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Moving Around with Kids – Tips for Parents

Changing house, school, kindergarten or even country (or continent) is for most of us a touchy subject. However, in today’s economic environment deeply marked by change and globalization, changing countries for a better position has become the norm. The fact that so many people move around doesn’t make it any easier for their children and partners. One major reason that children are negatively affected by moves is that moves are often precipitated by problems – a divorce, job loss – that are tough on the family. However, when one moves, the other one must remain hopeful that the move is going to have a very positive impact on the entire family. Leaving behind a familiar environment and launching you into a completely new one it is going to be a very stressful event that we must acknowledge as such. Children and adults react to stress differently and it’s very important to understand and educate yourself about the signs of stress disorders, anxiety and depression that your children might experience. Usual stress symptoms in children might include one or more of the following:

  • Physical symptoms

o Decreased appetite, other changes in eating habits o Headache o Breathing problems o Upset stomach or constipation o Vague stomach pain o Other physical symptoms with no physical illness o New or recurrent bedwetting

  • Emotional or behavioral symptoms

o Sleep disturbances o Stuttering o Worries o Agitation o New or recurring fears (fear of the dark, fear of being alone, fear of strangers) o Clinging, unwilling to let you out of sight o Questioning (may or may not ask questions) o Anger o Crying o Whining o Inability to control emotions o Aggressive behavior o Stubborn behavior o Regression to behaviors that are typical of an earlier developmental stage (thumb sucking, bottle feeding, etc) o Unwillingness to participate in family or school activities Parents can help children respond to stress in healthy ways. Here is what you can do:

  • Provide a safe, secure, familiar, consistent, and dependable home. When parents support each other and work hard to make the move as easy for themselves and their kids as possible, negative effects are minimized
  • Spend calm, relaxed time with your children
  • Create a new network of support for your kids- join new sport clubs, parents networks, enroll them for new sports or arts activities
  • Encourage your child to ask questions and be ready to answer them
  • Encourage expression of concerns, worries, or fears, let them know you have worries too, but that you are also helpful, explain to them why you moved and help them see the advantages
  • Allow the child opportunities to make choices and have some control in his or her life. Especially when moving, children feel that they lose all control over their own lives, they have to change schools, houses and leave behind friends because the adults decided so without considering their choices
  • Encourage physical activity, sport always relieves stress
  • Develop awareness of situations and events that are stressful for children. These include new experiences, fear of unpredictable outcomes, unpleasant sensations, unmet needs or desires
  • Recognize signs of unresolved stress in your child
  • Keep your child informed of necessary and anticipated changes such as changes in jobs or moving
  • Seek professional help or advice when signs of stress do not decrease or disappear

Moves are also hardest on kids in the midst of other transitions – like puberty and school changes and also for kids who are introverted and those whose personalities tend toward anxiety and inflexibility. Like most major life transitions, moving is a long process that takes time. Be patient and allow yourself and your children time to readjust. Switzerland is a particular place to move because on some aspects everything is extremely advanced (medical care, education, transportation) and on other so much behind. The authorities are not doing a very good job in offering a strong support and integration network for foreign families mainly because of language barriers. Fortunately here are many private organizations and clubs that you can join and where you could find new friends and service providers.

Always keep in mind that through any life transition you need to remain flexible and open minded.

Raluca Babota


Raluca is a psychologist, psychotherapist and the mother of two daughters. She lived in Romania, Japan and the U.K. before relocating with her family to Zurich in 2012. She collaborates with our daycare, offering counseling and organizing support groups for parents. To find out more about her work, visit her webpage: www.psychology.babota.com.

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