to a new community may be one of the most stress-producing
experiences a family faces. Frequent moves or even a single
move can be especially hard on children and adolescents. Studies
show children who move frequently are more likely to have
problems at school. Moves are even more difficult if accompanied
by other significant changes in the child’s life, such as
a death, divorce, loss of family income, or a need to change
interrupt friendships. To a new child at school, it may at
first seem that everyone else has a best friend or is securely
involved with a group of peers. The child must get used to
a different schedule and curriculum, and may be ahead in certain
subjects and behind in others. This situation may make the
child stressed, anxious or bored.
in kindergarten or first grade may be particularly vulnerable
to a family move because developmentally they are just in
the process of separating from their parents and adjusting
to new authority figures and social relationships. The relocation
can interfere with that normal process of separation by causing
them to return to a more dependent relationship with their
the older the child, the more difficulty he or she will have
with the move because of the increasing importance of the
peer group. Pre-teens and teenagers may repeatedly protest
the move, or ask to stay in their hometown with a friend's
family. Some youngsters may not talk about their distress,
so parents should be aware of the warning signs of depression,
including changes in appetite, social withdrawal, a drop in
grades, irritability, sleep disturbances or other dramatic
changes in behavior or mood.
who seem depressed by a move may be reacting more to the stress
they are experiencing than to the relocation. Sometimes one
parent may be against the move, and children will sense and
react to this parental discord.
child shows persistent signs of depression or distress, parents
can ask their family doctor, their pediatrician, or the local
medical society to refer them to a child and adolescent psychiatrist.
The child and adolescent psychiatrist can evaluate and treat
the child’s emotional problems which may be associated with
stress and also help parents make the transition and new experience
easier for the whole family.
the move easier on children, parents may take these steps:
clearly to the children why the move is necessary.
the children as much as possible with the new area with
maps, photographs or the daily newspaper.
advantages of the new location that the child might appreciate
such as a lake, mountain or an amusement park.
the move, get involved with the children in activities of
the local church or synagogue, PTA, scouts, YMCA, etc.
a son or daughter is a senior in high school, consider the
possibility of letting him or her stay with a trusted family
until the school year is over.
children participate in designing or furnishing their room.
children keep in touch with friends from the previous neighborhood
through telephone, letters, e-mail, and personal visits.
frequently a family moves, the more important is the need
for internal stability. With the proper attention from parents,
and professional help if necessary, moving can be a positive
growth experience for children, leading to increased self-confidence
and interpersonal skills.
Information see Facts for Families #4 "The Depressed Child,"
#7 "Children Who Won’t Go to School," "#8 "Children and Grief,"
and #47 "The Anxious Child."
#14 Updated 4/99