Moving is particularly hard on teenagers, who have strong attachments to their friends and may be involved in extracurricular sports and activities. While moving is a difficult change (for everybody, not just your teen!), it can also be an exciting time full of positive experiences and new opportunities. Help your kid adjust by following these tips.
Don’t dismiss your teen’s emotions
You already have a lot on your plate with the move, so it can be frustrating and annoying to listen to your teen mope and complain about how “stupid” the new town will be or how they “won’t have any friends”. The initial reaction can be to dismiss these emotional outbursts by saying things like “oh, you will make new friends!” This nonchalant response to their legitimate emotions is just going to make it harder on your teen.
Be honest with your teen about the move. It is perfectly okay to acknowledge the negative, but always emphasize the positive: “Yes, it will be hard to start a new school where you don’t know anyone. But you are a smart, outgoing person and I bet you will make friends easily.”
Take a solution based approach to dealing with emotions
Instead of just saying things like “you will make friends”, take a solution-based approach to these emotional responses from your children.
For example, if you’re teen is worried about being able to make friends in the new town, suggest that they join a summer club or activity so they will know a few people before the school year begins.
If your teen is saying things like, “The new town is stupid”, then make a plan for learning about the town. Do your research and find out where the popular hangout spots are for teens in the area, what activities they have (ice skating rinks, bowling lanes, movie theater, etc.), and other aspects of the town which your teen might find interesting. This will help get your teen excited about the prospects of the new town rather than focusing on the negative.
Moving mid-year with your teen
It is almost always best if you can schedule your move during the summer so the teen doesn’t have to change schools mid-year. Aside from throwing your teen into a new school with pre-formed social cliques, there are issues of being able to catch up with coursework.
If you have family in your old town, you may consider letting your child stay with them to finish out the school year. However, you will need to make sure your child is emotionally ready for this. Being on his/her own can be more stressful than coping with a change of schools. Another option may be to do homeschooling for the remainder of the year so your child doesn’t have to start the school in the middle of the year. During this time, you can sign your teen up to some activities so he/she starts making friends.
When you can’t avoid changing your teen’s school during the middle of the year, then do everything you can to familiarize your teen with the school beforehand. Setup meetings with the teachers, do a tour of the school, get the class curriculum in advance, and see about any extracurricular activities which can be joined. You should also make steps to introduce your teen to new friends before the first day of school, such as by setting up dates with other parents from the school and neighborhood.