“Everybody thinks I am this happy-go-lucky, chilled out personality, but the truth is – I’ve always been lonely. In fact, I’ve come to a point where I feel it’s better to believe in the ‘You come alone; you go alone’ mantra instead of expecting and then having to feel the disappointment.”
Can you, or somebody you know relate to the above? moving during childhood, If yes, then read on to know more ….
Most of us tend to remember our childhood days as one of the most cherished phases of our lives. We do so because of the innumerable memories that we create through those years, and even more because we had company as we went about doing so.
That said, what about the ones who are unable to deem this phase as ‘memorable’ because they were always on the move? Is life truly as cherishable for individuals who were constantly moving places, or do they have a different tale to tell?
As most of us may already know, the reasons behind having to move places can vary from family to family. Some of the common ones are:
New job of a parent
Trading the present home for a better one
Better academic/schooling opportunities for the child/children
Nature of job of either (or both) parent(s) i.e., being posted to a new location every once in a while
As far as research goes, a study recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine stated about 37% of cohort members to have relocated across a municipal boundary at least once before reaching their 15th birthdays. It also stated that moving during childhood can have various negative repercussions like suicide attempts, criminality, psychiatric disorders, drug abuse, and unnatural mortality.
Varun had everything – loving parents, a pampering older sibling, and a pet dog to keep him company at all times. In addition to this, he also had a flagship phone for a mobile, and the latest laptop to flaunt to his heart’s content.
Amidst all of this that many could safely refer to as ‘luxury’, Varun was not happy. But what could possibly be missing from the life of a 21 year old boy who did not lack anything in life, and had every comfort one could dream of?
For those who knew, the answer was simple: STABILITY.
“Dad is a construction manager with a well recognised corporation. He is highly paid of course, but then one major drawback that comes with such kind of jobs is the mobility factor. He would keep relocating from place to place because some of his projects would demand a lot of time and attention.”
As a younger child Varun could not be left alone, which obviously implied that he too would move places with his family. While on one hand, having to relocate from one place to another did earn his father promotions and growth at work, on the other hand, it made it difficult for Varun to find a stable life anywhere.
“I must have been about 5 when we first moved and I joined this school in the first grade. Even back then as such a young child, I remember missing my colony friends and the life we had there. The second move happened when I was in grade 5, followed by the third move in grade 9.”
More often than not, mobility has the tendency to negatively impact a child’s emotional well being as, with every move they make, the child is required to restart the process of adjustment to a new life altogether.
Experts say, residential mobility is commonly said to be taking a toll on a child’s wellbeing, and impacting their ability to establish healthy relationships with those around them – sometimes only due to lack of stability, and sometimes coupled with the fear of getting emotionally attached, only to lose that person as a result of moving away once more.
“I think 9th grade was toughest move I’ve had to make so far. I had made some great friends in my 3 years of schooling between the 5th-8th standard. They were the best part about that time.”
Most adolescents, upon hitting puberty, find their friends to be closer to them in comparison to their family. The changes and experiences generated by growth and development – both psychological and physiological in nature help one to relate more to their peers, which ends up triggering a feeling of greater belongingness towards them.
As Varun had no choice but to relocate along with his parents. He looks back at his childhood with multiple regrets in his mind about how things were, and how they could have been had he stayed in one place.
He says: “So my gang of friends and I did promise each other we would stay in touch through emails, but eventually all of that faded away. We ended up losing contact. I don’t know how was it for them, but for me it was painful. I was back to square one – to be lonely.”
All of his childhood went by like this, and now he was all of 21, and in college. Varun has taken up accommodation near his college campus, while his parents live in another city.
“As of now I am in college and live in a flat nearby. Ever since I moved here, I don’t feel that close to my parents anymore. Initially I was living in the hostel for the first few years, but now I am completely on my own.”
As somebody who has limited access to his loved ones, Varun currently feels disconnected to them, as they have been away from him ever since he attained adulthood owing to his studies.
Varun further adds:
“Sometimes, I wonder who would even get to know if I were ill or dying? I would joke about to my elder sister and tell how people would only get to know about me because of the foul smell of my corpse. She would find it odd coming from me, but I wish she would have known how sad and lonely I felt to be saying such things.”
So how did he overcome this?
Well, he hasn’t. Varun’s struggle to cope with his situation continues.
A 2015 study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health stated security and stability across multiple domains of one’s life to be responsible for the healthy growth and development of a child. Some of these are:
How Life Coaching Helped
There were a number of reasons behind Varun’s decision of seeking help with a Life Coach. The loneliness had begun to get to him, and also triggered him to begin consuming alcohol.
“It was not just about being alone anymore. I had started to drink and smoke, but not because I really enjoyed it, but because it would help me feel high and numb. I could see that my dependency on it was increasing, but it was only when I started feeling physically weak and my college mates pointed out the same, that I knew I needed help.”
Both Varun and his Life Coach went over a few ways to help him deal with his concerns in an effective manner:
Identify your goals
To begin with, Varun had multiple concerns up his sleeve that he wished to address. His major points of worry were:
Either quit or reduce the smoking and drinking
Find meaningful friendships
Connect with his parents
Once both Varun and his Life Coach became aware of the bothersome areas of his life, he was asked to prioritise them based on their importance and impact. The most stressful aspect about his situation was being unable to establish meaningful friendships, followed by the disconnect with his parents, and lastly the smoking and drinking.
Knowing the difference between your cans and can’ts
After breaking his concerns down into goals he wished to accomplish, it was important to understand what parts of each of these goals he could change for the better i.e., the factors falling within his Circle of Control. He was also asked to identify those parts that he would be unable to alter.
Finding meaningful friendships
Cans: Reach out to his old friends, get in touch with cousins (if any), spot people in your class or in extracurricular activities who love talking and would like to have a conversation with you.
Can’ts: Constantly contacting somebody despite no response from them, forcing your friendship on a person, expecting every initiated friendly contact to be a success.
Connecting with parents
Cans: Letting them in on how you feel verbally and/or non-verbally (with the help of his sister, or in the form of a letter to them), making efforts to connect with them on video call as frequently as possible, setting aside a particular time in the day or week for quality interaction with parents.
Can’ts: Altering his past years, expecting parents to understand what’s on his mind without taking an effort to express himself, reconnecting with them without actually trying to do the same.
Smoking and Drinking
(Varun believed he would achieve this goal if the first two goals would see improvement.)
Cans: Seek motivation from your budding relationships with your loved ones, be determined and consistent about your objective to reduce/quit.
Can’ts: Expect this to be a quick or overnight process.
Based on Varun’s Circle of Concern and circle of control factors, the next step was communicating his feelings to his friends and parents. After encouragement from his Life Coach, he decided to reconnect not only with his old friends from school but also with his classmates who he had distanced himself from.
Varun also took some help from his elder sister, who understood his concerns and stood by him during his conversation with his parents about his frame of mind. Despite being really taken aback with what they got to hear, Varun’s parents were very supportive of the fact that they too would need to make conscious efforts to stay connected to their son.
In the next few weeks that followed, Varun did notice a difference in the way he felt – all thanks to the emotional attention received from his parents, as well as the friends who reciprocated his initiation to get in touch with them.
While Varun is yet in the process of completely overcoming loneliness and reaching a point where he could feel content, loved, and at peace, he does have a great sense of direction and knows he will get there soon. 🙂
Adverse Outcomes to Early Middle Age Linked With Childhood Residential Mobility Roger T. Webb, PhD,1 Carsten B. Pedersen, DrMedSc,2,3 Pearl L.H. Mok, PhD1 (http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(16)30118-0/pdf)
Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, online October 16, 2015.