Did you just make a big move with your family? Are you considering moving from your current city, state, or country to another and wondering how to best prepare your child or teen? It can be very easy to forget that your child will be going through the same transition as you and may have their own struggle with adjustment. My hope is that this information provides you with the tools to best help your child or teen during this chaotic time.
Families have been moving for generations. Packing up their lives and the creature comforts and braving the unknown, for the prospect of a better life. This can produce a lot of anxiety not only for parents but also for your children. Whether it’s a drastic move like making aliya to Israel from the US or less drastic like moving from one part of the state to the next, the anxiety of having to rebuild is real. It’s felt across the family and a person’s sense of self as well as their relationships may take a hit.
Moving, even under good circumstances, brings on a lot of anxiety and worry. For your child or your teen the worry is about making new friends and finding where they belong in a place that is unfamiliar to them. They also have to contend with saying goodbye to old friends and the real likelihood that they will loose contact with their old friends. It’s not always easy making friends, it takes time to build up trust in order to feel safe being vulnerable, so saying goodbye to these connections can feel like an incredible loss for them.
One of the manifestations of this impending loss is an increase in anxiety and worry with your teen or child. For children this may look like acting out behaviors, such as more emotional outbursts or an increase in arguments. This may also look like sadness or tearfulness, with your child asking questions about why you have to move. For teens they display similar types of behaviors but the acting out behaviors may be more severe, such as staying out later, not communicating with you, lying, sneaking out, or just general rule breaking. Because of their anxiety they may be more prone to fits of anger or the reverse shutting down and isolating.
There are ways you can address your teen or your child’s concerns about relocating. The truth is that anxiety is very real and happens to everyone. The key with anxiety is to not let the worry, which taps into your fears, keep you stuck. This is something that is happening to your child or your teen, they feel anxious and stuck, focusing on all the things they will lose when they move.
Below are 3 tips you can use to help your child or teen to reduce their anxiety steps before relocating.
1. Talk openly with your child about the move as soon as you know your leaving. Encourage them to share their thought and feelings about this move. You also need to be open with sharing your own concerns about the move-while still maintaining that adult confidence that things will be ok and you can support them. Your child needs to see you as human but also needs to feel like you can handle what’s going on. This decreases their anxiety a lot, knowing there is a plan and you will be there to support them.
2. If possible visit the new city or country with your child so they get a feel for what it will be like in this new environment. If you cannot afford to travel you can look up youtube videos about your new town, as well as using google to look at pictures. Give them a frame of reference so they get a little taste of the new environment. Social media is also good here because you can use it to connect with other people in your new town. While connecting you can see if they have children or teens your child’s age and if they would be comfortable chatting with your teen or child online about the ins and outs of the town. The nice part about this is that your child or teen may be able to make a friend before they even arrive and this goes a long way in helping them belong and find community.
3. Connect with programs/extra curricular activities in your new town. If your child likes football check out the local youth football team. You can also use social media to connect with parents about the best programs for your child to join. Then you can contact the administrators in charge and talk to them and see about the process of having your teen join. You can then have a conversation with your child about the things that they will be able to do in the new town. This helps with easing their anxiety because they don’t have to give everything that’s familiar up, which is what moving can feel like. This provides them with an opportunity to keep a piece of their identity as they transition.
Soon after you arrive in your new home here are 5 things you can do to help your child or teen get adjusted.
1. Take them to their new school before school starts. Let them walk around the school and get a feel for where things are located so they wont be so overwhelmed the first day of school. If their is an opportunity to meet their teacher or front office person, then this can be helpful also. Show them how far school is from the house and let them get accumulated to the neighborhood in general. If they will be taking public transportation show them where it is and ride on it a few times with them. Again this will take away some of the anxiety and overwhelm on the first day of school.If a school bus will pick them up take them to the bus stop.
2. If they made connections with peers online encourage them to seek them out upon arrival. You can connect with the parents and invite them over to your house or meet in a public place. Let the children/teens have an opportunity to connect while you also have a chance to connect with the parents. This way you all get to make new friends, which makes the transition so nice.
3. Once you know what school your child or teen will be at, try to figure out if there are any groups to get involved in. This can be cheerleading, band, drama club, or more. Try to help your child or teen get connected with peers who will be at their school so they wont walk into school not knowing anyone.
4. If your moving to another country and language is an issue try to seek out other anglos and connect. With this connection aim to try to find the best ways for you to learn the language as well as for your child to learn. Again encourage connections for your child or teen, someone who knows the local language as well as English and can help your child or teen learn.
5. Check in regularly with your child about their adjustment. Often times new students get bullied. And even if they are not getting bullied if they are having trouble making friends they can feel incredibly isolated and alone. This plays with their self esteem and how they feel about themselves so you want to be thoughtful and watchful about this. When children, teens, and adults suffer from low self esteem this often leads to depression and anxiety. By regularly checking in with your kid you can intervene early and help them with their adjustment if your noticing that something is askew. For more tips and tricks on how to check in with your child or teen then download the free checklist here.
Moving can be incredibly stressful for everyone in the family. As someone who has moved to a new country I know how hard it can be to adjust and to feel lost amongst a sea of people who seem to know what is going on. This stress can be hard as a single adult but for children and teens who don’t have as much control over their situations or coping tools it can be incredibly overwhelming.
These are just a few strategies, tips, and recommendations! I hope you found this post helpful! I’d love to hear from you in the comment section!
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Until we connect again,
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