Surviving a move with teens and tweens

Have you noticed the for sale signs going up in your neighborhood? It’s spring, and that means moving season.

In fact, it was exactly three years ago this week that we packed up and moved from Canada to The Woodlands, Texas. All of us, especially the kids, had mixed emotions about our big move. But, I really had no idea how difficult the transition was going to be.

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It all hit home the day my middle daughter had a complete meltdown walking home from school. We’d been here just a few weeks and the weather was already a sweltering 95 degrees (35 C). She dropped her backpack on the sidewalk, tore at the neck of her sweat-soaked shirt and shouted through tears, “I want to move back to Canada…where the weather is perfect!” Hahahaha…tell that to most Canadians!!

I hadn’t realized just how lonely she was feeling at school. She was missing her friends back home and didn’t feel like part of her new class. When all the kids were exchanging yearbooks, she didn’t have one. And, she wasn’t pictured in any of the year end slideshows. To a kid, that stuff matters.

It was a long, hot summer. Where was everybody?? No bikes, no soccer balls, no laughing children in the cul-de-sac. I finally figured out they were all seeking refuge in their air-conditioned homes!!

As my youngest happily cooled off in our backyard pool, my oldest started having mysterious stomach pains. Initially, I thought she’d come down with a stomach bug from the water park, but when it persisted for weeks, I finally took her to the doctor. There was no “official” diagnosis, but the doctor suggested she might be having anxiety related to the move, the loss of her social network and fear of starting a new school in the fall. Everything that was familiar to her…was gone.

She spent hours texting, Facetiming and Skyping friends back home, and I worried that maybe it was too much. Wasn’t it time to move on? For a while, it seemed like she was focusing on her old friends at the expense of making new ones. Was it a good idea for her to go back and visit, or bring her friends here? We tried everything, but only with time…and patience, did she find her new normal. I’m happy to say she still has close connections with her old friends thanks to social media.

It took a full year for The Woodlands to begin to feel like home and now we love it here. But seeing the for sale signs reminds me of all the change – good and bad – a family must go through when relocating. I’ve compiled a list of what I hope are helpful tips to ease the transition:

  • Talk to your children, stressing the positives of the move and the new location. It’s important to be honest with them, and acknowledge their fears, but always try to remain upbeat about the new experience. Your kids will feed off of your emotions.
  • Pre-move visit – it helps for kids to see where they are moving. Let them check out the neighborhood, local parks, etc. so they can visualize themselves in their new surroundings. Involve them in the house-hunting process, just be careful they don’t get their heart set on a house in case the real estate deal falls through.
  • Phone a friend – if possible, try to connect with other moms who are already living there. For me, the advice I received from the wife of my husband’s co-worker was invaluable. I find you will always get the “real deal” from other moms.
  • The internet is your friend – use it to research schools, doctors, dentists, dance studios, swim clubs, or hockey teams. It can sometimes be hard to find a doctor or pediatrician accepting new patients, so get on those lists early. Same goes for pre-schools and private schools. Once there, go for a visit and talk to the staff to make sure what you read on the internet is true.
  • Get documents in order – most schools require birth certificates (now you need the long-form version), vaccination records, transcripts and report cards. You may also need your marriage certificate and marriage license. It’s so much easier to gather this stuff ahead of time, rather than trying to track it down during the middle of packing and un-packing.
  • Be prepared for tutoring – moving to a different province, state or even school district may come with different standards and curriculum expectations. And that’s ok. Be open to any extra support or tutoring the school may recommend. It doesn’t mean your child is “behind”, it just means they are behind where this particular school district wants them to be.
  • Talk to your kids’ teachers ahead of time. Let them know a little about your child’s personality, and what he/she may need during those first few weeks. Also, ask if there is a “buddy” who could be paired with your child to show them around the school. My daughter is still good friends with the class ambassador who be-friended her on the first day.
  • Sign up for kids’ activities sooner, rather than later – getting kids involved early on can minimize their feelings of loss and loneliness. It’s a great place for them to meet new friends and gets them back to doing what they love
  • Be the host – it’s likely that for the first few months, you may have to be the host of play dates, outings and eventually sleepovers. You might even offer to host a neighbourhood or class party. No one knows your child, so what better way to break the ice?
  • Join something fun – give yourself permission to join a gym, book club, take dance lessons or volunteer. Try to get out and mingle. Not everyone handles change well and moving can be a trigger for depression; it’s important to stay active and engaged with others. After all, you need friends too!
  • Don’t feel guilty — expect that your kids will complain, but don’t let them make you feel guilty for “ruining their life.” They are kids, they will adjust, and it will be harder for teens than young ones. I honestly believe that moving teaches kids some great life skills – how to make friends, be easy-going and adapt to all of the curve balls life is going to throw at them.
  • Relationship TLC – moving is busy and stressful. The extent of conversation with your spouse may be limited to “Did the cable guy come yet?” and the ever so innocent…”Wow, those boxes aren’t unpacked yet??” Make time to just set all the moving stuff aside, pour yourselves a glass of wine and talk. If you can sneak a night out, then go for it, especially once you find a great babysitter.

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What a huge learning curve we all went through during that first year. Of course, there were so many great memories too – seeing my first magnolia tree, having our first Blue Bell ice cream (before the listeria outbreak, of course!) and meeting great neighbours who’ve become dear friends.

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Getting used to “y’all” took a little time. I’m still having trouble with “all y’all’s” as a plural possessive?! We drank a lot of “sweet tea” that summer and I quickly got up to speed on Tex Mex lingo. Now if I go to a potluck, I know what pico and queso are!

When moving, it’s so easy to focus on what you don’t have anymore, but in the end, you have all you need ~ each other!

Please comment below if you’d like to share your moving experience, or if you have any other advice for moms who are getting ready for this big transition.

I’d like to thank my friend and real estate agent Wendy Kelman for contributing to this post.

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