Can Moving Often Affect a Child's Development?
Moving creates major stress for all family members. Young toddlers transition well to a new home, according to Iowa State University Extension specialist Lesia Oesterreich, but older preschoolers frequently face more adaptations as a result of the move and may have some difficulties adjusting to the relocation 4. Elementary-aged kids, she says, tend to do well during the move itself, but a few weeks later, they may experience some confusion and frustration about the places and friends they've left behind. A smooth transition to a new home requires careful preparation by adults to set the stage for the move. Frequent moves, even with advanced preparation, however, have a significant impact on the development of many children.
Cognitive Development and Academics
Moving can impact a child's cognitive development. Studies done by the Center for Research on Child Wellbeing show that children in households that move frequently have lower grades and higher school drop-out rates, on average 5. Moves undermine building academic skills during the formative elementary-level grades, when students learn basic writing, reading and math skills. Frequent moves may also have a negative impact on communication skills for children of all ages forced to adapt to new classroom environments and teaching styles.
Safety and Trust Issues
The Iowa State University Extension reports that children often feel uncertainty during preparations for the move and settling in a new home 4. Frequent relocations disrupt the feeling of a safe home environment and discourage developing trust due to the continual changes. This lack of childhood security sometimes leads to overly cautious behavior by young children, according to British Columbia HealthLinkBC 7. Children may feel comfortable in a trusted and familiar home environment, such as a toy tent or setting that includes personal items, such as a child-size chair and lap blanket for young children. These accessories allow the child to set up the familiar and safe environment of trusted possessions in each new home.
Social Development and Friendships
Frequent moves influence childhood friendships, and the child's social skills may suffer with the moves, according to the Center for Research on Child Wellbeing 5. Children miss friends after a move, but planning for this loss before the relocation makes the impact less traumatic. Collect addresses and buy your child special paper to use for letters or drawings to send to friends. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends encouraging children to plan visits with old friends for family moves in the same general geographic area, and allowing older children to use social media to keep in touch with friends and former classmates 8.
Preparing for the Move
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recommends talking with your child about the reasons for your move 2. Allow time for questions about the relocation during the discussion, and expect to have a follow-up discussion once your child thinks about how the move will change family life 2. Prepare your child by focusing on the positive aspects of each move. Throw a moving party to allow time for your child to say goodbye to friends. Be prepared for a period of adjustment; the National Network for Child Care says adjusting after a move can take as long as 16 months 3.
- Children's Home of Detroit National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children
- KidsHealth: Preparing Your Child for a Move
- National Network for Child Care: Understanding Children -- Moving to a New Home
- Iowa State University Extension: Understanding Children -- Moving to a New Home
- Center for Research on Child Wellbeing: Moving and Children's Social Connections -- The Critical Importance of Context
- Wheeler Clinic: Moving to a New House
- British Columbia HealthLinkBC: Preschoolers -- Building a Sense of Security
- American Academy of Pediatrics Healthychildren.org: Family Life -- Helping Children Adjust to a Move
- Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images