Moving is often hardest on this age group because at this age, friends are vitally important. Moving means giving up these friendships and having to form new ones. Whether you are expecting delight and excitement or contempt and resistance, your best defense is a plan.
This article, together with its tips and checklists, has been written to help facilitate moving pre-teens and teenagers.
Also check out our article on ‘’Moving with children of all ages’’ for general tips on how to help children adapt to moving and our article on ‘’Moving with younger children’’ for tips, checklists and advice pertinent to those age groups.
How to tell pre-teens and teenagers about the move
It is common for pre-teens and teenagers to actively rebel against a move. Your child has probably invested considerable energy in a particular social group. A move may mean that your teen will miss a long-awaited event, like a prom. Some will be excited at the idea of moving and others may not.
1. Telling your teen or pre-teen IMMEDIATELY is very important
- Keeping a move from your teen or pre-teen is likely to heighten emotions between you, as they may feel betrayed — that you were hiding an important secret from them.
- Your child will also need time to get used to the idea of moving, to plan and also to grieve at leaving their friends.
2. Sell the new community to your teen
- Get ready to present the benefits of moving that your child will agree are positives for them.
- Look for links to your child’s interests in the new community.
- Show them that the move will have plenty of opportunities for them personally.
3. Be straightforward about why you are moving to a new place
- Older children are better able to grasp the bigger issues of why the move is happening – even if they seem stubborn and do not want to understand.
- Be open to having a discussion to state your reasoning. Remember the importance of keeping open lines of communication – responses like “because I said so” will not likely help ease the transition.
4. Share what will happen next
- While you do not have to share a detailed project plan with, you can share an expected timetable and how the move will work, such as if one parent will move first and the rest of the family will follow later.
- Explain where you are in terms of finding a new home and how they can be involved in the moving process.
- Assure your child that his or her ideas are welcome and appreciated, even if you cannot always act on them, and that their opinions and feelings are always respected. Make sure you live up to your word!
What reactions you can expect from pre-teens and teenagers
Moving usually tends to be toughest for pre-teens and teens. The difficulty that arises during moving does not mean that your teenager is purposely trying to make your life miserable. There are real developmental issues at work. At this age, your child is learning how to form longer-term relationships. The decision to move may be seen as “undoing” the hard work they have put in to form these relationships. At the stage when your older child is venturing outside the family to form his or her personal identity, moving is a powerful reminder that your pre-teen or teen is not yet the master of his or her own destiny. The older the child, the more these feelings, emotions, and frustrations are at play.
Throughout the moving process, give your teenager space and time. Do be patient and try not to lecture or be defensive – this will only likely make things worse.
Your older children can be a big help to you with the move – from planning, to packing, to gathering information and helping younger siblings by easing their anxieties. Assign your teen meaningful tasks and show your appreciation as they participate.
Your teenager may try to talk you out of moving or may insist on staying behind to live with a relative or friend. It is often recommended that if your teenager is finishing high school and especially if you are moving mid-year, you may want to seriously investigate these alternatives. Otherwise, you will need to be firm, state and restate that the family moves together and stays together.
Remember that the unknown increases anxiety. Together, find out as much as you can about the new community, new school, job possibilities if your teenager has one now, social activities or groups your child might join in your new place.
Your children’s worries about losing good friends can be very stressful. Depending on how far away you are moving, discuss with your older kids how they can stay in touch with best friends, such as weekends together or summer vacations together.
Kids this age need to know they are heard, understood, and respected. If you and your teen have trouble communicating, your child may need a chance to open up with a trusted adult, such as a counsellor, relative, coach or neighbor. If you find yourself in this situation, help make this happen because you as a parent can learn and benefit from it too.
What can your pre-teens and teenagers do to help and be actively involved
Below are suggestions as to how your pre-teen and/or teenage children can be involved in your family’s move. Print the list and give it to them as their own checklist.
- Keep a Journal. Write your feelings, worries, and expectations about the move in a “moving journal.” This journal can become your personal keepsake from the move. You can also attach pictures of friends and places in your current neighbourhood, and leave room to add pictures of new friends and places to come.
- Ask Questions. You are probably wondering about your new home, like how big is your bedroom, or will you have your own bathroom? If your parents are still looking for the new home, make a wish list of what you might like to have in your new home.
- Make Plans for your New Room. When the new home has been found, draw plans for your new bedroom. Where do you want to put furniture? What colours do you want? Designing a new bedroom is part of the fun of moving!
- Research your new Community. Find out about your new town on-line. Search for local sports teams, activities you can join, movie theatres, job possibilities, stores, restaurants, places to visit.
- Research your new School. While you are surfing the web, look up your new school. Chances are, it has a school Website. What are the school teams, clubs, teachers, courses, and the school calendar.
- Update your Address Book. You are moving –it does not mean you will never be in touch with your friends again! Now is a good time to start “friending” your friends on Facebook, collect phone numbers, e-mails, addresses, birthdays – anything to help you stay in touch with the friends you want to keep!
- Say your Goodbyes. How do you want to say bye to your best friends? A going-away party? With homemade gifts, or things of yours that you give to special friends? Run your ideas by your parents, especially if you plan to throw a going-away party.
Packing and moving day to-do list for pre-teens and teenagers
For older children, saying goodbye to friends will also be very important when come times for moving day. Your teen or pre-teen might want to host a going-away party for friends or plan a series of overnights with his or her best buds. Although there is plenty that you need your pre-teen’s or teen’s help with, try to remember to be understanding of his or her needs too.
A good way to keep your older child involved is to provide them with the to-do list below and go over it with them. This list will give them a sense of purpose and ownership throughout the moving process.
√ Help Out During the Move
Packing is a lot of work and your parents can use your help. You may have younger siblings who are anxious about the move and could use your big brother/big sister advice and comfort.
Think of things you can do to help out with moving, including spending more time with your siblings and taking charge of them on “Moving Day”. Volunteer your own ideas and help your parents develop and execute a packing and moving plan.
√ Ask: “What Else”!
What else can you do to help your family with all the sorting and packing that needs to be done? The more you help out, the prouder you should be of yourself!
√ Sort Your Stuff
You can sort through your stuff and determine which of your things you want to take, things that you want to give away, and things that can be tossed out.
√ Smart Packing
Come up with a plan for packing your stuff. First, pack the things you can do the longest without. The last things you pack should be the things you can barely live without! Also, put detailed labels on the boxes so you know what is inside them when it is time to unpack.
√ Mark Your Stuff as “Yours”!
Be creative and design a personal “seal” for marking your boxes as YOUR property! As your stuff gets packed, draw your “seal” on the outside of each box. This will make it easy to find your boxes when unpacking time comes.
√ Get Ready for Your First Night!
You do not want to have to unpack the minute you arrive at your new home, so set aside things for your first night and morning, or even a few days. Pack up these “must-haves” to take with you in a suitcase or backpack – things such as your toothbrush, favorite clothes, shoes, music, photos of friends, etc.
√ Moving Day Survival Kit
If your family is driving or flying a distance to the new home, pack a “survival kit” for the trip: magazines, video games, music CDs and CD player, movies and a portable DVD, snacks – whatever you need to survive hours in the car or in the air!