Moving and Young Children

Moving and Young Children

Moving day. Such excitement! Such distress! An event nearly every family experiences a few times, if not more. The impact on children is as varied as their personalities. But a few guidelines might be helpful.

One 4-year-old boy, whose family had moved to a new state at the beginning of the summer, seemed to adjust surprisingly well. He had a great summer. His parents couldn’t believe it because he tended to have trouble dealing with change. In September, he started at his new nursery school. Suddenly he became sad, clingy, and began to soil – all the behaviors the parents had originally expected. Talking with this child gradually revealed that he had intuitively believed that living in the new home was just a summer vacation, like when the family had gone to the shore the previous year. He expected to be reunited with his friends in September. It was only then that he truly realized this was permanent and became upset. Of course his parents had explained the move, but he only heard what he wanted to believe.

In the hectic times following a move, parents often don’t have the energy to work extra hard on helping a child settle into the proper routine. A 3-year-old girl didn’t like her new home and refused to sleep in her new bedroom. It was easier to just let her fall asleep night after night in the parents’ bed. As life settled down, they became increasingly frustrated with being unable to get their daughter to sleep in her own bed.

A 6-year-old boy had no problems sleeping anywhere, until the family moved into a new home that was much larger and the boy’s bedroom was now upstairs, removed from the flow of activity. The new bedroom suddenly was inhabited with scary creatures only visible to a young boy.

Moving can be very disorienting to a young child. They are tiny creatures in a world full of giants and much confusion. They rely on predictability and attachment to caretakers to generate a sense of security. Parents often believe that using words will suffice to create an understanding of what the child is about to experience. But young children do not comprehend the meaning of words describing experiences they have yet to experience! It may seem as if they do – but don’t be fooled.

This means trying to use any strategy that can make the change as concrete and tangible as possible. Buy a new dollhouse, set it up in another part of the house, move the family and their furniture, and play out the expected activities that occur after moving. Create a book about moving, with drawings and photographs of the old house and new house. Read children’s books to them about moving. Even though it makes moving day more hectic, have the children around as the movers load the truck. Children will rely on their magical thinking and childhood logic to address the logistics of moving. They need real experiences to help guide them through the process – even if seeing their belongings carried out of the house is initially distressing.

A favorite recommendation is to create a box of objects that provide a concrete connection to the old house. Take a shoebox and have the child fill it with leaves, rocks, and other small objects from the yard. Use a digital camera and allow the child to direct what pictures she wants. By seeing them instantly, she can let you know if you’ve captured what she wants. You may also have some of her neighborhood friends put small objects in the box as well as a picture of the friends.

Object permanency is elusive for a very young child. Out of sight often means it is gone. A few months after moving, especially if the child is expressing a dislike for the new home, make a trip back to the old home. “See, it is still there.” “See the new family and their new furniture in the house.” Yes, some children will be angry – “My house!” But that gives you a chance to help them vent the anger, working it through in play, conversation, or drawings. Then the child may be ready to complete the move.

As for the frequent night fears and sleep disruptions, keep the bedtime process in the child’s bedroom, meaning that you may need to stay in the room until the child falls asleep. Other regressions may also occur such as baby talk and loss of toilet training. This is partly a normal response to stress, partly a wish to return to the past. The child needs to be told that his being sad or mad or scared is normal. At the center of this must be the awareness that the young child’s distress increases the need to reaffirm his attachment to you, for that bond is the essence of his sense of security. Don’t lose sight of that in the midst of all your distractions caused by the move and, gradually, everyone will settle in.

How Does Moving to Another Country Affect Children?

Moving to another country is a challenging process that is faced by increasing numbers of expatriates, including children. It is often said that children are resilient, learn new languages easily and adjust to changes in their environment more easily than adults. Sometimes this is true, but there are unique challenges children face when they move to another country. Knowing what to expect and the possible effects of moving can help parents prepare their kids for the transition.

Moving is tough for kids and can potentially impact their mental health: Here’s how you can make it easier for them

Moving to a new city can serve as a positive change for your life, which might explain why so many do make that move: as up to 63% of Americans have moved to a new place at least once compared to the 37% who’ve never left their hometowns. That said, moving to a new place can have its challenges too, especially for your kids. In fact, moving during childhood can have a major impact on your child’s mental health.

The impact of moving on your child’s mental health

Kids who have moved five or more times during their childhood are three times as likely to experience mental health problems compared to those who stay in their hometowns. In a study of 50,000 children, researchers found that the impact of moving is often worse for children over the age of five. This is because they have to leave behind friends and change schools during an important time of social development.

Healthy child development is best supported by security and stability across different domains in the child’s life. Key components of that stability include housing, parenting, family dynamics, neighborhood factors, peer influences, and school development. Children with unstable housing often have fewer high-quality relationships, lower life satisfaction, and a lower sense of personal well-being.

“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,” said Foteini Tseliou, lead author of the study. “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.”

But what can you do to make the transition to a new town, city, state, or even country that much smoother for your child?

How to make relocation a smoother transition for your child

Parents are often the ones who make the important decisions when it comes to moving. You choose the city, the town, and the new house. This can make your child feel powerless and unstable. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can go about making your big move easier on your kids:

    1) Involve your child in as many decisions as you can. One of the best ways to give your child a sense of stability again is to give them a hand in what you’re doing.

2) Make a treasure box. Have your child pack some of their favorite things into a colorful box they can keep with them during the move. This will help them feel in control over their closest belongings and give them a sense of security.

3) Make a memory book. By creating a memory book complete with phone numbers and e-mail addresses of friends, family, and babysitters, your child will be able to figuratively visit their old home whenever they need to.

4) Throw a goodbye party. It may be sad for your child to say goodbye to their old friends and neighbors, but a goodbye party gives them a sense of closure and makes them feel less like they’re leaving their friends behind.

Be aware that your child will need time to adjust to their new home and social environments. Encourage them to share their feelings and get involved with the move. The key is to make your child feel in control, stable, and secure.

Social Development

The Effects of Moving on a Two-Year-Old

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.

Moving Onwards: Your 13 to 15-Year-Old

Your child is now officially a teenager, and it can be a challenging time for both of you. They’ve come so far since those first hesitant steps but, though they might be striding more confidently, they have a way to go and still need your help.

Socially, your child is more reliant on peer relationships and less dependent on you. They can maintain stable relationships with adults and peers and, while they’re more likely to have friends of the opposite sex, same-sex friendships will be more common. Their peers will influence them strongly in everything from the way they dress to their interests and behaviour. They’ll test the boundaries, but this will decrease as they get older and start to really experience more of the independence they’ve been aiming for over the last few years though they’ll likely complain you’re interfering too much. You may have some challenging conversations about morals and privileges especially as they realise that adults aren’t perfect. They’re prone to the odd bout of childish behavior particularly if they’re under stress.

There are some real emotional challenges ahead for your child. They’re developing a stronger sense of identity and their focus on themselves increases. Their desire for privacy will get stronger. They need recognition and positive feedback to help them the maintain the self-esteem and self-confidence they need to tackle the more complex social, emotional and academic challenges they’ll face. They may have romantic relationships though they’ll often be short-term. They’re interested in emancipation but they’re not quite ready for it which can lead to some real anxieties especially as they approach some key milestones like leaving school or home.

This is the age you’ll see the greatest difference between boys and girls. Boys will be heading into puberty and dealing with changes to their body, including increased body hair and breaking voices, so may have additional concerns about body image. Girls will have gone through puberty their menstruation cycle should be well-established and they’ll be more sexually developed than boys. Both genders will be more concerned about how attractive they are to others and their interest in sex will increase, so now would be a good time to have “the talk” if you haven’t already done so. Both boys and girls continue growing though this slows down as they approach 16. You’ll notice an improvement in their motor skills and they should have little difficulty tackling even the trickiest physical tasks.

You’ll notice your child is better at communicating their thoughts and feelings. They have strong values and ideals and their interests are expanding especially intellectually. They’re better at problem-solving and, by the time they’re around 15, they’ll be able to think in abstract terms and apply their decision-making skills to more social and academic situations. They’ll be strongly affected when they have worries or concerns. This is the age where they may take more risks, especially if there’s negative peer influence, such as drinking, taking drugs or having sex.

It may feel like your child is pulling away from you, but your support is needed more than ever. Encouraging them to talk to you, being non-judgemental, and valuing their views and concerns will let them know you’re there for them. It’s vital you’re open and honest about everything from the way their bodies are changing to the challenges and risks they’ll face if they trust you, they’re more likely to talk to you about the important things. Involving them in family decision-making helps them learn how to tackle the problems they’ll face and gives them the confidence to make independent choices in the future. Testing the boundaries is common, so being clear and consistent is important.

The balance of independence is changing and your relationship with your child is changing with it. It can be tempting to try to be their friend, but don’t forget they need the support and guidance a parent is best placed to give more than ever the trick is to give them that guidance yet let them have enough room to strengthen their wings.

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What is Child Psychology and why is it important?

Children have historically been regarded as mini-adults – to the extent that in the past they have been dressed the same as adults and had to work alongside adults in main stream employment. Within this context child psychology was a foreign concept.

Jean Piaget is regarded as the founder of modern child psychology. His work, from the 1920s onwards, supported the idea that children and adults think differently from each other. One of his major contributions was that throughout the course of their childhood, children pass through distinct stages of emotional and mental development. He also proposed that intellectual development is closely linked to emotional, social and physical development.

Today we know that childhood is a very influential time in a person’s life. Events that happen when we’re young – even small, seemingly insignificant ones – can have a direct impact on how we feel and behave as adults. A child psychologist works within this very important life period a specialised branch of developmental psychology called child psychology or child development.

Moving and Young Children - Psychology

When students use their bodies in the learning process, it can have a big effect, even if it seems silly or unconnected to the learning goal at hand. Researchers have found that when students use their bodies while doing mathematical storytelling (like with word problems, for example), it changes the way they think about math. &ldquoWe understand language in a richer, fuller way if we can connect it to the actions we perform,&rdquo said Sian Beilock, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago.

Consider this word problem:

Two hippos and two alligators are at the zoo. Pete the zookeeper feeds them at the same time. Pete gives each hippo seven fish. He gives four to the alligators.

In an experiment on third graders, students were divided into two groups. One group read through the problem twice. The other group acted out the story as they read it, physically pretending to feed fish to the hippos and alligators as they read the problem. Both groups of students were asked how many fish the zookeeper fed to the animals.

&ldquoKids who acted out the story did better on this problem,&rdquo Beilock said. The kids who read the problem often got &ldquoeleven&rdquo as a solution. They had missed the word &ldquoeach&rdquo in the problem. But because the acting kids had physically mimed giving each hippo seven fish before moving on, the difference was ingrained.

&ldquoWhat was important was matching the words with specific action that led to enhanced learning,&rdquo Beilock said. &ldquoAnd after they&rsquod acted it out they could actually do it in their head and get some of the same benefits.&rdquo


Scholarly study goes back a long time in history, but in terms of human evolution, many of the academic skills now required for successful functioning in the world are fairly new to the human brain. As neuroscientists investigate how humans learn, they often find that newer skills and aptitudes are mapped onto areas of the brain that also control basic body functions. Increasingly, this work is helping to illuminate neurological connections between the human body, its environment and the process of learning.

&ldquoIn order to really engage our students and help them perform at their best we have to move beyond what&rsquos happening in the head,&rdquo said Beilock at a Learning and the Brain conference. &ldquoWe have to go beyond that.&rdquo

This area of study, called "embodied learning," is not new to many educators. Maria Montessori highlighted the connection between minds and bodies in her 1936 book The Secret of Childhood: "Movement, or physical activity, is thus an essential factor in intellectual growth, which depends upon the impressions received from outside. Through movement we come in contact with external reality, and it is through these contacts that we eventually acquire even abstract ideas."

Increasingly scientists are proving Montessori right. Researchers are studying the body movements of children as young as four-to-six months old and have found earlier and more frequent movement correlates with academic learning down the road. Kids who could sit up, sustain &ldquotummy time&rdquo longer and walk were all correlated with future academic success, even when researchers controlled for socioeconomics, family education and type of future education, among other mitigating factors.

&ldquoA very strong predictor of academic achievement was how early kids were moving, exploring their world,&rdquo Beilock said. &ldquoWhen kids can explore their surroundings, all of a sudden, things change.&rdquo Once kids are on the move the adults in their lives use directives and other more complicated language forms. As kids are coached by their parents, they begin to understand the directions and change behaviors. And once a child can do something on her own, she&rsquos more likely to internalize what&rsquos happening with others. &ldquoThere is evidence that our ability to use our hands affects the structure and functioning of the brain,&rdquo Beilock said.

As young children move and explore their worlds, they are learning through touch. Early bimanual training correlates with the robustness of the corpus callosum, a part of the brain that facilitates quick communication between the left and right brain hemispheres, Beilock said. This connection between using ones hands and swift communication in the brain may be part of the reason learning to play music is often correlated with math ability.

&ldquoMath is a very recent cultural invention,&rdquo Beilock said. The part of the brain responsible for numerical representation also controls finger motion. Many children first learn to count on their fingers, a physical manifestation of the connection. The studies of very young learners have solidified Beilock&rsquos conviction that academic learning is inherently connected to the body.


A colleague of Beilock&rsquos at the University of Chicago, Susan Goldin-Meadow has done extensive research into how student gestures can indicate a more nuanced understanding of math than students are often able to articulate verbally. Goldin-Meadow did a lot of work around problems of equivalence, which children often struggle to understand. She found that often students gesture in ways that indicate they understand how to solve the problem even if they are simultaneously describing an incorrect solution.

&ldquoIt&rsquos particularly helpful for teachers because it may give you insight into things students may not be able to express,&rdquo said Goldin-Meadow at the same conference. Not only could gestures be a good clue for teachers, but when students produce what Goldin-Meadow calls &ldquomismatches,&rdquo meaning they are saying one thing and gesturing a different understanding, it indicates they are primed to learn. And, when teachers produce &ldquomismatches&rdquo in their own speech and gestures, it helps students already in that primed state to learn by offering several strategies.

&ldquoEncouraging kids to use their hands brings out unsaid, and often correct ideas, which then makes them more open to instruction and more likely to learn,&rdquo Goldin-Meadow said. She also found that showing two ways of doing a problem with speech had very little effect on learning, but showing two methods when one was in gesture helped learners.

And the connection between bodies and learning doesn&rsquot stop with the younger grades. Beilock studies how well students comprehend abstract concepts in high school physics. Many classes focus on listening to lecture, reading a textbook and doing physics problems. Beilock hypothesized that if students could feel an abstract concept like angular momentum on their bodies, they would both understand and remember it better.

She and her colleagues used a rod with two bicycle wheels attached to test their ideas. Students spun the wheels and then tilted the rod in different directions. As they changed the angle, the force they felt changed dramatically. In her experiment, one set of students got to hold and experience the wheel. Another group just watched the first group and observed the effects they were feeling. They were all quizzed on the material a week later.

&ldquoThose students who had more motor activation did better on the test,&rdquo Beilock said. &ldquoAnd those students were the ones who got the experience.&rdquo But what if one set of students was just better at physics? Researchers at DePaul University have replicated this experiment, strengthening the scientific link between hands-on experimentation and powerful learning.


Just as body movement and involvement can have a huge impact on learning, so too can the spaces where we learn. While neuroscientists are starting to be able to prove this link with their experiments, this concept is nothing new. Philosophers, writers and practitioners of Eastern religions have long made the same connection between the power of nature to relax the mind and readiness to take on the world.

&ldquoWhen we are in nature, our directed attention has time to rest and replenish,&rdquo Beilock said. That&rsquos important because focus is like a muscle that gets tired. One researcher asked students to take a walk through the downtown of a college town. They weren&rsquot asked to do anything in particular, but they naturally encountered a lot of stimuli. The other group took a walk in a natural setting. The nature walkers were better able to focus when they returned.

Visual distractions apply to the classroom as well. Carnegie Mellon researchers recently found that when students learn in highly decorated classrooms, their gazes tend to wander, they get off task and their test scores suffer. Limiting visual stimulus is particularly important for very young learners who are still learning how to focus, and yet kindergarten classrooms are often the most brightly and densely decorated in an effort to make institutional buildings feel more cheerful.


One way to help students reduce test anxiety is to let them work it out through their bodies beforehand. Beilock did an experiment with freshmen high school students before their first final. She asked them to write down concerns about the test and connect to other times when they felt similar. They were told to be as open as they wanted and that their writing would be confidential. A control group of kids were told to think about what wouldn&rsquot be on the test.

This activity had little effect on kids who didn&rsquot experience much test anxiety. But students experiencing high levels of anxiety saw a six percentage point gain on their test scores. And, when Beilock analyzed those students&rsquo writing, she found the strategy was particularly effective for students whose writing revealed an eventual acceptance that the test was a minor hurdle, not the big scary all-consuming event they&rsquod been worried about.

&ldquoWe can start leveraging the power of our bodies to help us learn, think and perform at our best,&rdquo Beilock said. Too often students are cooped up inside for six or more hours, sometimes without an adequate recess ,and more likely than not, with little attention paid to how their bodies could be powerful learning tools in the classroom.

Author Contributions

All authors contributed to the inception of the paper. DE took the lead on the writing overall (notably the sections “Introduction,” 𠇍iscussion,” and the section “The Effects of the Transition to Secondary Education on Emotional Health”), did the initial planning, and coordinated the authors. GB took the lead on writing the section “The Effects of the Transition to Secondary Education on Academic Achievement” and had input on all drafts. AF supervised the project, commented on and edited the first submission, and restructured and edited the revised version by introducing the conceptual framework in Figure ​ Figure1 1 .

Child Psychology and Mental Health

Understanding your child is one of the most important things that you should learn as a parent. It is very helpful in becoming effective in guiding and nurturing your child as they grow and mature. You need to bear in mind that your child has a unique personality trait that remains consistent throughout life.

One of the ways you can understand your child is by observing them as they sleep, eat, or play. Look for the consistent traits. Which activities do they like best? Is adjusting to changes easy for them or do they need time to become familiar with these things? These things are the normal characteristics of a child and your child may not be an exception.

As much as possible, have time to talk to your children as this is crucial to gaining information and understanding. In the case of young children, they require less verbal language and more facial expression and body language in order to understand their thoughts and feelings. Asking them questions will allow them to share their feelings to you.

Self-esteem is a major key to success in life. The development of a positive self-concept or healthy self-esteem is extremely important to the happiness and success of children and teenagers. A positive parent-child relationship provides the framework and support for a child to develop a healthy respect and regard for self and for others. Children crave time with parents. It makes them feel special. Parents are encouraged to find time to spend playing with their kids on a regular basis. This should include one to one with each child and group time with all of the adults and kids in the home. If you are a single parent or have an only child, occasionally invite family or friends over to play.

For one reason or another, some children do not develop social skills as easily as others. They may earnestly seek peer relationships and then, having endured rebuffs, if not downright cruelty, retreat to the safety of home, family, and their own company. There is probably nothing so painful for a parent as the rejection of his child. Parents need to take the long view of social problems and to map out a plan to solve them quite as carefully and thoughtfully as they would consider academic or health problems. There are guidelines which, if followed, will help these children if the parent is willing to take time and initiative.

Most parents will encounter a few bumps in the road as their child moves from baby to teen to adult. The Child Psychology section provides guidelines and referrals to trusted resources for such problems as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – ADHD, Anxiety, Autism/Aspergers, Bedwetting, Depression, Oppositional Defiant Disorder – ODD, Shyness and more.

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