For families with kids, the decision to move to a new home isn’t a simple one. Often, the kids don’t want to leave their current friends, school or neighborhood. They may feel anxious and worried about fitting in and making new friends in a new locale. It can be less traumatic when the move is only to a different part of town, rather than a completely different town or state or even country, but it’s still tough!
Mental Health Hazards
According to an analysis that tracked almost 50,000 youngsters over a 10-year period, kids who move a lot during childhood may be more likely to experience mental health problems, versus those who don’t change addresses. Experts in child psychology say after moving five or more times, children are more than three times as likely to experience mental health problems.
The impact of moving on mental health may also be worse for older children, particularly if they have to leave behind their close friends and adapt to a new school. Moving has the biggest impact on kids over the age of 5 – it’s particularly difficult for them to leave their friends and social circle and adjust to a new school during this crucial stage of development. Interestingly, the researchers in this study did not find a connection between moving and physical health, only mental health.
Understanding the connection between mental health and frequent childhood moves may better equip parents and health care providers to help kids navigate these changes, says Katherine Marcal, a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis who wasn’t involved in the study.
“Healthy child development is supported by stability and security across domains,” Marcal explains. “Housing is one important aspect of this, along with parenting, family dynamics, neighborhood factors, the school environment, peer influences, etc.”
The first step in making this move easier on your kids, according to experts, is keeping them in the loop. Don’t leave them out when discussing what’s going on. Be honest and literally put the “parent” in transparent. Explain what’s changing, when and most importantly, why.
Another great tip? Help them create a treasure chest and a memory box: the chest filled with their favorite things and the memory box filled with phone numbers and addresses of close friends and family.
Finally, make sure they get the chance to properly say goodbye to friends, family or neighbors. But also, their physical home itself. They no doubt have precious memories they associate with it.
Moving to a new city can serve as a positive change for your life, which might explain why so many Americans move: up to 63% have moved to a new place compared to the 37% who’ve never left their hometowns. That said, moving to a new place can have big challenges too, especially for your kids.
Timing Is Everything
Most experts agree it is preferable to move prior to a new school year, rather than during one. But that doesn’t mean you should rush your decision or choose a house just because you fear consequences for your kids. Again, following the steps above can help ease the way. Be honest and open, and prepare your kids, and moving can be a great experience for all.