Miles Away And Making Friends

by Gigi Ross on May 22, 2013

Moving with kids is never easy. But how does it impact kids long-term? If you move a child a lot, does it make it easier for them to make friends, or harder? Those are the questions that Robin Farr of Farewell Stranger‘s post today raises.

moving with kids

A year and a half ago I stood in the entryway of the home of one of my dearest friends and cried as we hugged goodbye. My son, who was then 3 ½, said a cheerful, “Bye!” to his friend and then bounded down the steps.

Lucky little bugger, I thought. He has no idea how long he’s saying goodbye for.

Later that month we moved to another city. Sure enough, the implications of the move did come clear to my son as we moved into our new house and explored our new community and when he was no longer seeing his friends a couple of times a week. And then he got sad about it. And that broke my heart.

There was no particular reason for our move – not a specific new job, and not necessarily to be closer to family. We ended up closer to some but farther away from my parents, until they followed along a year later. We just needed a change and it felt like the time for that change had come.

It’s tough to leave friends behind when you’re 36, but even harder, I’d guess, when you’re 3. The kids we left behind have been my son’s friends since he was born. He saw at least some of them at least once a week for the first three and a half years of his life. He never had to make friends with them; they were just his friends.

We did some of the usual things when we got here – found him a preschool (though he didn’t start until we’d been here about four months due to a lack of openings), put him in some activities, got in touch with old friends who have kids close in age. It helped a little bit, but one day Connor turned to me and said, “I miss my friends.” I could practically hear the cracks running through my mama heart.

In the time we’ve been here, he’s had a bit of trouble going into new places where he doesn’t know anyone. He adjusted to school fairly well overall, but there were some rough days. He has a tendency to roar at kids he doesn’t know when he’s feeling vulnerable (and, unsurprisingly, most kids aren’t keen to make friends with a velociraptor). Even now, 18 months later, he has a meltdown every single Tuesday morning when I drop him off at his variety program at the Y.

I probably felt the same way he did at one point. I was actually born here, but we moved away just before I turned five. My mom tells me I was shy and had trouble making friends, which doesn’t surprise me but I don’t remember it. I grew up in the same place and went to the same school all the way through high school graduation.

My husband, on the other hand, moved around a lot. He lived in four different cities between the time he was born and his own high school graduation. Then when he graduated from university he moved yet again to where I lived. He has his shy moments, but I’ve never known him to have trouble making friends.

Is there a correlation between the ability to make friends and moving a lot vs. staying put as a kid? I don’t know. Maybe. Or maybe it’s just personality. Maybe it’s normal for almost-five-year-old boys to have trouble making friends. Either way, Connor has some friends now and we’re doing what we can to help him transition into a new school for kindergarten in the fall. I have no doubt he will meet some fellow velociraptors there.

Robin Farr is a writer, wife, communications professional, speaker and mom. She experienced undiagnosed postpartum depression after her son was born in 2008 and started her blog, Farewell, Stranger, as a way of writing herself out of it. In doing so she discovered strength in brutal honesty and the power of community.

Moving With Kids: Watch The Live Discussion

Interested in watching moms talk through the subject of moving with kids? Robin, myself and several other moms discuss our experiences with moving, both as children and as parents. Watch below!


Debbie Anderson |
Robin Farr |
Janice Stenglein |
Emmy Barton |
Michelle Villemaire |
Angela Amman |
Holly Homer |


Renee A. Schuls-Jacobson May 22, 2013 at 4:29 am

Robin: I totally relate to your story. My husband and I decided to move when our son was answering fourth grade. It didn’t seem like a big deal, only a few miles away, but far enough for him to need to change the elementary schools. As it turns out, there was a very different culture and his new elementary school. He bigger school, there were a lot of mean boys. And mean girls. My son is a sensitive soul and it was hard for him to break into this larger school with very established cliques. And then the bullying started. It was miserable. Devastating.

Meanwhile, he went on being himself, making friends with kids in our new neighborhood and trying to make one or two good friends in his new school.

Middle school has been three years of joy. Four elementary schools merged together and his world expanded. He had the opportunity to meet new people, and children from his original elementary school came back into his life, as newer (taller) incarnations of themselves.

In the fall, he will start high school. I am confident that these trials and tribulations, these bumps in the road, have taught him a kind of grittiness. He is pretty unflappable now. Nothing phases him. He is one tough teenager, and as I’m sure your Connor will be.

Robin @ Farewell, Stranger May 22, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Renee, it must have been so hard to see him struggle like that. But I think you’re right that experiences like that help our kids grow and give them skills to deal with difficult things. I’m so glad he has flourished and has turned out to be an unflappable guy.

Alison May 22, 2013 at 5:08 am

I remember when you wrote about your move, about how Connor was handling it. It does sound to me like he’s handling it well. Kids are really resilient!

I’ll catch up with the chat when it’s on YouTube – would love to hear what others have to say, as we are planning a big move in a couple of years, probably around the time our kids are 4 and 6, or older.

Robin | Farewell, Stranger May 22, 2013 at 9:02 pm

You know, all this time I’ve felt as though he has had a bit of a rough time, but writing this and participating in the discussion today made me realize he’s done pretty well. He is quite resilient, and I’m proud of him for it.

Jennifer May 22, 2013 at 7:58 am

We moved a lot when I was growing up, but strangely enough I always went to the same school. I’ve thought about moving, but I’m afraid of what it would do to the kids and their established friendships, especially Cady.

Robin @ Farewell, Stranger May 22, 2013 at 9:03 pm

I was the same – we moved houses a lot, but I was at the same school and had the same friends. It didn’t affect any of my other activities either, so I don’t really know what the experience of moving would be like as a kid. Moving kids away from their friends is definitely one of the hardest parts of this, though.

Keely May 22, 2013 at 8:15 am

I moved a bunch as a little kid- it was always super sad (it was hardest, I think, to leave “my” bedroom), but it was always a little exciting, too. Then again, I was never super shy… Great post!

Robin @ Farewell, Stranger May 22, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Funny how “my” bedroom can be one of the hardest things to leave. I feel that way about our room in our old house, even though I love our room here. 😉

Greta May 22, 2013 at 8:31 am

That has to be so tough….we haven’t moved since my oldest was one, so they’ve never experienced it. But my daughter did have one of her good friends from kindergarten move away, and she was so sad.

Robin | Farewell, Stranger May 22, 2013 at 9:05 pm

I’ve often wondered if Connor will even remember this move, but as long as his friends are there and we continue to see them I think he will always remember moving away. And even 18 months later he still remembers the things we did there and wants to do them when we go back. There’s a part of me that actually loves that he remembers that stuff. It would be sad if he forgot.

sarah reinhart May 22, 2013 at 10:28 am

yep, even though I’ve got a few very sensitive kids-they are resilient. I think as long as they have some kind of stability–stable adults in their lives they weather it better. But I’m stating the obvious there. We’re moving at present. Moving out of the only home my kids remember and into a rental while we build our new home. So. Many. Changes. For them. It’s actually why I decided to back away from work this summer and concentrate on family. Need to give them (us) new roots. It’s important :)

Tonya May 22, 2013 at 10:29 am

That’s the great thing about kids, they just roll with things and adapt so much better and easier than us adults. We should learn from them.

Love seeing you over here, Robin!

Robin | Farewell, Stranger May 22, 2013 at 9:06 pm

So true. And when they do struggle with elements of things like this, they’re much better at expressing it.

Cheryl Nicholl May 22, 2013 at 11:34 am

My mother moved a lot! as a child (her father was an intinerant carpenter) and she SAYS she loved it. Interesting that since then, she’s been living in the same house for 54 years, and REFUSES to leave. This probably gives you no comfort. Sorry.

Robin | Farewell, Stranger May 22, 2013 at 9:07 pm

It’s okay. :) I can see how this has been good for him, even if he has found parts of it hard.

Robin May 22, 2013 at 12:01 pm

When I was nine years old, my family moved away from a house that I loved. I am now twenty-five and I still joke about trying to rent/buy the place someday…haha…
I guess it depends on the personality. Some people (like my husband) are more charismatic and seem to naturally attract friends everywhere.

Robin | Farewell, Stranger May 22, 2013 at 9:07 pm

So true. We talked a lot about personality in our discussion on this (and the video is now available above). I think it does make a big difference.

Elaine A. May 22, 2013 at 12:11 pm

I am similar to you, I grew up in the same place and only moved for college. Whereas my husband moved a lot and even lived overseas when he was a kid! I think it made him more adaptable, honestly. And thankfully, I am an extrovert so making friends is not that hard for me.

As far as the kids, mine were little (or not born yet!) when we moved here and this is where they started school, etc. I think it WILL be tough when we leave here someday though. NO wait, I KNOW it will be…

Robin | Farewell, Stranger May 22, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Tough, for sure, but not insurmountable. One thing I take comfort from after our Google + chat today is that moving and the hard parts of the transition can be really good for kids, even if it’s tough at the time.

Kristin Shaw May 22, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Robin, wonderful post!
We moved once when I was 3, from New Jersey to Indiana, but I don’t remember a speck of it. After that, we stayed in Indiana from 3 to 18. It was much harder for me to move when I was 38 from Atlanta to Austin. I went kicking and screaming! Now, I’m glad I went, but it was hard. And for someone on the introverted side, I can imagine it’s even harder.

Robin | Farewell, Stranger May 22, 2013 at 9:10 pm

We talked about moving for YEARS before we actually did it, and I honestly thought we never would. And when we finally did it wasn’t nearly as hard (for me) as I expected it to be. I’m really glad we moved, too.

Alison May 22, 2013 at 12:32 pm

I moved a few times as a kid and hated it every time. I was not good at making friends qickly, and I just get so homesick so easily. I have vowed that I will do everything in my power not to move my kids now that we’ve bought a house (my oldest moved when she was 16months).

Robin | Farewell, Stranger May 22, 2013 at 9:11 pm

I get homesick easily as well. But I’m surprised that I didn’t have too much trouble with it when we moved, even though we moved away from my parents (though they moved here a year after we did). But you never know, and staying where you are is a totally valid choice if it’s what makes you happy.

Leigh Ann May 22, 2013 at 7:38 pm

I envy young kids and their ability to make friends sometimes. Even as an adult I have problems, just because I find the whole new friendship courtship thing so damn awkward, I’d rather keep to myself. I never moved as a kid though, and I do worry about that once my girls really start school as in will we be restricted to this neighborhood if we don’t want to have to change schools?

Wonderful post, Robin.

Robin @ Farewell, Stranger May 22, 2013 at 9:19 pm

That’s a tough one. We moved houses a fair bit when I was a kid, but I never had to change schools because I went to private school the whole way through. I think that would make it a lot harder, for sure.

Robin @ Farewell, Stranger May 22, 2013 at 9:14 pm

That’s a tough one. We moved houses a fair bit when I was a kid, but I never had to change schools because I went to private school the whole way through. I think that would make it a lot harder, for sure.

Lady Jennie May 23, 2013 at 6:16 am

I remember moving at the age of 9. It all hit me one night that I was losing all my old friends, but it happened weeks/months afterwards so my parents were not very patient with me. We had left behind a really bad neighborhood – well… a mixed one at the time, but the house is completely destroyed now.

I’m glad we plan to stay where we are, that we have the luxury to do so.

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