Moving with Children

Discussion in 'Family Forum' started by J.L. Allen, Feb 24, 2020.

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  1. J.L. Allen

    J.L. Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    PB folks,

    PKs and MKs (pastor's kids and missionary kids), military brats, and other folks who moved a lot growing up...

    Was moving difficult for you? Do you think/feel that your childhood suffered? What do you wish your parents did to make it easier, or what did they do that you appreciated? Those of you from a broken home, what was that added dynamic in moving?

    Parents who move frequently now...

    What difficulties do you see your children face? What have you done to ease the transitions? What are dos and don'ts?
  2. Joshua

    Joshua Administrator Staff Member

    I mean, you sorta gotta move to get around and live, so . . . bed sores and all that. :pilgrim:
  3. J.L. Allen

    J.L. Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    I can always count on you to give immense depth of wisdom.

    I'll go and let the kids out of their kennels! ;)
  4. Kinghezy

    Kinghezy Puritan Board Sophomore

    Right, there is always invisible fences.
  5. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore

    Yes, moving is very difficult. Be sensitive to your kids' needs.
  6. W.C. Dean

    W.C. Dean Puritan Board Freshman

    My mother was a MBPK! The daughter of an Air Force chaplain. I asked her your questions and she told me that she did not feel like her childhood suffered from the moving. She appreciated the amount and diversity of people met and befriended. She did tell me her older sister might feel a little different, as she was a teenager and had to change schools frequently. My mom said something that helped was that they kept traditions the same no matter where they lived. Basically, it's probably going to be easier on younger children, but quite difficult on teens.
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  7. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    While our move was not church related, I can tell you THE major demarcation in my life was moving south to Georgia in elementary school.

    The advice I can offer is to try to get a kid's-eye view. Changes that are no big deal for an adult can be major to a child. For example, idioms baffled me and I got in trouble because I honestly didn't know what it meant to "put your books up" (away). Socially we moved from a fairly homogeneous situation to one where I had classmates in extreme poverty. Only years later did I piece together that some classmates had no indoor plumbing and that my school system had only been integrated a year prior to my arrival.

    These might be extreme examples by today's standards, but a parent can't assume that a child understands his new situation and that he may not be able to put words around feelings. Carefully absorb what's new. Tell stories about your own encounters. Observe if a formerly bold child is less inquisitive or sick more often.
  8. J.L. Allen

    J.L. Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    What does this look like in your experience?
  9. J.L. Allen

    J.L. Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    My mother was the daughter of an Army chaplain. She actually enjoyed the moves. They weren't always easy on her, but I believe, and so does she, that she was equipped to handle difficult seasons of life because of the skills she learned in moving.

    The reason why I'm asking on here is because I want to get more opinions.
    I certainly want to be sensitive to what my children experience. It can be difficult to understand them since they really don't articulate themselves very well.
  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    When my kids were young they seemed amazingly resilient and moved well and each new place was a new adventure.

    Now the oldest two are teens (15 and almost 13) and this resilience is gone after countless moves. Last year my daughter said, "Why should I try to make any new friends, because we just end up moving again." And my son doesn't want to put himself out there socially (because he, too, figures that any friendship will only be transitory).

    I got sick in the village and had to be medivac'd and each kid basically took 1 or 2 toys and left all the rest. That was 15 months ago and those toys left out in the village are probably all eaten by roaches by now since we had to leave without a lot of packing stuff up.

    Do your moving when the kids are younger. When the kids get older, it might be a challenge on their emotions.
  11. J.L. Allen

    J.L. Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you for the detailed account. My oldest is 10. I won't be finished with seminary for another 3-4 years. After that, it is customary (and helpful) that graduates do a year-long internship. There's no telling where the Lord will lead. I pray it be His will to bless these ventures.

    In other words, I'm not too sure how much I can limit the number of moves.
  12. Andrew35

    Andrew35 Puritan Board Freshman

    For younger kids especially, building a strong family culture is key (W.C. Dean picked up on that earlier with the reference to traditions). Because their external world is in constant flux, you must be especially careful to provide a stable home-world.
    • Do learn how to cook well and make good, healthy, home meals that you can "take" with you wherever you go.
    • Do make regular reading times, worship time, game time... just time spent together as a family whenever possible.
    • Do give them a stake in the family with chores, letting them know they help make the family a "success."
    • Do take opportunities to explore the benefits of wherever you are. Every place we've ever lived has had things to love about it (and things... not to love).
    • Although it may seem counterintuitive, do get involved in a place and build relationships as rich as you can (while still maintaining a family life) so that your children will have good memories from each place you live. It will hurt when they leave, but the sweetness of the memories will keep the moves from seeming pointless to the children, which engenders bitterness.
    • Don't overburden your kids with activities and don't overwhelm them with stuff.
    My wife and I have been conscious to attend to these. We both moved around quite a bit as children/teens, and our family even more so. Although our children are still young (three of them, all under 10), we've definitely seen benefits in our approach when compared to friends' children in similar circumstances. Major regressions in habits (loss of potty skills), behaviors (e.g. biting), sleep patterns, panic attacks, rejection of host language and culture, and nightmares are just a few examples our friends who take a more "hands-off" approach have reported. (This is primarily referring to children who have moved to other countries and cultures, so it is a bit of an extreme example.)

    We've also seen the benefits of those who are conscious to practice the same sort of approaches we do, and we've learned from them. So consider this a collective wisdom that has helped us shape how we handle our moves. We'll see what happens when we hit the teen years. :eek:
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2020
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  13. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    We moved a lot when I was growing up, and now my family moves a lot too. It's no big deal. When that's your normal, you don't realize there's people who live in the same town all their lives. When you finally do realize that, you pity them deeply (at least I did). Still comes as a shock to me when people say: "yeah, I've never left the country...don't even have a passport." I cannot imagine a sadder existence.
    Thing is, any kid who is inclined to melancholy, moroseness and rebellion will be unhappy anywhere, and any who is more inclined to contentment and making the best of everywhere will be happy anywhere. Same with adults. It's less about the external circumstances and more about the internal disposition.
    Also, giving too much weight to culture is a mistake. When you invest heavily in a local culture so that your kids think its important to, say, eat some nasty turkey once a year, or set of firecrackers on a certain day, and you go someplace where it's not done, it can feel almost sacrilegious. We have taught our kids that culture is an artificial and unimportant imposition of societies, and that the only traditions that matter are no traditions at all, but are God's law: the Sabbath as the only important day; the Law as the only requirement for life.
  14. Andrew35

    Andrew35 Puritan Board Freshman

    Going to have to disagree with you, Ben, on a few points.

    One, I can imagine many things sadder than not leaving the country. Though travel has been enriching to me personally, it's hardly requisite for a fulfilling life. There are also advantages to "rootedness" that I sometimes feel I and my children have missed out on.

    On to culture, I don't think you've given much deep thought to the nature of what is included in the term "culture." You seem to be thinking primarily about holidays. That's far narrower than what I intended by my use of the term (if that's what you were referring to).

    "Culture" is like a creed: you might say you don't have one; but trust me, you have one. If I sat down with your family and talked to them for a brief period of time, I could very easily give back to you a description of your family culture.

    Finally, turkey is delicious.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2020
  15. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Ya, sorry, Ben, but I almost must disagree.

    Sure, a happy kid can flex a bit more in a chaotic lifestyle than a naturally morose kid. But in the case of multiple moves for traumatic reasons such as sickness or potential violence, a naturally happy kid can become a morose kid. I've seen it on the mission field when parents have fallen suddenly sick or their visas got yanked suddenly or the families were urged to move due to regional violence. I've known folks who had to leave the country within 24 hours. In my own case, the small bush plane was limited and so each kid basically picked out a stuffed animal or toy apiece (I also turned a blind eye when a 2nd was smuggled on board). These types of things can rattle even the most well-adjusted children.

    Side note: pray for my children.
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  16. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I moved around for the first 43 years of my life. Son of an officer and then a Marine. Kids are totally nonplussed about moving until the teen years. It's harder when they have close friends but, even then, it doesn't scar them. I'm glad I moved to so many places in my life.
  17. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    Well, sure there's a lot more to culture than holidays, and certainly we have certain habits, ways of thinking and attitudes toward things that could be described as our own culture, but we do nothing whatever because of it itself. We eat popcorn after every Sunday evening service not because it's become our tradition or because I did it as a child, but because it's a convenient and easy snack at the end of a long day. We read a lot of books because there's not much else to do--you get the picture. There is almost nothing that we do as a family simply because everyone else is doing it, and certainly nothing because it's a "family tradition" or some such rubbish. I find such emotional associations mostly impractical, and am teaching my children to not have them either. It saves a lot of time and money, both of which are often in short supply.
  18. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    Granted, but the OP is hardly talking about a last-minute forced move in an emergency. A well-thought-out, properly planned move--or lots of them in the course of a lifetime, can be a perfectly normal thing. Any number of those shouldn't bum out an average kid out at all. It certainly didn't me, and I'm as average as it gets.
  19. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    This made me chuckle! Did anyone ever warn you not to tump over in your chair? Or ask if you were fixing to leave?
  20. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    I just prayed for you all and particularly your children. I know it’s been a tough situation to say the least.
  21. Andrew35

    Andrew35 Puritan Board Freshman

    My respect to all those who managed childhood moves with stoic indifference and came out "a better man" because of them, in proper Nietzschean fashion.

    Nonetheless, the body of research re. the effect of frequent moves on a child is pretty clear: life impact can be major, and it is wise for parents to be intentional in how they can support and minimize complications. To that I can also add my own career experience as an educator working with students of this profile.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2020
  22. Minh

    Minh Puritan Board Freshman

    I can tell you this is very true for me as a young person. I have a very enjoyable moment as a student in private school where you have privileges that public school students would regard as luxuries. I also made many friends there and it was a great comfort to be with them. But I went through the greatest depression in my life because of my parent's decision to move to public school for financial reasons, and it was at the beginning of the 12th grade where I would have been more happy if I remain in private school. I would never regret again since it was God that ordained this for my good.

    But, of course, a child or a teenager's psychological factors should be seriously considered when decision that are even extremely necessary are needed to make. You could deprive him of a colorful and happy memory if he/she is in a different environment, depending on one's adaptability. I went through a hard time of getting rid of thoughts of trying to avenge my friends for a happy moment while I receive a daily portion of solitude elsewhere.

    This is just my perspective and I am not a biblical counsellor to make sound advices.
  23. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Senior

    We moved a fair amount when our older children were very young. But we have been in the same town and house for the last six and a half years. And for that I am truly grateful. I think a sense of stability for children is important. And that is helped by not moving a lot when children are growing up. Even if some providence should end my currant pastoral charge, I would be reluctant to move from our home or at least the area without something that made it clear that it was necessary.

    If it was necessary, however, I would of course move. But I would do so with an aim to speak to my children about God's providence. I would endeavor to explain how the Lord can be trusted "Through all the changing scenes of life."
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2020
  24. J.L. Allen

    J.L. Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    These moves would be planned and less of an emergency, even if they happen swiftly. For instance, as far as this simple man has planned, we are going to move closer to the seminary this summer (about 30 minutes down the road from where we are now), then in another 3-4 years after seminary to an internship (if it is farther away or in another presbytery completely), and then after that year-long internship to a call.

    God's will be done.
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