People Who Moved at Least Once During Childhood Usually Develop These 10 Traits as Adults, Psychologists Say


Your parents may have pictures, videos and many stories about the big moments in early childhood when you were “on the move”—the first time you rolled, crawled and walked are milestones you’ll never remember, but your parents will never forget.

However, an actual move during childhood may be something you remember and carry with you into adulthood.

“Moving homes is undoubtedly disruptive,” says Dr. Daniel Kessler, Psy.D., LP, DBSM, a psychologist with Veritas Psychology Partners. “Daily routines are interrupted, friendships are affected by distance and everything feels new.”

While that can be emotionally challenging, especially at first, the long-term effects of moving during childhood are not all negative. Some people will grow to view the move as a positive—a new adventure and an opportunity for growth. Others may see it as a negative, but many will fall somewhere in the middle, with a mix of positive and negative experiences. 

Still, psychologists have identified some common themes in people who have moved. Unpacking the “why” behind specific characteristics can help you understand yourself better. These 10 traits are common in people who moved at least once during childhood, and knowing that you share these traits with others can be a source of comfort and validation.

Related: 7 Signs You Were Raised by Emotionally Immature Parents, According to a Psychologist

10 Common Traits in People Who Moved During Childhood

1. Adaptability

A change in addresses often means switching schools and sports teams, forcing children to build new social connections without first meeting their new peers (as adults may get to do in job interviews).

It forces them to adapt at an early age, which may be a challenge at first but ultimately benefits them.

“Frequent changes in the environment teach them to adjust to new situations swiftly,” says Dr. Joel Frank, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist with Duality Psychological Services.

2. Resilience

A child may have needed to lean into and improve resilience to cope with the move.

“They often have to navigate the emotional and social challenges associated with moving,” Dr. Frank says.

As a result, a person may grapple with a setback, such as a layoff, by bouncing back and growing from it. Resilience also feeds into adaptability.  

“The ability to be resilient…may also look like the ability to ‘read a room’ quickly to adapt socially or make less assumptions if people have moved all over the country or world and learned to live in many places,” says Dr. Peggy Loo, Ph.D., a psychologist at Manhattan Therapy Collective.

3. Great problem-solving skills

Moving presents natural social and academic obstacles for kids. However, life will continue to take detours long into adulthood—a boss may drop a last-minute project on you, or you and a partner may disagree on finances. People who moved during childhood may have a leg-up.

“They are forced to figure out and resolve the challenges in their new environments.” Dr. Kessler explains.

4. Empathy

Difficulties making friends or being thrust into a new school in an entirely different state when you ruled the last one can make you more empathetic to others dealing with uncertainty, transitions or setbacks.

“With the need to make a challenging transition themselves, they may develop empathy and understanding to others who are going through similar challenging life changes and transitions,” Dr. Kessler says.

Dr. Frank agrees, saying this empathy can foster more and deeper relationships in adulthood.

“Empathy can flourish, stemming from the need to understand and relate to others’ feelings, especially when forming new friendships,” Dr. Frank says.

Related: 35 Simple, Sincere Phrases To Express Empathy, According to Therapists

5. Openness to new experiences

You may not have relished the need to learn a new neighborhood then, but you find yourself more eager to try a new restaurant or hobby as an adult. Your childhood move may have laid the foundation.

“Openness to experiences is higher in children who moved,” says Dr. Connally Barry, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist with Thriveworks. “This indicates greater intellectual curiosity, creativity and awareness of their own feelings. They are less inclined to resist new ideas.”

6. Independence

Moving pushes a person to chart new territory and quickly pick up new hallways, routes and social circles independently. It can be a confidence-builder that nurtures an independent spirit. 

“Those who move and handle the move well, or who are helped to handle the move well, may gain a sense of mastery, which can lead to greater independence and strength,” Dr. Kessler says.

Related: People Who Felt Constantly Criticized as Children Usually Develop These 13 Traits as Adults, Psychologists Say

7. Difficulties in peer relationships

While moves can have positive long-term effects on people, there are some drawbacks.

“Children who have moved likely experience increased irritability and stress and are less capable of making meaningful relationships with peers beyond superficial connections,” Dr. Barry says.

Dr. Loo shares similar sentiments.

“As adults, children who moved frequently may be more prone to social anxiety or struggle to deepen friendships or relationships, either because they worry they may be short-lived or have had less experience managing long-term relationships,” she explains.

8. Stronger social skills and extraversion

Conversely, people who moved as children may be social butterflies because of the experience.

“They meet and interact with many new people and learn to communicate effectively,” Dr. Frank says.

In other words, while some people may point to a move as a source for their introversion, you’re not alone if you feel like it made you an extrovert.

“Extraversion is higher in children who moved, meaning they are likely more outgoing and tend to feel energized by being around people,” Dr. Barry says. “They tend to learn how to make friends more easily than those low in extraversion.”

9. Cultural awareness

A move—whether cross-country, to a new continent or a more diverse town in the same county—can make a person more open-minded and sensitive to differences.

“Successful navigation of transitions may help the child develop a greater understanding of the differences in worldviews that are held by people in different areas, leading to a greater degree of open-mindedness in adulthood, accompanying the empathy that they have developed,” Dr. Kesslser says.

10. Conflict-avoidant

While moving can foster problem-solving skills in some, the experience may leave others avoiding conflict at all costs.

“They may be more conflict-avoidant so as to not rock the boat with others or prone to people pleasing to maintain smooth connections,” Dr. Loo says. “I think there’s a lot of potential for unresolved grief if a childhood move was abrupt and there was little room for processing.”

Related: People Who Were Introverted as Children Usually Develop These 11 Traits as Adults, Psychologists Say

3 Tips to Healing if a Childhood Moved Still Hurts

1. Acknowledge the challenge of moving

You may feel like you need to move on—no pun intended. However, Dr. Kessler stresses this step is essential.

“It is important to accept that, especially in the initial phases of the process, the move is likely to be experienced as a significant loss,” Dr. Kessler says.

Bonus tip: If you’re a parent trying to help a child through a move, lay the foundation from the get-go.

“Parents who acknowledge the loss and can accept that the move may be painful can help set their children up for success and faster healing,” Dr. Kessler explains.

2.  Think about little you

Give little you grace and the gift of forgiveness.

“We all have awkward moments from childhood we can look back on, but if you were repeatedly placed in new situations with different people, these instances were more likely to happen,” Dr. Barry says. “It would be tough to not internalize these feelings, leading to some current social anxiety, but as an adult, you could overcome this discomfort and create stronger relationships.”

3. Seek help

It’s normal for childhood experiences like a move to affect you in adulthood, and speaking with a professional mental health provider can help you heal.

“Since moves are so stressful, a lot of times there’s little space or energy left to process how you feel for everyone involved,” Dr. Loo says. “Talking to a therapist who can help you understand the impact of a childhood move can be clarifying as well as offer support and strategies to heal where you may still be struggling.”

Next: People Who Felt Lonely as Children Usually Develop These 13 Traits as Adults, Psychologists Say

Sources

  • Dr. Daniel Kessler, Psy.D., LP, DBSM, a psychologist with Veritas Psychology Partners

  • Dr. Joel Frank, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist with Duality Psychological Services

  • Dr. Peggy Loo, Ph.D., a psychologist at Manhattan Therapy Collective

  • Dr. Connally Barry, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist with Thriveworks



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