According to Christina Steinorth, author and licensed psychotherapist. “Moving brings feelings of sadness because of all the losses involved—the loss of school, the loss of friends, the loss of trusted teachers, babysitters, and the loss of certain routines.” Other negative effects of moving are academic challenges (e.g., teacher and curriculum expectations vary from school to school), self-esteem and self-worth issues, and separation anxiety.
A major reason kids are sometimes negatively affected by a move is because moves often occur because of other problems such as a divorce or a job loss, says Frederic J. Medway, a professor of psychology at the University of South Carolina. These situations mean parents are stressed and upset and those feelings trickle down to the kids.
The flipside to these effects is that a positive attitude from parents can change how the child views the move. A move is an opportunity to live in and learn about a new town, meet new friends, and maybe even be exposed to new cultures and a different way of life. For children who've dealt with academic problems or issues with friends, moving can even provide a fresh start.
It's most important to prepare your kids and to make them part of the preparations no matter their ages.
- Tell them why you are moving and where you are moving. Whether it's because of a job offer, a sick relative, or any other reason, offer your child a clear, honest explanation.
- Explain the benefits of the move that relate to their interests—maybe the new school’s swim team or tech club will pique your child’s interest.
- Be honest about life changes the move may cause, but reassure your child that their life will remain much the same. Tell your child, “Even though we will live in a new city, we will still stay in contact with old friends and we’ll still do all of the same family activities we did before the move” (such as your weekly pizza night).
- Bring them house hunting with you, and let them participate in the decision-making process. Make a wish list together of some of the things you want in your new home, such as a bigger yard or a playroom.