A nightmare ensues for your teenage kids the day you announce to them that their lives will forever change – that you are moving them to a far-off location and having them change schools as a result. Beyond the shock, fear, and anxiety, they may claim (and actually feel) it’s the end of the world for them, and provoke heated arguments with you as they set out to make you and your spouse “pay” for the decision. In return, you and your partner may suffer enduring worries that their self-esteem, grades, and overall happiness will suffer in the long run, with the move possibly even inflicting damage that lasts into their adult years.
Indeed, your teenage kids will experience a major life interruption of sorts that disrupts their identity development during this tender and delicate stage of their lives. It’s true that they will have to work especially hard to rebuild a network of friends in a brand new environment where the social codes may be vastly different from those of their old community, and at some point, they will likely suffer from anxiety and stress that hail from feeling quintessentially “alone” while adjusting to their new community.
Do you, the parent, feel at a loss as to what to do to ease their heartache? Here are four ways to ease your child’s transition to a new school, new town, and brand new life.
Tips for the Worry-Prone Parent:
- Keep focusing on the positives: Solid gold reasons exist for why you and your partner have decided to uproot your lives in your current town and move to a new location. Better jobs, extant family and friend connections, and/or relocating to a more desirable neighborhood are all understandable reasons for wanting to move. Remind yourself of these positives if your teen tries to make you and your spouse feel guilty about the move. You’re the adult, and you know best – period.
- Try to broker a new relationship with your kids: Your teenage children are feeling distraught and vulnerable over saying goodbye to their current friends while knowing they have to scrape up the strength to face a sea of unfamiliar faces at their new school. Feeling vulnerable while trying to show strength is a tough dancing act to pull off, and they won’t know how to process the contrasting duality of their emotions.
Anger is typically the main emotion they will outwardly express to you, but try to recognize that this caustic emotion is simply a mask for how they’re feeling deep inside. The good news is that they will likely be open to discussing their feelings with you at some point. Whether on your own or by seeking professional help, take advantage of these opportunities to emphasize that the entire family is riding through the storm as a single unit. Help them find healthy ways of coping with their anxiety and fear so they don’t turn to dangerous solutions like drugs or alcohol, self-harm, or isolation. Reassure your kids that they are not actually alone in the process, and that they can use the move and consequent changes to forge stronger ties as a family instead.
- Explore the new neighborhood and town: Be proactive and raise positive feelings by taking your kids exploring all over your new neighborhood and town shortly after moving. Introduce yourselves to your new neighbors, dine at a fantastic eatery, go to the local amusement park, engage in a family bonding sport, or check out a town-sponsored music festival. This will open your teenage children’s minds up to new possibilities and cheer them up. (Whatever you do, don’t let them hole themselves up in their rooms at home!)
- Allow your teens to plan farewell-to-friends events: It’s a good idea to give your teens the opportunity to host a farewell event that marks the closing of this important chapter of their lives. While they may know they can stay in touch with their friends via digital technology, being able to officially say goodbye gives them an important sense of closure. Try to honor their requests to plan the event in their special way, no matter how zany it sounds (within reason). It’s the last time they’ll be a present member of their tight-knit group of friends.
Of course, you and your partner will be riding a similar emotional wave as a result of the move. You will have your own problems and issues to contend with before, during, and after the move. However, view it all as an important life lesson in developing strong coping skills. With a little time, each of you may find the change was for the better, having made you each stronger, happier people because of it.
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