Psychological Effects of Moving on a Child

November 30, 2021 / Posted in Relocation Psychology
Eva Johnson

Digital nomad born in New York but currently living online, Eva knows everything there is to know about packing and moving.

Do you know what the effects of moving on a child are, and how those can influence their development and well-being? If you’re used to relocations and find yourself highly adjustable, that doesn’t mean your little ones feel the same way. Unfortunately, for many children, frequent relocations can have negative consequences on their psyche. Here is how to recognize if your child is experiencing difficulties with adjustment and support them in overcoming them.

A father and son preparing for long-distance moving
As a parent, you should understand how changes affect your children's mental health, well-being, and relationships

Effects of Moving on a Child: The Impact of Long-Distance Relocation From a Children’s Perspective

Even if you just decided to relocate to the best city to raise a family in the US, or have any other reasons to move, your children could be extremely stressed about it. Relocating to a new home and another city could be the best decision, but always keep in mind that your kid’s perspective is quite different from yours.

According to a recent study, children who frequently move before they make it to the eighth grade can experience more challenges with school performance, social skills, and behavior overall. But why is relocating so stressful for kids?

Reasons Why Frequent Relocations Can Negatively Affect Your Kid’s Well-Being

Change of environment, parting from friends and grandparents, going through the packing process and the preparations of the home for sale can be very confusing for toddlers, teenagers, and everybody in between. However, the list of reasons why relocation is so stress-inducing is even longer.

All the mentioned events are only a prelude to more complex problems like lack of stability, constant adjustments, frequent parting from the community, and breaking the routine.

How Does Changing Schools Affect a Child?

Relocating from a small town to a big city can be a shocking experience for the kid, not only because of different lifestyles but because of school. Adapting to an unfamiliar school and classmates is definitely the greatest challenge of all youngsters. If this repeats every couple of years, it can directly affect their grades, academic performance, and mental health in general.

Increased distress, low self-esteem, worries, and constant tension are all negative effects they can experience. That’s why you should plan your relocations very carefully and consider all the factors that could affect your child’s quality of life.

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Red Flags All Parents Should Take Seriously When It Comes to the Mental Health of Their Kids

No matter the age, youngsters can also feel depressed after relocation because of all the changes they need to face. The only difference is how they’ll express their feelings. Of course, understanding what happens in your little one’s mind is quite difficult when they’re too young to understand these changes. Here are some of the psychological effects of moving frequently as a child that can show something is wrong:

  • Inexplicable crying is the most common way for toddlers to communicate that something is wrong. Since they still don’t have the capacity to understand the logical explanation, the best thing you can do is to provide the toddler with comfort, a hug, and attention.
  • Sleeping disorders are another red flag that your kid is going through difficult times while adjusting to the new life conditions. If they keep coming to your bedroom in the middle of the night looking for comfort, it is a sign they need emotional support. Although this is a common way of communicating their fears, pay some extra attention to it after cross-country moving.
  • If you notice your kids becoming more aggressive and starting quarrels with their siblings, peers, or even older people, it is another way they show how stressed they are. Try to show some compassion and ask them why they’re feeling angry.
  • Disinterest in fun activities and playing with other children is also an alarm that indicates inner struggles, and you should take them seriously. However, if you feel like you don’t know what to do, or any of the solutions don’t make a difference, contact a pediatric psychologist and ask for help. Their expertise and experience will definitely be significant in this adjustment process.
  • Bad school performance is a certain sign a kid is experiencing difficulties adjusting to the new environment. Remember that this is an extremely stressful event and it directly influences the feelings of self-worth and confidence, so show patience, honest interest, and support when talking to them about it.
  • Physical issues like frequent headaches, stomachaches, weight loss, or weight gain are other symptoms that indicate there is a problem. If this is something that occurs pretty often, don’t neglect it and consult both doctors and psychologists to find the right solution.
A young boy talking to a therapist after long-distance moving
No matter how hard you try, sometimes an unbiased point of view and professional guidance will resolve all the issues more effectively

What Can You Do to Alleviate the Bad Effects of Frequent Moving During Childhood?

Kids can be anxious about moving out, and there are various ways they will communicate their struggles. If you notice your youngsters might be going through it, here are small but effective solutions that could mitigate their anxiety.

Explore Books, Tips, and Other Resources on Pediatric Psychology and Mental Health

Understanding what could potentially cross your kid’s mind is the very first step of being able to help them. For that reason, researching psychology-based resources to broaden your knowledge is always highly recommended, regardless of whether you’re relocating or not. To find out the top books on children’s psychology you should read, take a look at the video below!

Talk to Them or Consult Children Psychologist

One of the most common relocation mistakes parents make is forgetting to talk to their children about the upcoming change. These conversations can be very useful to prepare them emotionally and mentally for all the events, from packing and changing schools to meeting new classmates.

Also, it would be helpful if you presented both the positive and negative sides of relocation. This way, they’ll be able to form realistic expectations and deal with all obstacles that will inevitably come their way. In case you feel like you need some more instruction on how to properly approach your kid, don’t hesitate to consult a psychologist, or even have your teenagers attend a couple of sessions to resolve all their fears and dilemmas. The point is – they shouldn’t feel like they’ve moved to another city alone.

Include the Kids in the Packing Process to Help Them Become Aware of What Is Happening

Protecting the youngsters from the packing process won’t necessarily make any part of this experience easier for them. Believe it or not, they could feel excluded. If they are in their teenage years, ensure to give them simple tasks related to relocation. In the end, this is also a way of preparation for the upcoming move.

Encourage them to go through their toys or clothes to decide what to keep and what can be donated as unwanted items to some charity or people in need. Keep in mind that this is also a part of the mental preparation and saying goodbye to the old house.

Throw a Goodbye Party and Invite Their Friends, Too

Saying goodbye is the toughest part of the story, especially when it comes to family members and peers who were part of their childhood. However, saying bye to friends is another preparatory step that will allow them to understand what is going on. Besides, just because your family moved, that doesn’t mean they’ll have to cut contact with all their dear people. Remind them there are still many options to stay in touch with all friends, family members, and other people they find important for their social life.

Pack Their Bedrooms Last and Unpack Them First!

When it comes to packing schedules and getting organized to move, it is very important to leave their room to be packed last. Their bedrooms are their safe spaces, so don’t pack them before it’s necessary. Also, once the stuff is delivered to the new home address, ensure to unpack and equip their bedrooms first to give them some extra time to adjust to different conditions.

Make Their Bedroom Resemble the Old One for More Comfort and Security

This tip is especially advisable to follow when it comes to toddlers. Leaving the old, familiar place is already stressful enough, so changing the appearance of their room entirely could stress them even more.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t improve your future home and their room – but keep important familiar items such as their toys, desk, or bed. You can even consult them if they want to make some changes. They can choose the color for walls and arrange all their toys and packed books – and this is how their personal space will allow them to feel secure.

Encourage Confidence and Support Them in Meeting New Peers

Making friends in a new city is definitely the greatest issue teenagers deal with. Younger kids don’t necessarily have an easier time, either. Although they’ll be surrounded by many peers in school, sometimes they could have some difficulties approaching them, so they might feel isolated from the community. For that reason, trying to meet new neighbors and their children could be a good idea.

Keep Up With Routines

This is tremendously important, especially if you’re relocating with newborns or toddlers. Avoid changing the times of their meals, playtime, or bedtime. Sticking to their routine will lower the stress they’re experiencing, so let this be a top priority during and after the move.

By Hiring Cross-Country Movers, You’ll Get More Time to Dedicate to Children

Preparations for relocation are time-consuming, and if you’re relocating with kids, the best solution will be to hire movers who will assist you during the whole process. Finding a reliable long-distance moving company is a giant task for itself, but is worth every effort since the whole process will be significantly accelerated, and you’ll get a stress-free move.

Once you pick all long-distance moving services and start with preparations, you’ll have enough time to dedicate to your little ones and provide them with all the needed emotional support.

Put Their Emotions First to Make the Transition Easier

No parent wants their kid to end up unhappy in an unfamiliar place. That’s why developing listening and observational skills is essential to recognize the first symptoms of your kid’s mental struggles. Although it might not seem like such an important thing, as the pattern repeats over the years, the consequences could be devastating.

Don’t forget to talk to your youngster and establish a relationship full of trust, and don’t hesitate to ask for professional help if you feel like you and your kid need it.

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