How a Move Effects Military Kids

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Anything that forces me make to make big life changes tends to be low on my list of favorite activities. Moving, of course, is one of those activities. No matter how much I want to leave the location I am living or how much I want to get to a new location; the transition is stressful.

As a mother, I know that transition is doubly hard for my kids. I want to protect my children from the difficulties in life, but in a military family moving is unavoidable. So, how hard is a military move on kids? After all, kids are pretty resilient, aren’t they?

I started to dig up research on the topic of military children and moving. There was a lot of research. Unfortunately, much of the research I found was older. I am sure some of it is still relevant, but I wanted to woo everyone with new stats. After spending too much time looking for some concrete data, I finally settled on sharing bits of information from a fact sheet (6/2012 EDIT: This fact sheet is no longer available, I will add a new resource as soon as I find a good one!) I found on the Military HOMEFRONT website.

 Important Findings of Research on Military Children and Moving

  • Military children move four times more often than an average child in the U.S.
  • For most children, there are no long term negative effects related to frequent military moves.
  • Children who move frequently often participate in more social activities because they have more opportunities to do so.
  • Teenagers who move are more likely to show symptoms of depression.
  • Teenage girls are more upset by moving because of the loss of friendships.
  • Academic performance tends to decline after a move.
  • Kids who were prepared for a move ahead of time adjusted better.
  • The most important factor that helps kids adjust well to a move is the relationship they have with their parents.

When I started researching this blog post, I expected to find tons of negative facts about the impact of moving. Instead, I found what was pretty common sense stuff. Yes, moving is difficult for children, but they adjust. Just as we do.

Tips on Making a Move Easier For Your Military Child

  • Be up front about the move. As soon as a child learns about the move, they begin their adjustment. If they have more time to adjust, the relocation will likely go more smoothly.
  • Provide as much information about the new location as you can. If it is feasible, make a trip to the new duty station to scope it out.
  • Allow your child to make choices about what items they will keep with them while in transition. A favorite book or toy will be comforting.
  • Deal with your stress away from your child. Whether you are a military service member or the trailing spouse, your stresses can easily overshadow the needs of your child. Find ways to cope that allow you to be present for your children when you are together.
  • Be there for your child. The biggest predictor of how your child does with a relocation is the relationship they have with you.

A Positive Note About Moving and Military Children

One thing I read in  a lot of the research about military children is that they are resilient. All the moves, adapting to new locations and dealing with deployments seem to give them confidence in their ability to survive new experiences. Military kids are strong and able to deal with many challenges, especially with supportive parents.

Even if you don’t much like moving and the chaos that comes with it, make sure you discuss it with your kids. Your support and caring seems to be what makes it a more positive experience for your children!

About Peggy Crippen

I am a military wife, mom and writer. I love to help the military community by sharing my knowledge of life in a military family. I write, blog and spend time chasing my children around. In my spare time, I love to read and ride motorcycles.


  1. Kelly says:

    How about the “challenges” of depression and low self-esteem? Try telling a teenage girl to “get closer” to her parents after one too many moves. I come from a military family. I was moved14 times during my childhood and adolescence. These moves left me with low self-esteem, depression, alienation, substance abuse. My biggest problem has been one of identity. Where do I come from? Where is my family from?My relatives who are really strangers whom my father pushed us upon every two years. I had an extreme fear of adults as a child, as my mother was constantly introducing me to new ones. “Who are these scary adults?” There was no stage upon which I could experience continuity and meaning.

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