Yes, moving a lot as a kid can have long-lasting consequences. Those who moved five or more times during childhood were three times as likely to experience mental health issues later on in life — but there are things you can do to reduce this problem.
This effect is more pronounced after the age of five, a study published in 2015 explains, as children already start developing their own social ties by then — and moving house means leaving them behind.
Luckily, however, there are steps we can take to mitigate this effect.
New house, new me
Our forefathers would often be born, raised, and die in the same house or city, but modern life is much more nomad. With property prices rising steadily in the past few years and with unprecedented job mobility, geography has become an easily surpassable obstacle in many cases.
Simply put, it’s never been more common to move house. In between the frequent job changes, globalization, and cheap moving companies active in virtually every city, moving house has become a rather common occurrence.
But while the economic prospects of this are evident, there are also downsides.
“Moving house can be a hugely stressful experience for the parents and the family as a whole as it can be associated with change in social environment and networks, and other aspects of the physical and social environment,” Foteini Tseliou, lead author of the study, told Reuters in an email.
“Parents need to be aware that such a change can be even more stressful for children as they may be more sensitive and less resilient.”
Their research focused on roughly 50,000 children in Northern Ireland who were eight or under in 2001 and tracked their data on moving and mental health information for 10 years. Just over half of the children moved at least once during this time, and about 13% moved at least three times.
Children were more likely to move if their families rented housing, or if they owned homes in less affluent areas, as were children in single-parent families. Those who moved most often were up to three times more likely to develop mental health issues later on in life. Older children were more heavily impacted, especially if the move involved also changing their school and social circles.
The study definitely has some limitations, including its heavy reliance on census data, which may miss some moves. Additionally, mental health here was also estimated through one census question and could be answered by parents on behalf of their children, the researchers also note.
What to do
One way of limiting the stress children can experience from moving house is to involve them in as many decisions as possible, make them fill like they’re also in control. This, explains thrivework, will give them a sense of stability amidst all the changes. Also, once everything is moved into the new home, unpack — waiting too much can create feelings of anxiety and unknown for the child.
Giving them a treasure box in which to store all their most precious possessions further helps children feel a sense of stability. Bring objects that nurture a sense of familiarity, care, and warmth — small things can go a long way. Creating a list with the addresses, emails, and phone numbers of their closest friends and family can also help ease the transition and help everybody stay in touch. Speaking of staying in touch, throwing a goodbye party definitely can’t hurt!
Lastly, be sure to consider all the aspects when moving. Change is often unpredictable and can be both positive and negative, so take decisions carefully and plan as well as possible.