Moving is a stressful experience at the best of times, especially with families. Add to that any extenuating circumstances and it can have major consequences for children and teens. In fact, children who have moved five or more times during their childhood are three times more likely to develop mental health problems compared to children who have not moved at all.

Moving to a new city is a huge change that comes with many new challenges for children. In a relocation situation, children and teens often feel stressed and unheard of, resulting in abnormal social behavior, although this may be masked by initial excitement surrounding the relocation. When children are exposed to unstable living environments, they develop a lower sense of personal well-being and satisfaction and experience less good friendships that negatively affect health.

In general, the ultimate job of a parent is to ensure that their children thrive in a stable and safe environment, which is difficult to achieve right after a move. Since moving is considered a major stressor in life, it is essential to involve your children as much as possible in the decision and support them throughout the process to reduce negative mental health risks.

Meeting the challenges of a major move in your child’s life

Families move for a variety of reasons, whether it’s military service, a job transition, a closer relationship with the family, or simply to change the environment. It doesn’t matter where you want to move to, for example if you move abroad, the change will not come without problems.

Studies have shown that relocating children over the age of five have more difficulty leaving friends and adjusting to a new living situation. Especially during key developmental years, adapting to a new school can be detrimental to growth.

Even though children may not have a say in the overall movement itself, it will help to talk ahead of time about problems that may arise and develop a game plan for problems ahead of time. To minimize stressors, it is important to maintain as much routine as possible to maintain a sense of order and control. Make sure to focus on the positives and stay optimistic even in overwhelming situations. Encourage your children to get directly involved in school and the community by finding local activities to participate in or organizations to participate in. Never let them forget to keep in touch with old meaningful friendships and to use social media as an outlet.

Considerations for particularly intense conditions

Sad child after moving to a new home and acclimating to a new area

Moving after a natural disaster

Sometimes moving is unavoidable due to unpredictable situations over which a family has no control. In the event of a natural disaster, moving can be especially difficult if many, if not all, personal belongings are lost. Often times, recovering from a natural disaster can take weeks or even months, and most of the results have to do with a family being uprooted from their home. Relocation stress after a disaster is normal behavior that is difficult to deal with. The view of the world as safe is often obstructed and clouded. Children are most vulnerable after a disaster, and delayed emotional responses can be expected depending on the age group.

Signs of stress in children who need professional help may include:

  • Aggressive emotional outbursts

  • Total withdrawal from family and friends

  • Nightmares and sleeping problems

  • Suicidal thoughts and feelings

  • Concern for their own safety and the safety of others

  • Shame or guilt of the natural disaster

  • impulsive behavior

Loss of a loved one

The loss of a loved one can also be a reason to move. Losing a family member or close friend is traumatic and will leave your child sad and confused. If a move is necessary after such a loss, the removal of friends and a safe environment can exacerbate that grief. How a child grieves depends on multiple factors, including age, developmental level, personality, and relationship with the lost loved one. In this case, it is important to understand how children and teens view death to help your child process and cope with the loss.

How do certain age groups mourn the loss of a loved one?

infancy

Babies aged 0-2 years have no idea of ​​death. While they can respond to a change in environment, babies at this age may cry more often or become clingy and irritable.

toddlers

Children of 3-4 years do not understand that death is a permanent state. Some of the signs of grief include crying, withdrawal, tantrums, turning to eating or sleeping, and constant searching for the missing loved one.

school children

Children aged 5-12 understand death and can develop an interest in where the lost loved one has gone. Much love, affection and reassurance are needed to help heal from the grief. Children can develop behavioral problems, be more anxious, withdrawn, not wanting to go to school and blame themselves for the death.

Teens

Teens 13 and older know that death is part of life, but that often makes it harder for them to deal with grief. Some common behaviors include isolation, withdrawal, regression, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

Parting

Divorce is not only difficult for the parents involved, but all the children in the situation experience the stress that comes with it. Supporting your child during a divorce and the transition to not only a new family dynamic, but also a new living situation often adds an extra layer of stress and anxiety to the move.

In addition to emotional stress, there are also some legal considerations for moving your family after or during a divorce. Many states have specific laws regarding child custody and whether or not the parent can move out of the area with the children. For those residing in Raleigh, custody is decided by the parties involved or by a judge. Buying a home as a single mom or dad is not without its challenges, but finding a home in a location that is safe for the family is one of the top priorities. If you are looking for new homes for sale in Raleigh, there are plenty of resources available to help you and your children through this transition.

A happy child moving and moving to a new home

Preparing for a Smooth Transition and Helping Teens Say Goodbye

While exercise is difficult for younger children, teens often have a harder time adjusting. The afflicted teen has to leave not only the school they have become accustomed to, but also close friends, clubs and extracurricular activities in which they have invested time and energy. The process of moving is not an easy one, so helping your teen through this difficult time in their lives is critical.

Rather than putting off the idea of ​​moving until the last minute, make sure your teen is informed as much as possible to work through their feelings and prepare for a heartfelt goodbye. Getting your teen involved in the moving process as much as possible is also a great way to get them used to the idea. Take them home hunting and let them explore new homes with you. Before moving, get them used to the neighborhood and area and let them choose their own bedroom.

Ways to help your teen say goodbye:

  • Focus on the positives of moving and what it will bring to the family.

  • Host a farewell party or wrap-up party with all their closest friends.

  • Let them pack their own things and decide what to take with them.

  • Set up social media to keep them connected with old friends.

Enter and adapt, move forward

While saying goodbye is hard, it can be even harder to start over in a new place. Once the farewell party has started and the packing is done, the reality of moving sets in. Since this is such an overwhelming time, it’s important to be there for your teen by helping them adjust and move forward. Be their biggest cheerleader and support them every step of the way.

Help your teen adjust to their new home by:

  • Stay cheerful around your teen and try to keep a smile on their face.

  • Decorate their room first and let them decorate it as they see fit.

  • Get them involved in school right away.

  • Encourage them to sign up for local activities or recreational sports.

  • Enlist the help of a peer mentor for additional support.

  • Find ways to communicate openly and let them express their frustrations and feelings.

Mental health is one of the most important aspects of childhood and exercise can cause stress

Watch out for warning signs

Mental health problems not only affect adults, but children as well. One in five children even suffers from a mental illness that has an impact on daily life. Major changes and sudden upheavals in your child’s life can lead to unexpected mental health problems for your child, especially if your move is the result of a traumatic event such as a natural disaster or major accident. Traumatic experiences are destructive and often lead to scary emotions that are not pleasant to face. If a child is forced to move after some form of trauma, they are likely to become overwhelmed and experience negative emotional and behavioral responses. Keep in mind that when a traumatic event occurs, many children grieve in different ways. Create a safe space and a trusted environment for your child to fully heal from past trauma.

Every parent wants to think that their children love life, but sometimes that can be further from the truth. Since the signs of mental illness can be identified differently depending on the age of the child and the type of illness, it is imperative to pay attention to warning signs and strange behavior. While coping with mental illness can also take a toll on the family members of the affected person, it’s important to diagnose the problem quickly. Fortunately, the earlier the mental illness is diagnosed, the easier it is to seek treatment.

How To Recognize Signs Of Mental Health Problems:

  • Aggression

  • Destructive behavior

  • Threatens to run away

  • Withdrawal from family and friends

  • Suggest to harm oneself

  • Suicidal Thoughts

  • Drug or alcohol abuse

  • Weight changes

  • Loss of appetite

  • Reduced school performance and poor grades

  • Loss of interest in favorite activities

  • Change in sleeping pattern

  • Prolonged periods of sadness

  • Hyperactivity

If any of these symptoms are present and you are concerned about your child’s behavior, the next step is to seek help from a professional. Contact your local health care provider or specialist for an evaluation. Medication and therapy may be needed to make progress.

Resources for further reading

Age-on-age

Teen Specific

External sources and organizations

  • Children’s health: This resource for children provides general health information.

  • Children’s Health For Teens: This teen resource provides information on how to manage stress, how to handle abusive relationships, and how to stay healthy and happy.

  • Childcare: Find childcare near you and learn how to select the best childcare program for your family.

A family sitting on a couch after moving and moving to a new area

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