When Your Teen Doesn’t Want to Move
Transitions are hard at any age, but they are particularly difficult for adolescents. Uprooting teens involves a myriad of emotions over the loss of relationships and activities they love. Add the fear of the unknown and you’re in for the perfect storm for unexplainable outbursts, bad attitudes, and potentially a lot of tears. While you can’t prevent the move, you can help your teen ease into the transition so they adjust better.
It Takes Time
Who enjoys surprises when it comes to life-changing events? Usually not teens. The more time you can give them to process everything, the better. Whatever you do, don’t tell a lot of other people before you talk to your teen. Finding out about a move from a neighbor or friend is a mistake you would only make once.
During a big move, teens feel like their life is a giant puzzle turned upside-down and scattered. Their thoughts are on the need to make new friends, to adjust to a new school, to find their way in an unfamiliar town. Where will they fit in? What if no one likes them? They suddenly need to find a new sense of identity and belonging—which brings out many insecurities. That kind of upheaval can cause them to become withdrawn, rebellious or angry. They may lash out and accuse you of ruining their lives. Don’t take it personally. Try your best to be compassionate and understanding, even amid your own pain and insecurities. (No one said it would be easy!)
Create a Safe Place
Emotional intelligence in teens runs low, and they need a safe place to express their feelings. Create that place by being willing to listen and provide the freedom to talk and vent openly. You may not have all the answers, but open communication is healthy. Take opportunities to talk about your teen’s feelings, not just on the facts of our move. It’s good to share your own vulnerable feelings, too. Teens find it comforting to know their parent shares many of the same apprehensive feelings he or she has. This can be an opportunity to connect deeply on an emotional level.
Make sure to keep your teen informed and involved in the process. Keep a list of dates when you’ll pack, clean, and move. Add reminders for them, like the date to clean out his or her school locker and deadlines to return anything borrowed. If you teen feels in the loop they’ll feel more empowered throughout the move.
Encourage your teen to research the area where you are moving. Learn about places to go and things to see. If possible, visit the new area together. Do everything possible to allow closure from the old location and open opportunities in the new one.
There’s No Magic Happy Potion
You desperately want to make your teen happy. Even more so during a transition. Be careful not to go overboard trying to fill every spare moment with somewhere to go or something to do. Definitely don’t keep asking, “Are you happy here yet?” It’s a tough balance, but moms who try too hard end up making a teen feel smothered. It’s okay for your teen to not be happy. There’s no magic happy potion, and even if there were—you probably aren’t the one to have it. In time, it’s important that your teen find contentment for his or herself.
While sometimes we need to back off, we moms also need to encourage our teens to get involved in school, church and community. Whatever he or she did before the move — sports, clubs, volunteering or part-time work — encourage getting back into it, if possible. It gives them something to look forward to and creates a way for them to make friends with common interests.
A teen’s anxiety may cause them to erupt in the form of anger or moodiness. Be patient and choose your battles wisely. Since emotions are fragile during a moving season, never miss the chance to give a hug and say, “You can do this. I believe in you.”