How Does Moving House Affect Children?
Moving houses is never easy. The physical, mental and emotional toll it takes can often be unbearable. You’re on your feet practically every eerie second, ticking things off your moving checklist and trying to pack everything on time. And this stress can weigh down on you without you even realizing it. But in all the commotion, don’t forget that moving houses can affect your children not just as much as it affects you, but even more.
Just as depicted in the Pixar film ‘Inside Out’, your kid is about to go through a range of emotions that can throw them off. It might be a bigger change for them than we realize because they would have to find ways to fit in with other kids, which we know can be quite daunting. So read on to know more about how moving affects children so you can be best prepared to make this easier on your kids and adjust better to their new environment.
Moving is Tough for Kids: Tackling The Topic
It can be hard to grasp the ways in which moving house can affect kids. But picture this: kids aren’t as involved with all the planning and packing – tasks that grab your attention and give your mind something to fixate on. While they watch their regular lives get disrupted around them, they’re also dealing with getting uprooted and losing all familiarity as they have to pick up where they left off in a completely new location. And all of this happening during one of the most important phases of development can truly have its effects.
Children are used to routine, and the familiarity is comforting and secure. The sudden disruption will throw them off, and they may not even fully comprehend why. A recent study showed that as compared to kids who stay in their original hometown, children who have moved more than 4 times during their childhood are three times as likely to experience problems with mental health.
Naturally, how does moving house affect children is a question you should definitely get the answer to. We’ve broken it up into different aspects of a child’s life for you to get a better perspective.
Unless your move is a local one, the most immediate change that your kids will feel is the fact that they now will be going to a different school. And this can be met with all sorts of reactions. While some could be excited at the prospect of new friends and teachers, others may be disappointed and even daunted at the thought of having to let their familiar school go. Schools are the second place kids spend the most of their time after their homes. And it is natural for them to be worried about how they’re going to adjust.
- Gaining Good Will: In a new school, your children will have to prove themselves all over again, be it academically, in sports, or in extra-curriculars. None of the reputation they enjoyed in their previous school will follow them here. If anything, it’s highly likely that your kids will have to put in even more effort to prove themselves and establish a rapport with the people around them.
- New friends: Moving to a new school is not like joining a new class or starting a new group activity. Your kid will be one of the very few “new kids on the block”, while their peers will already have established friends and social circles. From finding a place to sit in the cafeteria to joining extra-curriculars and sports teams, this process can be extremely daunting and may make your kids isolate within themselves.
- Teachers: Often, children have favourites among their teachers, whether for their teaching style or personality, and this greatly helps their academic progress. Having to start afresh with a new set of teachers can be intimidating, and may cause your child to have trouble performing academically. This can only get worse if your children neither understand the professor’s teaching style nor do they feel comfortable enough to approach them with their concerns.
- Study Partners: Even the brightest of children often lean on the shoulders of their reliable study partners, not just for those mid-term papers, but for every other exam as well. While not having a teacher they can reach out to can be a setback within itself, but not having a study partner either can also be a crippling blow to someone really in need of a friendly companion who can help with everything taught in class.
- Lack Of Motivation: There’s no way to know how your children will react or adapt to moving cities and starting afresh in a new school or college. However, if all the above factors are not doing them any favors, your child might not be as motivated to put any effort into their academics, sports, or even socializing and making new friends. Sometimes, a move can bring about a psychological fatigue which results in children not having the motivation to excel in things or engage in stuff they usually enjoyed doing.
Things You Can Do
- Pick your neighborhood wisely. Ideally, you should be looking for a neighborhood which has at least one to two good quality schools. This ensures the neighborhood is good for school-going kids, and you’ll also be surrounded by families.
- Take extra care when choosing a new school for your kids. Look into their student-to-teacher ratios, extra curriculars, teacher training and other details, and try to pick one with a friendly and motivational atmosphere. Speak to the teachers, the principal and the school psychologist. Don’t hold yourself back on telling them of the move, addressing any concerns you may have about your kids adjusting. They’ll look out for your children and keep you in the loop of any developments.
- Involve your child. Take them with you to meet the school principal and go on a campus tour before they officially begin class. Get them excited about the new school by going shopping for some new clothes and school-things.
- Try to make friends with some of the parents around you and find out information first-hand, like what after-school activities are popular and what the kids around enjoy. Enroll your child into these activities.
- Don’t overwhelm your kid. While enrolling them in plenty of classes, activities and sports teams is a great way for them to mingle around, it can be extremely taxing as well. Ensure they have time to themselves where they can also get used to their new home and surroundings instead of being neck-deep in things to do.
- Talk to your children. Ask them how they’re adjusting, help them out with homework, and observe their behaviour. If you notice them being quieter than usual after three weeks of starting school, sit them down and try to help them as much as you can. Remind them you’re there to help, and take what they say seriously. They’ll feel much better knowing you can actually hear them out and help them.
In all this, remember to keep your cool. Children look to their parents for reassurance and support, and seeing you worry and fret may make them keep things to themselves. Remember that a new school is also a new opportunity, and your children may just propel themselves forward academically, thriving in this new environment.
See also: Tips for Moving During the School Year
Out of all the changes, this is probably the one met with the most heartbreak. It can be hard on kids to move away from their friends, especially if they have a close-knit bunch that they meet often. Your kids may get cranky and cry often, refusing to cooperate, which in turn makes it harder on the adults who are also dealing with the logistics of moving. Peer to peer development is very important for children, which is why you need to make sure this goes down smoothly. Apart from being pillars of reassurance and encouragement, here’s a few ways to tackle it:
- Call your kid’s buddies over for a farewell party, and make sure you make it fun. Create a memory book so all the friends can jot down things like their name, address and phone number for your child to stay in touch with them. To make it more fun, add more categories like ‘best memory together’, and ‘things yet to be done’.
- Have a small housewarming ceremony to invite the neighborhood families over. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just clear out enough space among the packed boxes and set out some snacks. The idea is to socialize with them, and for their kids to break the ice with yours.
- Go exploring the new neighborhood with your kids. Make it a fun day, play at being adventurers. Make sure you know where all the local parks and playgrounds are so your kids can meet other young children there.
- Help your children stay in touch with their old friends. A video call session on a weekend is a good idea, especially if they’ve been pining for their old friends. Stay in touch with their parents to make plans like these.
With children, their natural curiosity can often be a blessing as this will overcome their initial shyness. Once the initial bonds are formed, it won’t take long for your kid to make new friends. Just help them over the bridge of doubt and they’ll be able to handle it after that. Remind them that they’re not losing out on their old friends, they’ve just gained more.
Apart from their parents and friends, children also have different bonds with different family members. These grow weaker or stronger over the years, and while most become positive, some can be neutral or even negative. Moving house brings these bonds to the test. To add to that, moving away from their grandparents or the fun uncle is never easy. On the other end of the spectrum is having to create new bonds with family members they were previously not close to. You could have moved to get closer to family, but for your young kids, they have just been exposed to a totally new set of people they are related to and it doesn’t always go down smoothly. Here’s what you can do to help the transition:
If you’ll be seeing a lot more of a relative they’re not familiar with/haven’t met before:
- Sit them down and explain how they’re related. Chart out a fun family tree for your kids as an interactive way for them to get to know their family.
- Have a few video calls before the move. This way at least your kids get a sense of who they are and will be a little less awkward and shy when meeting them in person.
If you’re moving away from a relative they share a close bond with:
- This one can be tough, so remind them that they can still stay in touch. Set up a monthly letter correspondence if your kids are interested, or even organize for them to send drawings back to the relative as ways of staying in touch.
- Have video calls to help overcome the physical distance.
- If possible, have them come over for the holidays. Staying in your new house will help the kids get accustomed to it, while going back has the risk of them getting hit with nostalgia and missing it all over again. Make the call wisely.
How To Prepare Your Child For A Move
There is no doubt that the first and most important thing you should do is explain the move to your children. Leaving them in the dark will only confuse and upset them even more, and is a drastic error you do not want to make. Have a proper conversation with your kids, explaining the move to them, why it is happening, and what it entails. Be patient, and answer as honestly as you can.
Here’s a few tips on how to tackle this tricky conversation depending on the age of your kids:
Toddlers (Ages Younger Than 6)
- Be clear, concise and simple. The more complicated your explanation, the more flustered and overwhelmed they may get.
- Use toys or drawings to help your child understand the basics of what is about to happen.
- Ensure your kids understand that their toys are only being temporarily packed up, and aren’t being given away.
- Help them pack a ‘Treasure Box’ of items that are extra special to them. A special soft toy, a small blanket, and add a colouring book for safety. These ought to ideally fit into a small backpack your tiny tot can keep around during the move. In fact, it’s these little things which act as a sort of security blanket for them, especially on moving day, and the few days of unpacking and arranging things in the new house.
- If this is possible, go over to the new house with your toddler a few times, taking a few toys to leave there on every trip.
- Remember to make arrangements for someone to take care of your toddler on moving day, as you don’t want them sitting amongst or adding to the chaos.
- There is only so much these young’uns can understand about a move, so remember to be as patient and encouraging as possible.
School-going Kids (Ages 7 to 12)
It is certainly easier to explain the ‘why’s and ‘how’s of a move to school-going kids, but it doesn’t make it any less harder on them.
- Tell your kids that you’re involving them in the process of picking out a new school, and while you are at it, do make sure that you see that promise through.
- Try your best to avoid moving during a school year. Nothing is more disruptive and intimidating than this. Try to have a summer move.
College-going Kids (Teenagers)
Don’t forget your college-going teens in all the confusion. While it will certainly be easier to explain the move to older children, don’t forget that it can still impact them.
- College kids have a higher level of maturity, and share much deeper bonds with the friends around them. They can get caught up with academics, finding it hard to make time to actually meet in person.
- Your kids may rebel against the move, especially if they had occasions like Homecoming or Prom coming up that they were looking forward to. See if there’s a way your kid can still come back to attend at least one of these events.
- Be patient with them. Remind them that you’re there for them, and try to get their help in the packing so they’re involved.
- Tell them about the facilities in your new neighborhood so they can enroll for any activities they used to do, like sports, dancing or swimming.
- Make sure you help your older kids through this, lending a helping hand or an open ear and parental guidance when needed.
See also: Moving with Kids
Be prepared for a whirlwind of emotions, changing personalities, and watching your children grow. Such a massive change during these tender years can sometimes be difficult to deal with for children, especially for those who had it all going for them in their former life. However, it’s not always gloomy and worrying. Sure, a move certainly brings its challenges, but more often than not, kids overcome them in their own resilient ways and adjust to their new environments. All you have to do is be there for them academically and emotionally should they need you.