Parenting Teens Through a Major Move

How can we help our adolescent daughter, who is depressed and angry as a result of our recent relocation to a new town and a new school? The move has taken a heavy toll on all of our kids, but our teenager is particularly upset. She won't talk about anything but our old home, and her grades are beginning to slide. What can we do?

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You can begin by making an attempt to get inside her head. Enter into her emotions. Try to understand how hard it is to be the “new kid in town.” Perhaps you had a similar experience during your childhood or youth. If so, pull it up and see if you can get back in touch with the feelings you went through at that time.

If that doesn’t work, try picturing your daughter’s situation in the following terms. She’s spent her whole life in the same place, has always earned great grades, is respected by her friends, and has built a good reputation at church and school. Suddenly she finds herself in a new city, and she’s keenly aware that her parents are expecting a repeat performance. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple – not from her perspective. In the new school, she has no identity. She’s the new girl; no reputation precedes her. She’s looking at rebuilding her life from the ground up, and she has to do it in the face of potential resistance from peers who don’t know anything about her. Any way you look at it, it’s a tough challenge.

It’s not hard to see that your daughter desperately needs your help. If she’s to avoid getting stuck in a slough of discouragement, you are going to have to invest the time and energy required to walk with her through this difficult period of transition. You can do this by talking with her about your own pain and sadness at having to leave the old life behind. Express your feelings openly and invite her to do the same. By sharing these emotions, you can strengthen the family ties that bind you together. In the meantime, there’s no reason why you can’t find ways to maintain past friendships via long-distance calls, emails, and occasional visits. You can do all of this while also helping her build a new life and seeking out ways to become actively involved in your new community – for example, through sports, a church youth group, or a service organization.

This is one aspect of the move you probably weren’t anticipating, but it’s also one of the most important. Handled appropriately, it could be a blessing in disguise. If you seize this opportunity and make the most of it, you may end up discovering a whole new dimension of intimacy, understanding, and friendship in your relationship with your daughter. If, on the other hand, she doesn’t get the support she needs, she may be driven to seek social acceptance by following the path of least resistance with her peers. This could lead to the development of an extremely negative lifestyle.

It’s possible, of course, that your daughter’s condition is more serious than our suggestions would seem to indicate. If you have reason to believe that her depression is clinical in nature, we’d strongly encourage you to seek out professional counseling. Call our Counseling staff for referrals to qualified Christian therapists practicing in your local area. They’d also be pleased to discuss your needs with you over the phone.


Resources

After the Boxes Are Unpacked: Moving On After Moving In

The DNA of Parent-Teen Relationships: How to Forge a Strong and Lasting Bond With Your Teen

Navigating Through the Challenges of Moving I-II

Referrals
Just Moved Ministry

Articles
Kids and Moving

Helping Kids Face Their Fears

Moving Checklists

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