I remember when my family relocated from Montana to Oregon in 1989 for my dad’s job. I was very excited at first to make a lot of friends; I thought it would happen the first day of school. But when that didn’t happen, I was very sad and scared for a long while. I’m not an outgoing person, so to ask for help was a huge effort; some people blatantly refused to help me which obliterated all the confidence I had mustered. Finally, people starting saying hello, and it got a lot better. But my feelings of incompetence and being odd lasted until the end of the year.
- Try to find things your children enjoyed doing before you moved: It will show them that the new place and the old place have things in common. Sports, music or art lessons come to mind, but other things like going to the library or their favorite restaurant also would help. Simultaneously, try to find a way that their life has improved with the move. My parents rewarded us kids with our own bedrooms in the new house.
- Your child will be having a lot of things thrown at them for the very first time ever in their lives: it might be the first time they ever hear a language accent or dialect, see another race, or see a tattoo or piercing. It might be the first time they have a locker with a combination lock (not as easy as one with a key), wait in line for food in a cafeteria or ride a school bus. All of these were firsts for me when we moved when I was kid. I was an utter wreck trying to figure it all out. Encourage your child to ask questions about new experiences and look for opportunities to educate while in the safety and comfort of your presence.
- If possible, let your [young] child call or text you during the day for reassurance. My parents wouldn’t allow that and it would have helped.
- The way school is organized may be different and your child might be advanced or behind other children at the school. Try to find ways to accommodate these educational differences. Find extracurricular activities that foster learning so that your child can “catch up” if behind. Perhaps a private school, tutor or lessons are necessary if your child is advanced; you don’t want them to lose competency due to the school’s inadequacies. Ensure your child does not become bored because that could result in behavior problems such as truancy or aggression.
- Reward your child with their successes as they acclimate to their new town and be comforting and supportive as their grieve the loss of their friends and familiar surroundings. It won’t be long before they have new friends, but in the interim nurture them and their interests.
- Try to find a balance between your teen’s need to explore and be independent, and your responsibility to keep them safe. I had a co-worker who was from a rural part of the US allowing her tween son hang out with an adult man, who by the co-worker’s description sounded like a pedophile. She wasn’t going interfere, however, because her son didn’t have any other friends and the adult man was teaching her son “art” in his home. Don’t let wanting your child to make friends override other indicators of danger. Predators will prey on your child’s loneliness and vulnerability. There are plenty of fish in the sea for your child to find children their age with similar interests.
- If your child has special needs, you may not find the schools as supportive of the individualized education plan (IEP) to which you are accustomed. Be prepared to advocate for your child and find a support group immediately. They will have local resources that will be invaluable. According to my friends, within in the same Kansas county, schools differ among the support an IEP receives. One parent told me that her school district didn’t acknowledge autism as a special need. Find a school that embraces your child’s traits and gifts. Know your rights.
What tips or advice do you have for parents who have just relocated with children? Let me know in the comments below!