Can Moving Often Affect a Child's Development?

by Lee Grayson

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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

Preparing for the Move

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recommends talking with your child about the reasons for your move. 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. 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.

About the Author

*I have written chapters and articles for Oxford and Harvard University Presses, ABC-CLIO, and others. Arcadia Press published two of my local history texts and I have also written for numerous "article sites," including Pagewise in 2002. My "How to become a...real estate agent" is available as an online text from a Canadian publisher. *I taught writing courses at a branch campus of Indiana University. *I held a California real estate license and have remodeled four of my own homes and advised others on financing homes, repairing credit to qualify for loans, and managing construction (including meeting local, state, and federal regulations for restoration and development grants). *I served as an AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer and wrote nearly $75,000 in small education grants (under $1,000). *My travels include frequent road trips in Canada, Mexico, U.S., and Europe. I attended school at Cambridge University and used this as a base to explore the UK and Europe.

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