Helpful Information for Moving Families
Moving is ranked as one of the top three most stressful life events. Even if you are moving to a better home, city, job, etc., the process is still stressful. Few of us look forward to packing all of our belongings into a box and leaving behind our old life for a new one.
Along with all of the logistics of moving, there is the very real human factor that must be considered. Changes in routine and the comfortable is traded for the unknown and uncomfortable. The impact of moving on a family affects each member differently. This is especially true when children are involved. Moving a teenager can actually be much more complicated than many parents realize.
Part of the reason moving can be so hard for teenagers lies in the developmental process. The teenage years are a time of transitioning from childhood to adulthood. It involves changes in personality, as well as in physical, intellectual, and social development. During this time of change, teens are faced with many issues and decisions. One of the biggest questions teens must figure out is, “who am I?” As part of this process, teens often reject the ideology of their parents and adults and turn instead to their peer group for the answers.
For instance, a teen’s relationship with friends and peers has a lot to do with the teen’s identity and sense of self. Social development with peers is also linked to a teen’s confidence and self-esteem. When a teen is taken out of their social settings, it can cause them to feel uprooted and disconnected from their lives. It is critical that parents understand the importance of the peer group for teens and their child’s need to feel connected to their peers.
This is one reason why teens will need extra support and attention during the moving process. According to the Center for Advancing Health, kids between the ages of 12 and 17 who had moved over the past year have:
- 20% higher odds of visiting the emergency room for a psychiatric issue
- 4% higher odds of an office visit
- 19% greater odds of a psychiatric hospitalization.
They also have higher odds of mental health issues, including attention deficit, conduct disorders, self-injury, and suicidal behaviors.
Despite all of these drawbacks, we know that sometimes moving is necessary and inevitable. What can you do? Here are a few easy things to keep in mind throughout the moving process.
Preparing Your Teen
Try to get your kids excited about the new start. Kids can easily fear an unknown place and the stress of having to make new friends. And remember, these friendships are very important to their development and identity. Some teens might be happy at the thought of a clean slate while others will be devastated about the idea of starting over.
It can also help to give your child information about where they are moving and potentially allow them to take part in the home search and find activities they will enjoy. It will help them to find sports teams and clubs that they did in their old home so they still feel like they have the same outlets available to them. You can also plan trips to visit old friends or to have friends come to visit to maintain those relationships. Thanks to technology, teens can maintain a virtual relationship with the current peer group through social media, texting, and other mediums. There are many positives and negatives related to the use of technology.
For more information on adolescence and social media, visit:
Communicating with your Teen
Communication is the best way to prepare your teen for a move. It is important to have conversations with your teen during the moving process. Adults, in general, don’t like to feel like they are being forced to do anything. A teenager is no different. Keeping your teen informed about moving plans and how they will impact him/her is key to the communication process. Let them know that their feelings and concerns are heard, and make sure to listen and be empathetic. Have these conversations early in the process and allow them enough time to not feel rushed and be open to conversation when they need it. The worst thing for a teen would be to feel like they have no choice or voice in a big life change.
For more information about talking to your teen about moving: http://oureverydaylife.com/talking-teens-moving-1377.html
Moving during tragedies, such as family death or divorce, can often add to the teen’s grief and sense of loss. If possible, it might be best in these situations to keep a child’s life as stable as possible.
Moves due to divorce or financial struggle can greatly affect the stress and mood of parents. Children will pick up on this behavior so it is important to try to be positive about the move and emphasize the benefits there will be for the family. But know that if you are struggling with the move, chances are so is your child. With this in mind, also understand that you need to take care of yourself too.
For more information on dealing with divorce: http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/divorce.html#
If a teen is heavily involved in their school teams and clubs, has a serious relationship, or major events approaching such as prom and graduation, it might be most beneficial for the teen to remain with a friend or family member until the end of the school year. It might be difficult to coordinate and be separated from your children, but it can be a good alternative if it lends to the teen’s overall happiness.
Give your kids support during the move and be understanding of their struggles in the new environment.
Schools usually say it takes 6 weeks for a student to fully feel comfortable and caught up in a new school. It could take less time or more time, depending on the student. According to the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, teens who move during high school only have a 60-62% chance of graduating high school, regardless of if they are moving to a better or worse neighborhood. It can help to meet the principal and teachers with your student ahead of time and communicate with them throughout your child’s adjustment.
Maintain normal schedules and expectations for your child in the new home, such as meal times, curfews, and responsibilities. Kids could also benefit from being encouraged to join clubs and teams to get more involved in their new community.
If you have concerns about your child after the move, consider finding a counselor or other form of guidance. As a parent, you know that connecting your teen with resources for their health and well-being is so very important. It is normal for teens to not always confide in their parents. Helping them identify people they can turn to for support when they might not turn to you is critical. Without setting up these connections with your teen, they may turn to someone or something that is destructive. If, however, they won’t turn to an adult, they deserve a safe place to connect to teens that can help.
That place is Teen Lifeline.
You can always suggest that your child and/or their friends call the hotline for help. You can explain that they can call if they feel alone and need to talk to someone who can really understand what they are going through because they are teens too. Sometimes just having the hotline number posted someplace visible can be a silent invitation to call.
As a parent, you can feel secure knowing that the teen Peer Counselors receive extensive training and are always supervised by a Master’s level clinician. In addition, Teen Lifeline’s crisis hotline is accredited by the American Association of Suicidology, attesting to the high level of service provided.
When families move, they inevitably go through a difficult process of changes and adjustments. However, it does not have to negatively affect children and can make a family stronger.
We are here to listen and help.
Maricopa County, AZ: 602-248-8336 (TEEN)
Statewide in Arizona: 800-248-8336 (TEEN)
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