Moving Doesn't Have To Be The End Of The World For School-Age Kids

by Christine Burke

As my mother served dinner, my father put his fork down and said the words my brothers and I had heard several times in the past few years. “I got a promotion, you guys. And guess what? This time, we are headed to Texas! Isn’t that exciting?”

As my younger brothers cheered and clapped, my 11-year-old self rolled my eyes and shuffled my then-forgotten peas and carrots across my plate. Moving again meant a new school, friends, and house, all after having just gotten settled into our current city. Moving was hard, and that night, I cried into my pillow because I hated the thought of moving men invading my house and taking my life off to a different town again.

By the time I entered college, I had moved across the country with my family eight times. Often, we spent less than three years in one city, moving on as my dad moved up the corporate ladder. We were fortunate that he survived several company takeovers and always managed to land on his feet with a job that provided well for us. But with every stressful takeover, the rumblings that we’d have to move would start and eventually lead to many a conversation over the dinner table about having to leave our beloved new town behind.

When I met my husband, one of the first things I told him was that if he expected to have a life with me, I wanted no part of moving around the country. I wanted a home that my kids always knew as a stable constant, and I wanted to put something in the basement and remember that I put it there 20 years earlier.

While we did have to move for his first job, I finally got my wish: We’ve lived in our current town for 17 years, and it’s the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere.

Now that I have kids and we live in our small town, I am starting to realize that moving so much as a child definitely has its benefits. And though my children are getting the benefit of watching a town change and grow and going to school with kids they’ve known all their lives, I sometimes wonder if I’ve done them a disservice by putting my foot down about moving when they were young. While moving as a kid was stressful, I also had many amazing experiences that have stayed with me long after I left behind a particular state or city.

If you are in a situation where you find yourself debating uprooting your kids for a professional opportunity, consider the following:

1. There are benefits to seeing how another part of the country lives.

Until we moved to Texas, the majority of our moves were concentrated on the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic states. Moving to the South was an eye-opening experience for all of us. The topography, the lifestyle, the customs, and traditions almost seemed foreign to our Yankee selves. But I grew to love country music, and to this day, I can’t find decent Mexican food unless I’m visiting the Lone Star State.

2. Being the new kid in school will help them in social situations later in life.

I’m not going to lie. Being the new kid in school wasn’t always easy. But it was also exciting because on the days I was introduced to my new class, kids would show me the best of themselves. Often, kids would invite me to sit with them at lunch or share resources with me in an effort to make me feel welcomed. I learned how to use humor to diffuse awkward silence, and I became comfortable in my own skin in the lunch room. I still use these skills when I walk into a new social situation, and I learned a long time ago that a smile, a handshake, and a “Hi, I’m Christine!” is a simple icebreaker that works wonders.

3. Your kids will have friends across the country when they travel.

Having lived all over the country means my family has made friends in lots of major cities. Keeping in touch with them over the years has led to fun reunions during airport layovers, quick overnights, or when we are traveling in the same cities. The world seems a little smaller when I’m traveling for business and realize I can have a cocktail with a high school friend or when I’m vacationing and get to see a friend from my elementary days.

4. Taking advantage of travel opportunities in your area enriches your kids’ education.

As soon as we’d get to a new city, my parents would set about making sure we explored not only our new city but also the surrounding states. We visited every state park, monument, and local attraction on the weekends. My father planned trips around our proximity to other major cities.

And now that I’m a parent, I look forward to being able to share those same experiences with my own kids. Whether it’s a favorite restaurant I dined in at the Grand Canyon or taking my kids to see the redwood trees in California, my father instilled a wanderlust in me that has carried over into how I raise my kids.

While I do love where we live and wouldn’t change our decision to put roots down, I sometimes get the itch to move to a new city so that my kids, too, can experience life through a different lens. But then I start thinking about packing up 17 years of living and I realize my mother was a saint for having done it eight times with three kids in tow.

For now, I’ll settle for cross-country road trips with the kids because living out of boxes and not knowing where the coffeepot is kinda sucks.

Believe me, I know.