Moving your teenager seems like an additional project whiles in the process of moving but all you need is a little preparation and some patience. Getting your teenager out of bed in the morning can be an exhausting drama. So how on earth are you going to get them to leave their friends, their school and the only home they’ve ever known? The answer: With the right mix of sympathy, patience and planning it doesn’t have to be a disaster.
Why Teens Have More Trouble
Relocation is hard on adults and kids. But for teenagers the transition is tougher. Teens confront a host of social and psychological issues that younger children and adults do not thus they are probably going to be much more reluctant to go along with a move and much more vocal about their objections.
When your teen hears that they have to move, the first thing they are likely to think is that moving will separate them from their friends. During junior high and high school, adolescents put a tremendous amount of time and energy into finding just the right peer groups. Even if it seems that they have a new best friend every month, the process of reaching out to other teens and learning how to socialize consumes an inordinate amount of their energy.
Through this painstaking process of “fitting in”, teens are starting form their own identity. It should not be much of a surprise that teens get very upset when they hear they have to part from a comfortable territory like friends and family. The uncertainty of having to adjust to an entirely new town, school and social scene presents an awkward feeling of having to fit in all over again.
Teens crave predictability. During adolescence everything is changing: their voice, their clothes, their responsibilities. Against that backdrop, having a stable, familiar home and social life makes a real difference. Moving throws this all into flux. Teenagers also like to think of themselves as adults. When mom or dad tells them the family is moving and that is that, teenagers feel, quite acutely, how far they actually are from full adulthood.
As melodramatic as teenage angst may seem, ignoring or minimizing the real difficulties that moving presents to teenagers only makes them worse. To help your teens make the transition as smoothly as possible, parents have to know when and how to intervene and when to back off.
What You Can (and Cannot) Do
If your teenager is feeling a little down about the move, trying to talk you out of moving or not helping out, it’s easy to get frustrated with their reactions. The most important thing you can do, however, is engage their concerns and feelings. Like most problems teenagers confront, simply listening to them – without trying to argue or make a point – can do a world of good. Relocation is a long process and there are steps you can take (and a few you shouldn’t) to help minimize stress on your teen. Some of the more helpful are listed below:
•Do not automatically assume your son or daughter is unhappy about moving. Take a moment to talk with your teen to find out how they feel about the upcoming move. Some teens are excited and look forward to the new start.
•If your teen is upset do not let it make you feel guilty. Eventually your kids will accept the necessity of relocation – they are more resilient than you think. Meantime, if they sense that you are uncertain about moving they will be even more anxious.
•If possible, try to schedule your relocation around the academic calendar. Leaving after classes have let out for the summer is less disruptive – to their school grades and social life – for your teenager than leaving in mid-semester.
•If your son or daughter is a senior in high school, consider leaving them with relatives or a trusted friend until they graduate while the rest of the family moves. Trying to adapt to a new school late in the game may not be worth it.
•Schedule a time in the not-too-distant future when your teen can return to visit. If relocation doesn’t seem as permanent, your teen will have an easier time letting go.
•The less your teenager knows where it is they’re moving, the more anxious they will be. Together with your teen, try to find out as much as possible about your new hometown.
•If you will be hunting for a new home, factor your teen’s preferences into your decision to buy. This can make them feel their needs are important to the family.
•Once you get settled, make sure your teen has plenty of ways to communicate with their old friend. Get the internet connection set up, so your teen can video chat over smart phone or computer.
•Get involved in the social and community life of your new hometown as soon as possible. Join a religious congregation, enroll in youth sports or encourage your teen to get involved with extracurricular activities. All these can help plug your teenager back into the social network they feel they’ve lost.
•If you have younger children, assign your teen to look after them during the moving process. Besides making your life easier, it can help keep your teen from fixating on their own dilemma.
•Watch carefully but do not worry too much. It’s perfectly natural for your teen to act mopey and dissatisfied in the weeks and months after moving. More often than not all they need is space, and time, to get adjusted. Keep tabs on them: if their school grades start to slip, or if they do not show any interest in socializing, seek professional help. Otherwise let them find their own way.