Being the parent of a teenager is a challenge in any city, but can be even more difficult if your family has recently relocated. Southern California in general, and Los Angeles in particular, can be a challenge for anyone who is not used to the diversity in people and activities. For a teen who is new to the area, the first few weeks or months will inevitably present challenges with regard to acclimating to a new school, making friends and easing their transition into a different social environment.
Like all parents, you worry about how they’ll do and if they’ll make it through OK. So what can you do to help support your teen?
Encourage them to take the initiative to get involved and meet friends.
For students in junior high and high school, friendships become more significant. Entering this situation without the benefit of an existing network of friends and acquaintances is difficult. Parents should encourage their children to take the initiative to meet their fellow students, introduce themselves and ask questions to get to know them. Brainstorm ways your kids can get involved in their new school. And highlight for them the benefits of moving: new adventures, new opportunities and a chance at a fresh start!
Help your child feel more comfortable with the new surroundings.
Familiarize your child with their new school, and make an adventure out of exploring the city. Remember, you want your son or daughter to feel comfortable with the teachers, coaches and students at his or her new school, as well as their new neighborhood.
Quickly address academic gaps and placement for a smoother transition.
Make sure there are no gaps in learning. At the new school, certain classes might be too remedial or advanced for your son or daughter. Monitor how your child handles this transition. Speak up if you think he or she has been placed at the wrong level. The sooner this is remedied, the sooner they can get back on track.
Bear in mind, too, that different schools – particularly those in different states – might teach topics differently. If your child feels that there are gaps in their understanding due to the transition, consider tutoring or reach out to see if there is some self-guided studying they can do. Set up a time to speak with their teachers. You want to touch base regularly with teachers at first to see how the adjustment is going.
Listen and be patient.
Create an open and honest line of communication to discuss any struggles, insecurities or worries. Actively listen. Don’t blame yourself for your child’s pain or try to fix things for them. Be patient and allow them to process and be sad or angry. Then, when they are ready, help give them suggestions. Give them opportunities to express their feelings. If they aren’t looking to talk, consider providing them with a guided journal or workbook (we’ve created “Essential Moving Guided Journal: For Teens” for just that purpose) so that they may express their feelings privately.
Give them choices.
During a relocation, teens see their entire lives turned upside down through no choice of their own. Any
choices or options you can offer give them a sense of control during an otherwise chaotic time. Even small decisions like selecting and decorating their room can give them back some feeling of control and comfort.
It can be painful to watch your teen struggle after moving, but with patience and support, you can go a long way in making sure they don’t feel alone or forgotten. And you can help them learn coping skills to adapt to change and new environments, preparing them for college and beyond.
Sara Boehm is CEO of Essential Engagement Services, and the author of “The Essential Moving Guide For Families,” and other accompanying books. She moved 12 times as a child and as an adult, and currently lives in Los Angeles.