Teen Angst

Helping adolescents deal with anger and other emotions effectively

"So, You're the New Kid on the Block": How to address the pressure and adjustment of moving and beginning a new school.

Quick tips for the Parent and Teen to make moving easier.

Moving and changing school's is a hard transition for many teens. It means saying goodbye to friends, starting over, and trying to fit in. Now more than ever, families are being forced to make some difficult decisions. Many families are finding it necessary to relocate or change from a private to a public school. Some families may need to be closer to their relatives or just want something different themselves. Regardless of the reason, moving is not an easy process for anyone in the family.

This doesn't mean that moving is bad, it just means it can be difficult sometimes. While we naturally seek comfort and security, moving takes us out of our "comfort zone" and puts us into an area of "uncertainty." This may cause anxiety, fear, sadness, stress and at the same time, excitement. It's no wonder that moving always makes the list of major life stressors.

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Here are some tips for both parents and teens to help make this life transition go a little smoother.

Tips for the Parents:

1. Give up the guilt. Guilt serves no purpose in this situation but to keep you from moving forward. For whatever reason, you made this decision because it was one that you thought would be in the best interest of you and your family. Some teens will use guilt as a foot hold to make you feel bad about uprooting them. Don't let your teen have that power. Rather, use this as a time to help them adjust to new situations. On the flip side, if this move ends up being a great one for your teen then you've wasted a lot of time worrying yourself for nothing. Let guilt go, it is a draining emotion and right now you've got enough on your plate.

2. Use this opportunity as a teachable moment. Life is full of transitions and change. Fact is, we can't always be in a comfort zone. Events and circumstances beyond our control are always going to happen. We can't keep our teens in a safety bubble. They need to learn coping skills to adjust to transitions and what better ways to teach them but when you're walking beside them as they're going through it.

3. Build a relationship with your teen. The best time to get a teen to open up is when they feel the most vulnerable and don't know which way to turn. Yes, they may be angry about having to move, but is anger the primary emotion? Teens may sometimes use anger to conceal what they're really feeling. Keep reaching out to your teen, let him or her know that they aren't alone and you'll be going through this new adventure together - every step of the way.

4. Be Honest. Let your teen know that moving isn't easy for you either. Share your feelings with your teen. Honesty will only help them open up during this difficult process.

5. Go Exploring. Take your teen and check out the area. Go try a new restaurant, hang out at the mall, catch a movie, or go to a park. Don't let your teen lock themselves away in the "new place" make them get out and explore. This will help the environment become more familiar and after awhile familiarity becomes comfortable. Also, go check out the new school. See if you can get a tour, find out if there's an upcoming orientation, or other events that you're teen can get involved in.

Tips for the Teen:

1. Grow from this experience. Any time life throws you a curve ball you can sulk or you can deal with it. Moving is not easy but you can learn from this experience. You are going to be facing change for the rest of your life and how you choose to handle it is entirely up to you. So you can look at the glass as half empty or half full. One way you're going to be miserable and the other way's going to help you be open for new experiences. Don't fight the move. It's not going to do you or anyone else any good. Actually, fighting it is only going to create a lot of hurt and conflict in the family and you too have got enough on your plate right now.

2. Now's your time for a fresh start. Since you're out of your comfort zone, what better time to discover who you are? Take the time to work really hard in school or join a club that you never had a chance to. If you had negative experiences at your old school, you can change that now. Use this move to your advantage and make some positive changes in your life.

3. Build a relationship with your family. You may feel that your parents are out to ruin your life by this move. But stop... are they really? Do you think that this was an easy decision for them to make? Is their goal in life to make you miserable? You may be angry and answering yes to these questions, but that's only your hurt talking. Your parents care for you and want you to have the best life possible. Cut them some slack. Open up to them about your insecurities and fears. Now more than ever you've got each other, especially if you've moved to a new area. Take advantage of this time together, don't shut them out, instead, reach out.

4. Go ahead, try something new. Ever seen an outfit or shirt in the store that you weren't sure you liked but when you tried it on it looked pretty good? Well this move can be like that shirt. It may not be your favorite at first glance but if you give it a chance you just might like it. So go ahead try it on.

5. Keep up with old friends but be open to new ones. Okay - I got it; this one's the hardest isn't it? First, let me say, it's going to be ok... You're going to get through this... Saying goodbye's not easy and it doesn't matter what age you are. It's okay to cry if you need to and you don't have to let anyone know you're doing it. Sometimes a good cry can make you feel better. Talk to your parents about making trips back to visit your friends, text, email, chat on-line and Skype them. You don't have to let them go just because you moved. Yes, I know, "but it's different." Yeah, it is but it's also not the end. Now's your time to make even more friends. Remember before when I mentioned the glass can be viewed as half empty or half full? Well, now it's up to you. Make the best of the situation.

In conclusion, adjusting to a move may take some time.  While not easy, moving does provide practice for other life transitions. The coping skills that you learn from moving can easily be applied to other life events regardless of whether you're a parent or a teen. Remember the most important thing in making a life transition is the relationships that we have with others. Together your family can use this opportunity to grow closer together.  

If your teen's having a difficult time transitioning that's beyond the norm, then you may want to seek professional help to assist with the adjustment.

This Blog is 2 of a 4 part weekly series about "Getting Ready for School". Stay tuned, next week's blog: "Starting the Year Off on the Right Foot (Organization, Time Management, & Getting a Plan Together for Success!)"

Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, M.S., L.P.C., is the author of The Anger Workbook for Teens.

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