Moving to a new place can be an overwhelming experience for children, forcing them to bid farewell to their teachers, friends, and their community members, said Ryan and Rachel Ehmke of Child Mind Institute, an independent non-profit.
After moving to a new town or city, kids may find themselves adjusting to their new environment or feel the need to catch up with their classmates. Many of them might have difficulty making friends, as they are concerned about being “the new kid.”
Residential Mobility Among Children
David Murphey, Ph.D. and colleagues of Child Trends, a non-profit, non-partisan research center, examined kids below six years who experienced five or more moves (also known as “frequent movers”) using nationally representative data from the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health. Published in 2012, the authors found that 48% of children under six years had ever moved and only 2.4% had moved five or more times. 35% had moved once or twice while 10% had moved three or four times.
Children from poor families, whose income is below the federal poverty level (FPL), were more likely than those with incomes twice or more than FPL to move five or more times (5.5% versus 1.2%). Moreover, young children in families with incomes between 100 and 199% of FPL were more likely (3%) to experience frequent moves compared to more affluent families.
Young children living in households where no adult was employed for 50 out of the past 52 weeks were more likely than those without adult unemployment to be frequent movers (3.7% versus 1.8%). Children whose mothers had no more than a high school education were likely to be frequent movers (3.7%) unlike those with mothers who finished college. Frequent moves were more prevalent among kids not living with two biological or adoptive parents (6.15) compared with those that have either two biological or adoptive parents.
Regarding race/ethnicity, multiracial children were most likely to move five or more times (4.8%) along with Hispanic children (3.5%), African-Americans (2.9%), “other” (2%), and whites (1.5%). Gender wise, girls were likely to experience five-plus moves (2.7%) compared to boys (2.1%).
In a 2012 study by Alice R. Rumbold and colleagues of life science and biomedical journal portal PMC, 20.8% of 403 families in Adelaide, South Australia moved once from birth to <2 years (versus 71.5% of “no moves” and 7.7% ≥2 moves). From 2 to <5 years, 22.8% moved once unlike those who had experienced ≥2moves (11.2%) and 66% of “no moves.” From five to nine years, only 19.6% of families moved once, with 15.4% experiencing ≥2 moves and 65% having “no moves.”
Total house moves from birth to nine years were 40.4% for “no moves,” 22.6% for “1 move,” and 37% for ≥2 moves. Regarding housing trajectories associated with housing tenure changes at 2, 3.5, and 9 nine years, most of the families had continuous home ownership (69.7%) and rental occupancy (8.4%). 9.7% of families experienced upwardly (9.7%) or downwardly (7.2%) housing tenure changes. Meanwhile, only 5% of families experienced mixed housing tenure changes.
Discussing the Move With Your Child
Most children thrive on structure and familiarity, noted Jennifer Shroff Pendley, Ph.D., of Kids Health, the most trusted source for physician-reviewed information and advice on kids’ health and parenting issues. If you are considering moving to another place, it is recommended to weight the benefits of moving and the comfort of being surrounded by familiar people and places.
Consider postponing your move if your family has experienced a major life (ex: divorce, death, or in some cases, deployment for military families), as it will give ample time for your child to adjust. If you have to relocate due to a job transfer or financial issues, Dr. Pendley suggested maintaining a positive attitude even if you are not happy about the move. Your moods and attitudes can affect your child, who may be turning to you for reassurance. Regardless of the circumstance, give your child as much information about the move as possible. Answer any questions completely and truthfully.
Be receptive to your child’s feedback, be it positive or negative. Relocation may benefit your family in the long run, but your child may not understand it and may be more focused on the negative aspects of moving. Involving your child in discussing the move makes them feel they part of the house-or school-hunting process, making them feel that the change is not imposed on them.
Visit the new house or explore the new neighborhood with your child if you are moving somewhere within the town. When moving somewhere far away, provide your child with sufficient information about the new home, city, state, or country. Find out where children can engage in their favorite activities using the internet or request your friend, relative, or a real estate agent for pictures of the new house and school.
New House, Same Old Routine
Having regular mealtimes and bedtimes might not be your top priority when your family is preoccupied with unpacking boxes in your new home. However, it is important to establish structure and familiarity as soon as you move into a new location.
Place familiar objects around the house to help your child feel more comfortable, especially if you are moving to different environment overseas, according to Erin Rovack Hendersched. In her case, her family moved from Virginia to Taipei because her husband is based in Taiwan. Rovack’s sons, with ages ranging from six to 16, felt comfortable with the move as she stocked their house with her kids’ favorite snacks. Rovack narrated, “We order from Amazon. We order the cereals that they like, we order the pretzels that they like, because you can’t get that here.”
Hello to New (and Old) Friends
Friendships are important to teens as they can feel isolated from moving into a new location where they don’t have an established peer group. You can have your child participate in extracurricular activities to meet new friends. However, that does not mean your child has to let go of their old friends. Tell them to reconnect with their friends using social media. Whenever possible, consider letting your child see their friends in your old neighborhood, suggested Lauren DiMaria of Verywell Mind.
Whether families are moving because of a job transfer, deployment, or financial issues, it is important for parents to be transparent about the move. They should provide information and photos of the new neighborhood. Relocation may trigger depression and mental health issues in children. Hence, it is recommended to consult a professional if parents suspect that their kids experience depressive symptoms.