You've announced to your family that you will be making a move and movers are coming to pack you up. Chances are, your teenager hasn't responded with enthusiasm. To them it looks like they're about to become an unwilling participant in their own episode of Survivor. They'll be sent to an unknown place, among unknown people, and they'll have to figure out how to survive all of the challenges that will come their way. The great thing about Survivor is that you always start out in a tribe that works together to succeed. And you, mom and dad, are their tribe. You can help your teenager succeed.
Just like the television show, your child's Survivor experience will be filled with challenges that they have to overcome. Here are some hints to help you through.
Challenge #1: Saying Goodbye
Your teenager is in the middle of a difficult social and emotional time in their life. Facing the reality of leaving all of their friends is definitely going to cause some angst. As a parent, you can help make this transition easier for them. Let them know you understand this is a difficult time for them. Tell them you would like to plan some activities to help them leave with good memories. Consider these ideas:
- Help them plan a going away party. Encourage them to take lots of pictures with their friends, and assign someone to do it or do it yourself.
- Plan a weekend getaway and invite their closest friends.
- Let them take time away from the tasks of preparing to move to enjoy traditions with their friends. This might include things like a movie night, Saturday morning at the ball park, skateboarding together, or a trip to the mall.
- Schedule a return trip so they know they will be coming back to visit soon.
Challenge #2: Unfamiliar Territory
Your teenager is likely feeling very unsettled about leaving everything familiar. There are things you can do before and after the move to make their transition easier.
Before the Move
- Let them be involved in finding the new home. Ask them about what they'd like to have in their new home. Take them with you when you go on home tours.
- Research the area together. Let this time be about finding out things of interest to them. Locate their school, the gym, the best dance academies, or the local skate park. Find out if their favorite restaurant or store is there. Look for new places to explore after the move.
- Find out about their new school. Most high schools have a website. Call the school to find out what it is, and then check it out with your child. Find out what classes they offer, what clubs and sports they have, and what activities are coming up.
- Make contacts in your new city with sports leagues, piano teachers, dance coaches, etc.
After the Move
- Go exploring with your teen. Whether they're feeling grouchy about the move or not, they're not likely to turn down a day out on mom and dad's dime. Go shopping and buy them some new clothes to wear to school. Let them choose a restaurant and go out to lunch. Go to a movie together. The point here is to get them out into their new surroundings.
- Tour the school. See if you can set up a time to tour the school and meet people after school hours. This way you can go together and get them registered and familiar with their surroundings without the shame of being seen with their parents.
Challenge #3: Making New Friends
This is probably the scariest challenge your teen is facing. No one enjoys being the new guy, and teenage social circles can be hard to break into. Try these ideas:
- Get them involved in groups, sports, or teams that interest them. If you've already made contacts this can happen quickly. If not, get it done now! Creating opportunities for your child to interact with kids who have similar interests gives them a pool of potential friends.
- Communicate with them. They are probably really nervous and need your support. Help them see this as an adventure. Work with them to build confidence in their ability to make new friends.
Every episode of Survivor has a winner. If you are patient and make an earnest effort to help your teen have a successful transition during your move, your teen will come out the winner.