Dear Dr. G.,
My family is moving to a different home about an hour away from our current home. This move is happening so that my husband can be closer to work. It will considerably reduce my husband's commute time and hopefully his overall stress level. We will be living in the same state but my kids will, of course, need to change schools.
My husband and I are excited about the move. My two younger boys are also excited about the new house and making new friends. The only person in the family who seems nervous is my 16-year-old daughter. She just came home from sleep-away camp where she had a great time seeing old friends and is now talking to me about her worries particularly about making new friends. By the way, we are moving in the beginning of August and school starts in the beginning of September.
I have to tell you that I am shocked that my daughter is having anxiety. She is the most social of my three kids.She has been going to sleep away camp since age 10 and never has any trouble separating from me. As far as I know she gets along very well with her friends at camp. She has had the same group of friends at her school since fourth grade and is able to make friends and keep friends.
So my question to you Dr. G. is why is my daughter worried about whether or not she will be able to make new friends in her school and how can I help her? More than anything I want her to be happy in her new school and new home.
A Moving Mama
I would be shocked if your teenage daughter wasn't worried. That's what teens do. They worry about having friends and being accepted. It sounds like your daughter had things all set up beautifully with a stable friend group and now she is worried about whether or not she will be able to re-create this sense of community in her new school.
I must tell you that I am delighted that your daughter is talking to you about her concerns. She must trust you and feel that you can help and support her during this process. Fantastic!
Here are my suggestions:
1. Familiarize your daughter with the new neighborhood and new school. Take her to the school so she can learn her way around and perhaps even get to know some school staff before school begins. She will feel more comfortable seeing familiar faces. Familiarity does NOT breed contempt. Instead, it breeds comfort.
2. See if there are any opportunities for your daughter to get involved in an activity in the new area before school starts. Perhaps, she can go to a day camp of her interest for a week or so in the new area so that she can meet other teens from her new school. This would involve a lot of driving but it might be a good investment. What do you think?
3. Try very hard to reassure your daughter that she has a successful history when it comes to friendships and that these social skills will likely serve her well in her new environment. At the same time validate her concerns. It sounds like she hasn't had to work hard on making new friends for years so, of course, her anxiety is understandable.
4. Model calmness AND excitement for her. If she sees that you believe in the move and her she will feel better. Trust me. Teens watch their parents.
5. Find out if the school has any sort of orientation for new students. If so, sign your daughter up so that she doesn't feel alone.
Good luck. Enjoy the summer. Please let me know how things go.
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