Moving Can Open Kids Up to Bullying

Discover how being the new kid can lead to being bullied

By Sherri Gordon
Published: Jan 17, 2014 10:20 PM GMT / 
Updated: Jan 24, 2014 12:02 AM GMT

Recently, my kids’ school district announced that it would be realigning the attendance boundaries. What this means for my family is that my youngest child, who will be entering middle school in the fall, could be uprooted and moved to a new school, separating him from all the friends he has developed in the last five years.

In fact, if the current proposal in front of the board is approved, none of his core friends will be moved with him. He will enter a new middle school with unfamiliar faces and no solid social connections.

As parents, this is heartbreaking to deal with, especially when the decision is out of our control. We didn’t make the decision to move. In fact, we have lived in the same house for more than 15 years! The decision is being made for us and our children must deal with the consequences of the decision.

Everyone knows that moving is not easy on kids. But it is especially true as they reach the middle school years. Middle school is a time in their young lives when there is so much changing in their bodies and in their social circles that the more stability you can provide for them the better. So for us, it’s frustrating that the stability we have worked so hard to maintain in his young life is being undermined by a move that is out of our control.

Research shows that moving creates a variety of disadvantages for the child who is forced to move – challenges that students who are not moved are not subjected to. For instance, one of the biggest consequences of moving is the loss of social capital. Social capital refers to relationships kids have developed in their current school community including friends and teachers.

This social capital allows them the opportunity to foster skills and capabilities that are beyond what classroom instruction can provide. For instance, social capital helps children develop friendships, build self-esteem and develop empathy. It also can foster assertiveness, nurture confidence and instill character.

But when a child is moved, the relocation robs them of their social capital because they are forced to break ties with teachers, students and other members of the school community. They basically have to start over. In the end, these losses in social capital can undermine a child’s education and occupational achievement. And because they lose much of what they may have already gained socially, much of the transition period may be spent trying to regain social capital. In some cases this is often done at the expense of learning and academic achievement.

What’s more, moving can open kids up to bullying. It’s no secret that bullies are opportunistic. And while there are a variety of reasons why kids bully others, many times bullies prey on those who appear vulnerable or lack social connections. And what easier target than the new kid?

If you are facing a move this coming year, you might want to start preparing your child now. You also should take steps to bully-proof your child before the move. This involves working on resilience, assertiveness andfriendship-making skills. Lastly, you should be sure your child knows how to stand up to bullying, what it means to defend himself and the difference between reporting and tattling.

For more resources on bullying prevention check out myBullying page on About.com. You also can connect with me on Facebook and onTwitter.

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