When it comes to moving, parents’ main concerns are usually time, money, and organization. They rarely think about their children’s mental health. But they should!
Children ages 3 to 16 are most prone to mental health problems caused by moving, especially when changing schools or leaving friends and family behind.
Some children start feeling shy and fearful, while other start developing anxiety or even depression. Naturally, not every child will experience the same emotions. However, you can never be too careful!
With that said, let’s talk about how moving can impact a child’s mental health and what you can do to keep them happy.
Factors That May Impact Your Child’s Mental Health When You Move
When it comes to moving with your children, some factors are non-negotiable. No matter how hard you try, you cannot change the details of the move.
However, some things severely impact kids, their mental health, well-being, and happiness. These factors include changing schools, old friends, divorce, culture shock, etc.
Thus, let’s look at them in more detail and hopefully help you all improve your mental health before the big move.
1. Changing Schools
If there is a thing all children hate and fear, it must be the process of changing schools. Being ‘the new kid’ is something nobody likes. In most cases, this is one of the most significant ways in which moving can impact a child’s mental health. Thus, if possible, try to keep your child in the same school even after you move. If you are moving to another city, you will need a different approach.
First, prepare your child for the change – talk about it as much as possible. Focus on the positive aspects – new friends, plenty of new play areas, etc. Then, show your child photos of the school and teachers. Finally, take your kid to school days before enrolling so that they can get to know the space better. Doing all of this can make your child feel much better, both physically and mentally.
2. Keeping Old Friends
All children are attached to their friends and the people they grew up with. Younger ones, especially, do not understand the concept of moving, but they know that they are leaving their friends and family members behind. This is a significant source of stress for them, and it can even trigger some mental health issues.
When moving with kids, do not focus on packing their toys but on mentally preparing them for this upcoming relocation. The best way to do this is by communicating – especially about their friends. Tell them that they will see everyone soon, both in real life and over video chat, for example. Moreover, tell them they will meet new, amazing friends in your new city as well.
3. Parents’ Divorce
If you and your child are moving after your divorce, you will need to be extremely cautious and attentive to your child’s feelings. Think about it – your child is not only adjusting to a new home, environment, and friends but also a new family structure. This can be very traumatic for a child, and it may also evoke feelings of anger, isolation, sadness, and insecurity.
Unfortunately, these feelings are hard to avoid. But there are things you can do to make them less severe. For instance, try to follow your child’s current routine as much as possible. This is one of the things that can help them maintain a sense of stability in their lives. Moreover, even though it sounds cliché, tell your child that it is not their fault. Children need to hear this! Try to do more fun things with them to get their minds off the upcoming move and divorce. For instance, get your kids outside, go to their favorite park, cook their favorite meal, etc.
4. Culture Shock
Your child may not be afraid of culture shock per se, but they may be fearful of a new environment, language, etc. It is your job as a parent to help them overcome this. The easiest way to do this is to teach your kid all about your new home, neighborhood, city, state, school, language, etc. Talk about it every day and show them many pictures of the new place.
Most importantly, if you are moving somewhere where you will have to speak another language, consider sending your child to a private school where they can adapt more quickly. Children are like sponges – they soak up everything. Still, learning the language beforehand will give them a sense of security and confidence.
How to Recognize Mental Health Problems in Your Kids
It is perfectly normal for a child to be anxious and afraid before a relocation. Before moving and especially after it, you will need to pay special attention to them. Try to tend to their needs as much as possible.
Slight behavioral changes are expected, but if you notice any of the following, you may need to consult your child’s physician:
- Excessive crying
- Loss of interest in things they previously liked
- Withdrawal from friends and family members
- Clinging to a parent (or both of them)
- Academic decline
- Unexplained physical problems (headache, stomachache, etc.)
- Appetite change
- Excessive weight changes
- Sleeping problems
- Destructive behavior
Just as previously mentioned, noticing changes in behavior, mood and actions is entirely normal. Talk to your child about this, but do not push them.
Moving can impact a child’s mental health in more ways than one and they must know that you are there for them.
Moreover, if you notice any of the previously mentioned ‘issues’, do not panic. In most cases, it is only temporary.