Although toddlers don't have to face the financial and logistical stresses associated with moving, it can still be a difficult transition for children of this age. Two-year-olds are creatures of habit who often struggle with mundane changes in their routine, according to the textbook "Child Psychology." If parents are sensitive to their children's needs and fears, however, many stresses of moving can be mitigated.
Most people are aware that young children bond with caregivers; they also form strong attachments to places, according to "Child Psychology." Toddlers feel secure in familiar environments and are frequently resistant to even minor changes in their daily routine. When children move, they must grow accustomed to a new bedroom, new neighbors, new friends and new sights. Children of this age also struggle to understand cause and effect, according to neurologist Lise Eliot. They may believe that something they did caused the move, which can cause anxiety and other changes in behavior.
Because moving is stressful, many parents behave differently before and after a move. Eliot reports that there is a strong correlation between parental and child stress. In some cases, children's caregivers change after a move. They may have a new nanny or babysitter, attend a new daycare or preschool or spend less time with extended family members. This strongly affects a toddler's sense of security.
Common Behavioral Changes
Toddlers frequently regress to an earlier stage in their development during times of stress, according to Eliot. Potty trained children may begin having accidents again. Some children become afraid to sleep by themselves, begin using baby talk or become fearful. In most cases, children will return to their normal selves after they've had an opportunity to adjust to their surroundings. However, some moves -- particularly those caused by deaths, divorce or family problems -- can be especially traumatic and children may exhibit behavioral changes for extended periods of time.
How to Help
Children with strong verbal skills are at an advantage because their parents are able to talk to them and explain the move. Talk to your child prior to moving, even if you're not sure he understands. This allows him time to adjust to the move and prevents the shock and fear that sudden changes frequently cause. Although moving frequently means chaos and stress for parents, it's important to maintain as much of your child's normal routine as you can. If you have moved away from friends and family, encourage your child to talk to them on the phone. Treasured dolls and stuffed animals may become especially important to children during a move, so make sure any love objects your child has go with you when you move.
- What's Going On In There?; Lise Eliot
- Child Psychology: Development in a Changing Society; Robin Harwood, et al.
- Caring For Your Baby and Young Child; American Academy of Pediatrics