Parenting a Teenager Who Doesn’t Want to Move With Family

Should we force our teen to relocate to a new state with the rest of us? A job change is requiring our family to move, but our adolescent son, who is currently a student in high school, doesn't want to go with us. He'd rather move in with some friends and graduate from the school he's currently attending. Should we let him stay?

Your son’s reaction is not uncommon. Neither is the plan he’s come up with to deal with the implications of the upcoming move. There are a number of factors to consider as you decide how to respond to his proposal.

As a rule, it’s wise to avoid fragmenting your family if at all possible. We suggest that you sit down with your son and tell him that he’s an important part of your home. Make it clear that you have no desire to be separated from him permanently – at least not until he’s old enough to move out and establish a new life on his own. Help him face up to the fact that, for reasons beyond anyone’s control, your entire family needs to relocate. He may not like it. He may be disappointed. He may protest loudly. But in the end he has to accept reality.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t be flexible. You don’t want to break up the family, but you may find it advisable to leave some members of the household behind temporarily if the move is scheduled to happen at a time when there’s only a month or two left in the school semester. This is especially worth considering if it’s your teen’s senior year. In that case, one option would be to have the working/transferred parent go ahead to the new city while the rest of the family waits for the school year to end. If this isn’t possible, explore the possibility of putting your son’s plan into effect. Find a family (one you know well) that might be willing to take him on as a boarder until the term is over. If he’s graduating, plan to return for the commencement ceremonies. Before leaving, make sure all medical releases and records, as well as all legal and financial issues, are available to and understood by the host family. And make it clear when your son is expected to join you.

It’s important to remember that a major move can be difficult for every member of the family. If you need assistance dealing with the emotional aspects of relocation, Focus on the Family’s Counseling staff can provide you with referrals to qualified Christian therapists practicing in your local area. They’d also be more than happy to discuss your concerns with you over the phone. Feel free to call us.


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