Son having trouble coping with moving

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My 8 yr old son is having some significant behavioral issues. We have recently moved, the first time of his life (and mine as well) to a new state, new school, new home. The process of us moving began approx. in January of ’09. We know this was going to be hard on him but now that we are approaching the one year mark and his behavior at home is getting increasingly worse. He is constantly acting out, teasing, crying if he gets called out on inappropriate behavior. I want to get him around other kids (outside of his little sister and brother) but I am partly afraid of him doing something mean/inappropriate. Thankfully, he is doing extremely well with his school work but he has told me he doesn’t like the new school (not surprised). He has gone from yelling at his brother and sister to full on screaming so loud you cannot even understand what he is even saying. His siblings are beginning to not want to be around him b/c he is relentless in acting out with either of them. It is him trying to push them down, shove them in the back, name-calling, being overly pestering with writing on their school-work, taking things that belong to them and either hiding them or just running away while the siblings cry for their items. As well as giving push-back if we tell him to straigten up…when he goes to time-out he cries so hard it seems as though he is back to being 4 yrs old. Until very recently, he was suffering from encopresis (sp. In fact, Sept. 20th was the last time he had an “accident”. This was a HUGE battle for our family. We are so profoundly happy that he seems to have finally gotten over this fear of going #2 but now the trade-off is this behavior. Prior to 2009 he has always been a good boy and a great big brother so I understand this moving has been very difficult for him to accept. What can I do to help him? I don’t think the new school has a conselor. I want to teach him the best way to get through these feelings.I want him happy when he is home and with the family and not angry and frustrated. I realize some of this is normal kid behavior to a degree but his actions are past the point of toleration. I have to give him tools to get through his emotions and I just don’t know what those are? Thanks for your time in reading.

A: It’s not unusual for a child to have difficulty adjusting to a move. It is unusual for for a kid to change this much. Without talking with him, I can’t offer much in the way of an explanation. If you were to bring him to my office, I would be checking to make sure something hasn’t happened since the move that scared him. Another possibility is that he’s a kid who depended on familiar surroundings and established routines to feel safe. Take away the familiar and his insecurities and fears emerge. Then again – it could be something else entirely.

The only way I know to figure out what’s going on and how to help is to have him seen by a qualified child and family therapist. The university near you has a behavioral health clinic with family therapists on staff. There are also a number of other mental health clinics in your city. Ask your pediatrician for a recommendation to help get you started in finding the right therapist for you.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the therapists recommend that you bring the whole family in to be seen. Your son’s behavior is effecting everyone. Further, it’s important that he not be labeled the “bad kid” of the family. When everyone in the family is engaged in therapy, everyone can learn to be in sympathy with his distress, can give voice to how it affects them, and can be part of figuring out a solution.

I hope you will follow through and get into some therapy right away. The whole family deserves to get some relief.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 11 Dec 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). Son having trouble coping with moving. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/12/11/son-having-trouble-coping-with-moving/