Moving With Children

According to the Census Bureau, over six million American children move every year. For most of these youngsters, a family move, whether it is just down the block or to a strange, new city, is a difficult and trying experience that usually involves a degree of sadness, apprehension and emotional upheaval that some authors have compared to dealing with death or divorce.

For adults, moving to a new home or apartment may be an accepted fact; but for children simply moving to a new school ranks among their 20 most stressful life experiences. Furthermore, school-aged children who move to a new community often encounter no less than eight of the 42 items listed as potential stressors on "The Social Readjustment Scale," giving them a 50% greater risk of suffering a stress-related illness if the stressors are not alleviated.

Studies of the Denver Public Schools have also demonstrated that moving during elementary school can significantly affect a child's academic performance. In one such study, second graders who had changed schools at least twice since kindergarten scored 20% lower on achievement tests than students who had not moved. Results also pointed out a direct link between students' moving and the likelihood of their dropping out of school. About 95% of those students who attended a single elementary, middle and high school graduated, while 68% of students who changed schools just once in 12 years graduated. Of students who moved three or more times, only 30% eventually graduated.

A survey of nearly 2,500 elementary and middle school students indicated a mix of emotions when children talked about moving. At one level, youngsters thought that moving was exciting and adventurous; yet, most shared their fears and apprehensions of having to adjust to a new school or community along with sadness at leaving behind old friends and familiar places. Their concerns also focused on the reasons for moving, the degree of difficulty they would encounter in a new classroom and their own ability to adjust to new surroundings and make new friends.

For the majority of children, many of the immediate emotional disruptions caused by moving pass with time. However, parents, educators and counselors can help children adjust more quickly and with less upset through 1) an awareness of the questions and concerns children experience when facing a move, 2) understanding and supportive discussion of feelings and fears and 3) simple preventive measures and appropriate planning before, during and after a move. Parents should also be aware of situations in which a child's behavior indicates unusual difficulties in adjusting to a move, and which may require professional intervention.

The purpose of this publication is to explain the major emotional and behavioral effects of moving on children. The primary goals of this information is to enable parents, educators and others to help children adjust more rapidly and effectively to the moving process, and to help make moving a positive and rewarding experience for every family member.

Thomas T. Olkowski, Ph.D.
Lynn Parker, L.C.S.W.

William Gladden Foundation

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Are All Children Affected By Moving? 5
Why Does Moving Cause Difficulties For Children? 5
What Kinds Of Difficulties Can A Move Cause For Children? 5
How Does The Reasons For Moving Affect Children? 5
How Do Parental Attitudes Affect Children's Feelings About Moving? 6
Do All Children React Similarly To Moving? 6
How Do Children's Ages Affect Their Reactions To Moving? 6
When Should Parents Tell Children About Moving? 6
What Should Parents Tell Children About Moving? 7
Should Children Talk To Their Friends About Moving? 7
When Is The Best Time Of Year For Children To Move? 7
How Involved Should Children Be In Decisions About Moving? 7
Should Children Be Involved In Preparing For A Move? 8
How Can Parents Best Involve Children On Moving Day? 8
How Can Parents Help Children Become Acquainted With A New Neighborhood? 8
How Can Parents Help Children Become Acquainted With A New School? 8
How Can Parents Help Their Children Make New Friends? 9
How Long Should It Takes For A Child To Adjust To A Move? 9
What Are Some Of The Signs That A Child May Be Experiencing
    Difficulty Adjusting To A Move? 9
What Can Parents Do If A Child Is Experiencing Difficulty Adjusting To A Move? 9
How Can Parents Help To Ensure A Positive Moving Experience For Children? 9
COMMON REACTIONS OF CHILDREN TO THE STRESSES OF MOVING 10
SIGNS OF MOVE-RELATED STRESSES IN CHILDREN 12
QUESTIONS CHILDREN THINK ABOUT DURING MOVING 13
WAYS PARENTS CAN HELP CHILDREN DURING A MOVE 14
WHAT SCHOOLS CAN DO TO HELP CHILDREN WHO HAVE MOVED 15
SOURCES OF CONTACT FOR HELP WITH FAMILY MOVES 16

 

 

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