Moving is stressful for everyone in your family, but it can be especially disruptive to your teen. He's formed meaningful friendships and possibly his first romantic relationship, and he has likely invested energy in academic work, extracurricular activities and athletic teams. He'll be leaving all that behind with no guarantee that he'll be as successful in the new location Older children, including teens, have more difficulty with moving because of the importance of the peer group, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
Talk to your teen about the reason for the move. Be as honest as possible, even if the move is due to divorce, death or loss of a job. Give him honest answers to any questions he might have. Avoid criticizing him or becoming defensive if he becomes angry, sad or upset. Instead, be empathetic to whatever his reaction is. You might say, "I can understand why you'd be upset to move away from all your friends" or "I don't blame you for being angry. It's going to be a big change for all of us." Being up-front with your teen will help him better understand the circumstances behind the move and become more accepting of it.
Allow your teen to participate in the decoration of his new bedroom and make whatever choices will help him feel the most comfortable. Ask if he'd prefer to surround himself with his old bedroom furniture, which might make the new home seem more familiar and give him a sense of security. Or, if he'd prefer a change, make it a project to decorate his bedroom. Choose new furniture, paint or wall paper together. Encourage your teen to keep photos of his friends from his former town in his bedroom to help ease any initial loneliness.
Take advantage of any benefits the new home might bring. If you've moved to a larger home, give your teen a bigger bedroom than his old one. Ask your teen how he'd like to use other additional space in the new home. For example, install a photography darkroom in the basement, if he's interested in photography. Or, put a basketball court or athletic equipment in a spacious back yard.
Sign your teen up for activities in the new town that might not have been possible in his former community. For example, if you moved to a colder climate, sign him up for skiing, snow boarding or ice skating lessons. Or, if you moved to a warmer climate, encourage him to learn swimming, surfing or scuba diving. If he's interested in the creative or performing arts, check for teen programs at the YMCA or community theaters. Encourage him to begin forming new social connections by becoming involved in extracurricular activities at his new school, such as writing or taking photographs for the student newspaper, becoming active in student government or playing team sports.
Encourage your teen to communicate with friends from his former town through letters, telephone and email. Regular communication to his old friends will help him continue to feel connected to his past support system. Suggest that he share with them the differences between his old home and new home, both positive and negative. Plan family trips back to the old home town during the school year so your teen can visit old friends. Or, allow him to travel there alone and stay with friends or family. Arrange for his old friends to visit him in his new home, which will give him the opportunity to "show off" what's special about his new location.
Listen to your teen's feelings. Encourage him to talk about his sense of loss or any other emotions he's feeling after the move. Be an attentive and empathetic listener without judging, lecturing or interrupting. If it's difficult for him to put his feelings into words, you might help him out by asking, "Are you missing your old friends?" or "Are you feeling sad about the move?" The more your teen can openly express his feelings of loss, the less likely he'll be to act out his anger and depression, according to Iowa State University Extension.
- If your teen displays signs of depression after the move, such as social withdrawal, loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, moodiness or other dramatic changes in his behavior, seek professional help with a licensed psychologist or school guidance counselor.
- Teens Health: The Moving Blues
- Kids Health: Preparing Your Child for a Move
- HealthyChildren.org: Helping Children Adjust to a Move
- Iowa State University Extension: Understanding Children: Moving to a New Home
- American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
- Education.com: When Families Move: Helping Children Adjust
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