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Can Moving Often Affect a Child's Development?

By Tricia Goss ; Updated June 13, 2017

Job changes, military transfers, economic struggles, marriages and divorces are just a handful of the reasons families with children move to a new neighborhood, city, state, or even country. Children are resilient and may adjust to a single move fairly well, but moving frequently can pose a struggle. Learning about the effect of recurring moves can give you insight into helping your child cope with the changes.

Academic Development

A 2012 study in the journal "Child Development" revealed that children who moved frequently performed significantly lower in areas of math and reading. Each time kids change schools, they must become accustomed to a new teacher's teaching style. One classroom may be learning vastly different material from another, as well. In addition, the time spent moving and adjusting to new surroundings may set a child back as children require time to catch up with their peers.

Social Development

Repeatedly changing neighborhoods and schools can inhibit a child's social development. Children are quick to develop a social order in the classroom as well as on the playground, and new kids often struggle to find their place in these groups. Some children fall prey to bullies, many compromise their beliefs in order to fit in and others become reclusive, either because they are ostracized or because they lose the will to assimilate knowing that they are likely to move in the future.

Emotional Development

When children leave a familiar home, they may feel loss, grief, sadness and anger. Their emotional development may suffer as they may lash out at or withdraw from their parents as well as new teachers and classmates. Children sometimes become distrustful of their parents and others, insecure about their safety and future and generally anxious or fearful. These feelings and experiences are often compounded by the factors contributing to the move, such as job loss and divorce.

Helping Children Adjust

Parents and other adults can help children adjust when a move is necessary. Visiting a new school together before enrollment to meet teachers and staff or find the office, classroom and cafeteria can ease first-day anxiety. Enrolling your children in clubs or activities they enjoy can help them meet new friends and give them something to look forward to as well. Above all, communicate with your kids to learn how they are feeling and find out what they need most from you.

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