While moving may be inevitable, its toll on the family can be minimised with a few conscious steps.
According to Peter Martin’s Census 2016, on average, an Australian family will move interstate once every five years. Whether it be looking for a better job, escaping a broken relationship, wanting a bigger pool, or hating the land lord, regional migration is frequent in Australia. This means, Australians are on the go. But to what cost?
Every year, half a million Australians move interstate, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. From 2018 – 2019, this meant 404,000 people moved from one regional state to another. That’s more than four MCG stadiums at capacity.
Challenges of moving
The reality of moving, particularly from one state to another, is unstable. Although moving could well seem like the most financially and socially viable option, our children don’t often have a say in these decisions. The mental cost of moving from one place to another is taxing on our kids.
Depending on how frequently a family moves, children can find it much harder to nurture high quality relationships and foster a sense of belonging. This can be threatening to a child’s sense of identity down the line.
This is perhaps because the ages from 10 to 18 are formative years both for the body (i.e. undergoing puberty), socially (i.e. developing social skills in a school setting), and academically (i.e. figuring out our interests, strengths, and passions at school). Moving, whether it be experiencing the change yourself or having a close friend leave you, can be tremendously character building because of the strain it puts on the need to adapt to a new setting.
Minimising its impacts
Easier said than done. As parents, being aware of the challenges our kids can face is a step in the right direction. The impacts of moving go hand in hand with the reasons for moving. For instance, moving to find a better job for one parent can mean losing a job for the other. Divorce is also another major reason for families deciding a change of scenery is best for everyone. The effects of moving paired with the stressful reasons prompting it, are always sensed by those that have the least say in it.
Flexibility when it comes to adjusting to children’s emotions, changes in interests, and attempts to adapt to new social circles is crucial to minimising a sense of instability.
This could mean:
- Keeping them informed. Letting children know exactly why you’re moving and how long you’re expecting to stay is important to making them feel involved and part of the team. This also shows sensitivity to the risk of a child feeling unheard.
- Being more open to technology. Something most parents haven’t experienced growing up is the diverse way technology can be used to maintain long distant relationships. Facetime and Skype are not the only ways of maintaining a long-distance friendship. Increasingly, collaborative activities such as video games are used to keep in touch through a fun, and shared interest. Although too much screen time is something to be avoided, stigma around their use should be minimalised.
- Getting involved. Encouraging children to participate in community initiatives such as local sporting teams, volunteering organizations, and attending seasonal activities such as summer camps, are great way for both parents and children to get to know their new surroundings. Whether or not they prefer their new home, getting involved is an important step towards mitigating mental strains associated with moving.
- Making a new home feel like home. The sooner you unpack your boxes and put all your treasures out on display, the more comfortable and established children feel. Makes sense: home is where the family is… and all your stuff!
No matter what the reasons for moving are, choosing to minimise its effects is achievable and crucial to maintaining our children’s happiness, as well as our own.