the time comes to move, families should have some sort of emotional preparation. It’s important to visit the new area you’ll be moving to, whenever possible. Tour the neighborhood and visit the new school (if you’ve already decided which one they will attend). Take some time to research exciting new things your family might do in the neighborhood. Check if there are some famous local landmarks, museums appropriate for their age, amusement parks, and other family-friendly activities.
Assess the kids’ individual needs
When parents know all possible psychological effects of moving frequently on kids, they should access individual child’s needs and be sensitive to them as the family makes the big transition. Each kid has different needs and desires, and not all relocations and changes are the same, so be patient with your child during this challenging time.
Prepare them for new situations and new friendships
Once you settle into the new place, get involved with community activities. That can help children acclimate. Help your kids socialize by meeting with your neighbors who have kids of similar age.
It’s also crucial to stay in touch with family and friends from your former place of residence. If your children are old enough to use Skype, that’s a great way to chat with them, as well as through social media.
Always lead by example
If you want your child to be warm and friendly with those they meet, you should know that they learn by example and they often mimic your behavior. Try to feel comfortable whenever walking up to a group of strangers because your child will learn to do the same, possibly with their new classmates.
Keep their routines and don’t push things too quickly
Introduce your kids to new things and experiences by embracing just one or two new things at a time. You cannot change all your routines overnight and start a completely new life. So, keep your family routines because children find comfort in them. They have a sense of stability security whenever there’s some routine involved. Bring your favorite kitchen items with you to each home and make family dinners, family movie nights, etc. Go slowly and give your child time to adjust and engage with new things, such as trying local food, learning about local traditions, etc.
Acknowledge any difficult feelings
Kids are shy, some more than others, and that’s normal. Shyness also depends on different situations, and it may be more expressed during periods of transition. Talk with your child and let them know that everyone feels nervous and anxious from time to time. Talk about a time where you felt social anxiety and how you handled it. Tell them what helped you to overcome it. Sometimes kids just need to feel less alone in order to embrace something new.
Acknowledge any complicated feelings and issues your child might have and tell them to ask for help whenever it’s needed. Pay special attention if your child:
- Withdraws from the family
- Has unexplained crying
- Clings to a parent
- Loses interest in things of former interest
- Has academic decline
- Has thoughts or actions of self-harm
- Suffers recent headaches, stomachaches
- Has appetite and/or weight changes
- Has sleeping problems
Kids suffering from these issues or a combination of those may need extra help. So, finding a good therapist might be a necessary step.
Make the moving process as easy as possible
When it comes to frequent relocations, it’s important to celebrate what you’ve been through. Kids need to remember the place they are moving from in the best possible way. You can throw a goodbye party, make a photo book, and take it along with you for a lifelong memory.
While finishing all-important things related to your move, be sure to start packing preparations on time. Delegate some responsibilities to each family member and declutter the home together. Once you sorted out which belongings go with you, you can have the kid’s room ready in no time. Be sure to pack their favorite toys, games, and their favorite wardrobe to be taken to the new place. Those things provide stability and peace in their lives.
Even though there are many psychological effects of moving frequently on kids, some of them are positive. They can build up a special kind of resilience in response to the transitions they experience, which will help them become stronger people in the future.