Overcoming the Challenges of Moving with Children
Parents often question the wisdom of moving with children. The reasons for relocation vary, and the eventual impact on the child is based largely on the frequency of moves and the quality of the new location. Fortunately, there are things parents can do to reduce the negative impacts and optimize the potential benefits of relocation.
Disturbing trends on moving
A recent study on moving published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine followed children born in Denmark between 1971 and 1997. The study specifically looked at the instances of:
- Attempted suicide
- Natural deaths
- Psychiatric illness
- Substance misuse
- Unnatural deaths
- Violent criminality
This examination of the data set was completed between 2014 and 2015. The study looked for a correlation between residential moves between birth and age 14 and adverse outcomes over the course of the child’s life. Results showed:
- Increased risk associated with multiple relocations.
- Incremental increase in risk associated with increasing age at the time of the move.
- Sharp spikes in increases linked to multiple relocations within a single year during early to mid-adolescence for violent offending, substance abuse, attempted suicide, and unnatural death.
- Significant increase seen in violent offending and attempted suicide with increased age at the time of the move.
The study indicates a need for care to be given when older children are subjected to relocation, especially for those children who undergo multiple moves. Further attention to the mental health and emotional well-being of these children as they age is also recommended.
Mitigating negative outcomes
Dr. John Mayer, a practicing clinical psychologist and a leading expert on children and families, noted that moving can have negative developmental consequences. However, he explained, “No more or less than other life events that come into a child’s world.”
The resiliency of a child is greatly affected by the support they receive. Some studies suggest one of the ways to mitigate the negative outcomes which appear to be associated with frequent moves is to increase the role of the family unit after the relocation. This can be done in several ways. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests parents:
- Allow the child to explore the community prior to the move.
- Become actively involved in the new community.
- Emphasize the benefits of the move.
- Maintain beneficial contacts from the old community.
- Make the moving process a family event.
For children who have difficulty adjusting to the reality of their relocation, speaking to a professional counselor may help. They should also be encouraged to seek out mental health resources as they transition to college and throughout their lives when they feel the need for a greater level of emotional and psychological support.
Moving with children benefits
The Equality of Opportunity Project has been examining some of the benefits of relocation due to the potential of upward income mobility based on geographic location. According to their research, the potential for children to improve their economic situation as adults is greatly influenced by where they live.
Areas with the greatest upward mobility tend to have five key characteristics:
- Better schools
- Greater social capital
- Less income inequality
- Less segregation
- More stable families
The effect of childhood exposure to a new location that has more of these characteristics improves exponentially with each additional year. This results in more positive long-term outcomes for moving with children.
Another factor in determining upward mobility of children is the amount of violent crime in the area. A paper published by New York University professor Patrick Sharkey in conjunction with Ph.D. student Gerard Torrats-Espinosa suggests a correlation between higher levels of crime in a given area and lower prospects for the upward mobility of children who live there.
With less crime children and their families are able to:
- Enjoy a safer school environment.
- Greater development of cognitive skills.
- Have greater freedom in their daily routines.
- Heightened school engagement.
- Improved academic performance.
- Reduce stress for parents and children.
Author, consultant, and secondary educator expert Kara Carrero explained that moving to a new location offers children many long-term benefits such as being more willing to move later in life to pursue out-of-state educational or career opportunities. According to Carerro, it helps them “understand the importance of quickly connecting and adapting in a new environment.”
When parents are moving with children to new areas that have greater benefits, it is important for them to help the children take advantage of the new environment as quickly and fully as possible.
Moving to a new location is going to be stressful. Moving with children can be even more so. Whether one is planning the move entirely on his or her own or hiring a moving company, the change in routine and environment will affect the entire family.
Being aware of the challenges faced by children who undergo the relocation process can help parents decide if the benefits of the move truly outweigh the potential risks. When moves are unavoidable proper care should be given to the process and continuing evaluation of the child’s psychological health and well-being.