There is no doubt that moving is one of the top stressors for children and their families. The circumstances surrounding relocation also play big role in the level and duration of this stress. While most students will change schools at least once in their lifetime due to promotion to the next grade level, we know from census and mobility statistics that approximately one in five families moves each year. Studies report that it can take up to one full academic year for students to adjust, not the weeks or months many of us assume it takes.
By outward appearances, it may seem that your child has adjusted well, found new friends, engaged in familiar or even new activities but don’t be fooled. Regardless of age and gender of the student or the time of year the move takes place, one relocation to a new school has a significant impact on academic achievement. While they may not show it, your children will need your support in the many months that follow. Many educators are unaware of these statistics so work with your children’s teachers to make a plan to address longer term academic supports.
Before you move, make sure to get complete copies of all your children’s school transcripts to keep with you. Make time to meet with administrators and teachers at your new school. Don’t assume that what is taught in 8th grade in Florida is exactly the same as what is taught in 8th grade in Missouri. While national standards exist, some things can fall through the cracks.
In an article on the National Council on Family Relations (www.ncfr.org), Nancy Gonzalez shares that she lived in five houses by the time she left for college. In addition, she reports she completely missed learning geography because it was taught in the previous grade of her new school but not in her current grade at her old school. And her experience is not an isolated one. Children in families that relocate often risk not learning critical basic academic skills (think multiplication and division) due to multiple moves across states and countries.
Unfortunately, poor academic performance (caused by a variety of contributing factors) is linked in study after study to poor outcomes for students later in life. In this seemingly abysmal outlook for children who move there are many, many rays of light. First and most important are awareness and education. Be a full partner with your children’s school. Find a champion and stay connected. Be prepared for slippage in academic performance but don’t settle for it. Support your children but also set limits. There’s a quote I love from Maya Angelou that fits here: “You did the best that you knew how. Now that you know better, you’ll do better.”
It can be overwhelming, but you can do it!!
For more information about the Moving Families Initiative, please visit www.movingfamiliesinitiative.com.