My husband and I often engage in a debate based on our own experiences growing up to assess the cost of moving our family around the world. Due to his father’s work, he spent his childhood moving homes and cities every three years or so. His experiences were as varied as extreme winters in Market, Michigan to the international schools in Saudi Arabia. He insists that the pace and variety of his life has made him an extremely flexible and confident human being.
I, by contrast, spent the first 18 years of my life in the city I was born in, establishing a strong sense of identity linked to that city and country. Although we traveled all over the world as children, I had a home base in Mumbai, India which gave me much strength when the time came to venture on my own to the far corners of the world. Till today, twelve years, three countries and six cities later, I still need to plug into “home” once a year before I can get on with other adventures in my life.
Is one or the other better for growing kids? Both lifestyles involve travel and exposure but one gives you the security of a base, and the other the freedom to call home “wherever you hang your hat”, so to speak.
My husband and I both agree that stability is important in a child’s environment. He believes that stability comes from the family and as long as the child is secure within that unit, he/she will adapt to changes with ease. I believe that stability comes from outside the home as well: from continued progress in the same school system, from consistent friendships, from developing a sense of familiarity with your physical surroundings.
I also believe that it takes a certain kind of child personality that truly benefits from continued change: some more introverted kids may struggle with constant new scenarios and the cost of moving may be making them more isolated. More outgoing kids would thrive. I would venture that girls, who tend to form deeper emotional attachments in their teen and tween years may not adapt as well to transitions as boys do. Girls at that age place their trust in two or three close friends, whereas boys tend to form wider and more replaceable friendships, often around things like team sports. That being said, I think that if boys fail to find something constant to get them through each move, the effects are more severe, socially detrimental and more immutable than in girls. On the flip side, one can get too comfortable and stagnate in his/her own space if you don’t find the motivation to break out every now and then. We all know people that has happened to.
I am not a psychologist, but these are my conclusions from having observed several people in my own realm- friends and relatives. I understand that often it’s not a voluntary decision because of careers and opportunities, but if you had the choice, would you move your family around merely for the experience, or maintain a firm home base from which they would explore? Were either of these your experience growing up? Share your experiences below.