Highly Mobile Families and Transitions to New Schools

Kids drawing at a table

Moving to different homes, cities, or towns is often a part of life especially for families involved in more mobile professions, like higher education, international aid, and the military.  While many children cope well with a mobile lifestyle, studies have shown that frequent moves, especially in the early years of schooling, can have negative impacts on children’s learning and development of fundamental academic skills. Moves that happen when a child is in middle school or high school can also have negative effects as children and adolescents may feel a sense of loss for friends and the community.

If you find yourself living a lifestyle that requires you to move frequently, there are steps you can take to ensure your child’s transition to his or her new school is as smooth as possible.

  1. Keep a copy of your child’s previous school records. You can bring these with you when you enroll your child in his or her new school.  Different states have different standards for graduation requirements, so, if you keep and bring copies of your child’s previous educational experiences, you can work with school personnel to make sure your child is on track for graduation.
  2. If your child has a disability or special programming through his or her previous school (e.g., gifted education services, a 504 plan), make sure you have these records to present to the new school. This information helps the school personnel understand how your child is performing academically and will assist them in placing your child in the appropriate class or grade level.
  3. Take a tour of the new school with your child and find important locations, like the bathrooms, his or her classroom, and the cafeteria. This will help your child feel less lost on his or her first day. If the school playground is open, let your child run around and explore.  This gives your child the opportunity to familiarize him or herself with the new environment.
  4. Check whether your child’s new school has similar extracurricular activities to the old school. Having access to comparable activities can help maintain the routine to which your child is accustomed.
  5. Become involved in the school community, for example, offer to bring snacks for a school party or volunteer to drive children home after sports practice. Seeing you actively participating in the school community may help your child feel more comfortable.
  6. Talk to your child well in advance about the move. Encourage your child to express his or her feelings about the move and acknowledge his or her emotions.  If you are also feeling nervous about the move, you could share this with your child.  Your child may take comfort in knowing that he or she is not alone in his or her feelings.

Additional Resources

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has a number of online resources about school transitions and related issues. Check them out!


Editorial Projects in Education Research Center (2016).  Issues A-Z: Student mobility: How it affects learning.  Education Week.  Available at  http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/student-mobility

HealthyChildren.org (2007).  Helping children adjust to a move.  Available at https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/Pages/Helping-Children-Adjust-to-a-Move.aspx


Are you ready to Thrive?

Desensitization to Violence: A Parent's Role

One-on-One Activities with Your Young Child

Parental Involvement in Youth Sports and Activitie...