The Emotional Impact of Relocating on School-Age Children

Relocating, especially when it involves changing schools, can present a significant emotional challenge for children. While adults often focus on financial matters, paperwork stress, and logistical details during a move, children are more attuned to the emotional aspects of the process. Feelings of fear, sadness, and even anger are natural reactions that can arise, and these emotions can have lasting effects, particularly when moves occur during specific age ranges. In this exploration, we’ll delve into research on the emotional impact of relocating on school-age children and provide valuable tips for parents to mitigate these effects on their families.

Research, particularly studies conducted by the MacArthur Foundation on childhood relocation, indicates that even a single move can have adverse effects on school-age children. Any move during this period is linked to an approximately half-year loss in educational attainment, along with lower educational achievement and reduced earnings in later life. The impact is even more pronounced for children aged six to ten, with moves during this critical period resulting in a staggering 44% reduction in later earnings. Additionally, individuals who experienced multiple moves during childhood were more likely to report lower life satisfaction and diminished psychological well-being in adulthood.

Why are moves during the ages of six to ten potentially harmful? This period, known as middle childhood, is pivotal for social, emotional, and academic development. Frequent relocations during this time can lead to setbacks, challenges in achieving important milestones, and difficulties in social situations. The experience can evoke feelings of powerlessness and profound loss, contributing to behavioral issues and academic struggles.

To help children cope with the move, it is often recommended to schedule it towards the end of the school year whenever feasible. Uprooting children without allowing them to finish the current academic year or bid farewell can cast the move in a negative light. Efforts should be made to make the experience positive, emphasizing the excitement of new opportunities. Sharing the news early on is crucial, as open communication provides children with an opportunity to express concerns and ask questions. Validating their emotions and responding empathetically helps them feel heard.

Involving children in the moving process, even in small decisions, fosters a sense of control and participation. Ultimately, the goal is to focus on positive emotions and excitement while minimizing dwelling on the negative aspects of the move. By understanding the unique challenges that relocating poses for school-age children, parents can take proactive measures to support their emotional well-being during this significant transition.

For further insights into the impacts of moving on children, refer to the accompanying resource.

Graphic created by Move Central, professional movers in San Diego.