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Teens & Moving to a New Country

Hi Mark,

I've just downloaded your book and have already begun to feel a better understanding of what's happening in our home.

In August we moved our family of 2 teenage girls (15 and 16) away from our home in Canada to Europe. Our 16 year old has taken to the move like a duck to water, but our 15 year old is really struggling. About 10 months ago she started hanging out with a bad crowd and 'fell in love' with a bad boy (school drop out, problems with the police, bad home situation). Her behaviour has gone downhill - swearing at me and disrespectful, school marks dropping drastically, dropping out of all her activities. We thought the move to Europe would be a chance for her to 're-set' and get back on a good path, but she is SO angry with me. She won't spend time with us, tells me she hates me and I'm stupid, and won't even look at my husband. Reading your book I recognize that my behaviour has contributed alot to getting her where she is (way too indulgent!).

I'm sure she is not doing well at her new school and that she thinks that if she fails we will send her back 'home' to live. She has this fantasy that we'll pay for her to live in an apartment with her friend. I'm trying to make her focus on building her life here and to stop looking back. What advice do you have to help us get her to move on?

Many thanks,



Hi S.,

Relocating to a new community may be one of the most stress-producing experiences a family faces. Frequent moves or even a single move can be especially hard on kids and teens. Studies show kids who move frequently are more likely to have problems at school. Moves are even more difficult if accompanied by other significant changes in the youngster's life, such as a death, divorce, loss of family income, or a need to change schools.

Moves interrupt friendships. To a new youngster at school, it may at first seem that everyone else has a best friend or is securely involved with a group of peers. The youngster must get used to a different schedule and curriculum, and may be ahead in certain subjects and behind in others. This situation may make the youngster stressed, anxious or bored.

Kids in kindergarten or first grade may be particularly vulnerable to a family move because developmentally they are just in the process of separating from their parents and adjusting to new authority figures and social relationships. The relocation can interfere with that normal process of separation by causing them to return to a more dependent relationship with their parents.

In general, the older the youngster, the more difficulty he or she will have with the move because of the increasing importance of the peer group. Pre-teens and teenagers may repeatedly protest the move, or ask to stay in their hometown with a friend's family. Some youngsters may not talk about their distress, so parents should be aware of the warning signs of depression, including changes in appetite, social withdrawal, a drop in grades, irritability, sleep disturbances or other dramatic changes in behavior or mood.

Kids who seem depressed by a move may be reacting more to the stress they are experiencing than to the relocation. Sometimes one parent may be against the move, and kids will sense and react to this parental discord.

To make the move easier on kids, parents may take these steps:

· After the move, get involved with the kids in activities of the local church or synagogue, PTA, scouts, YMCA, etc.

· Describe advantages of the new location that the youngster might appreciate such as a lake, mountain or an amusement park.

· Explain clearly to the kids why the move is necessary.

· Familiarize the kids as much as possible with the new area with maps, photographs or the daily newspaper.

· Help kids keep in touch with friends from the previous neighborhood through telephone, letters, e-mail, and personal visits.

· If a son or daughter is a senior in high school, consider the possibility of letting him or her stay with a trusted family until the school year is over.

· Let kids participate in designing or furnishing their room.

The more frequently a family moves - the more important is the need for internal stability. With the proper attention from parents, and professional help if necessary, relocating can be a positive growth experience for kids, leading to increased self-confidence and interpersonal skills.


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