Moving is one of the greatest stressors in an adult’s life. It’s right up there with losing a loved one or changing careers. It can be doubly difficult for teenagers, who may find switching schools and fitting into a new group of friends overwhelmingly stressful. Sadness, confusion and even depression can follow a big move. If you have teenagers, consider these five tips to help your teenager adjust to the idea of moving.
Talk to your teenager early and often about the potential of a move and what that is going to entail. Some parents think it is best to wait until everything is “settled” and tell their children only a few weeks before the move. However, it’s a good idea to let your kids know that something is in the works even before the papers have been signed. This will allow your teenager to deal with it emotionally before the draining busywork of packing and transferring schools begins. Be constant and consistent in your message, even if your teenager becomes angry. Teens have been telling their parents since the beginning of time, “You’re ruining my life.” Don’t worry; moving to a new town is not going to ruin your children’s lives. In fact, the move will broaden their horizons and teach them to be flexible, adaptable adults.
Honor Old Routines
If your family has particular habits or regular activities — dinner at a particular hour, once-a-week movie nights, swimming lessons, church or even scheduled grocery store trips — continue these practices in the new location. The weeks leading up to and following a big move are filled with things to get done, so it’s easy to put your routines to the side. Make a point of getting back into the swing of things as soon as possible, and if you absolutely must miss a week, acknowledge that you have done so. Let your teenager know that things will get “back to normal.” A new house and a new community provide the opportunity to form new habits and participate in new activities. If you’ve just moved to the coast, for example, see if you can fit in a family day out to the beach once a month. Or, if you’ve recently moved somewhere colder, try out family skiing lessons, sledding or ice fishing. Think of your move as an opportunity to grow closer as a family.
Expect It to Be Difficult
It’s normal for your teenager to feel stressed about moving. After all, they will be leaving their friends and schoolmates behind, and they’ll feel anxious about fitting in to a new group and keeping up with new classes and the demands of unfamiliar teachers. Let your teenager know that the move will be a challenge for all of the members of your household, so that he or she can appreciate that it is time for family teamwork.
Emphasize the Positive
Even though you need to be upfront and realistic about the stress that moving is going to put on your teenager and the family as a whole, don’t dwell on the negative. Go out of your way to point out the good points about moving. Does the new school district have more activities? Will the new house have larger bedrooms or space for a bigger TV? Consciously or unconsciously, kids will take their cue from you on whether this move is positive or a negative. At the same time, don’t gloss over real problems. When you talk to your teenager, acknowledge difficulties and focus on how to overcome them.
Encourage Your Teen to Keep in Touch With Old Friends
If possible, before you leave the old home, set a date to come back and visit your teenager’s friends after you’ve settled into your new abode. Or, if the friends’ parents are amenable, perhaps they could organize a visit to your new home. If the distance is too great, or visits are otherwise impractical, encourage your teen to talk or text with old friends — but set some reasonable limitations to save your phone bill.
Following these five tips will help you smooth over the difficulties your teenager may have as a result of a move. Remain positive and supportive, and sooner than later you and your teen will be settled into your new home and your new lives together.
About the Author: Leah Keys, her husband, their twin 16-year-old-boys and three black labs moved from Georgia to Bakersfield California. Keys hired National Transport LLC to move the cars while she and the rest of the crew flew to their new home.