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How to cope with family relocation when you have teens

A career move that requires family relocation during the tricky teenage years could create an impasse for parents.

Relocating with teenagers article image

The promise of career progression, salary and benefits, and the smoothest relocation ever might not justify the disruption of teens’ schooling such a critical stage―not to mention social development. Such is the importance of maintaining stability at this time, it is more common than many would expect for the decision about the children not to be made at all. Instead, some couples make the difficult choice to split the responsibilities rather than face the upheaval of a school and social displacement. That is, one partner remains with the children in the home country, and the other with the job opportunity relocates on their own in order not to miss out.

Life skills

This can prove the ultimate sacrifice for some relationships, and the cost-benefit must be considered carefully. Consider the length of the assignment, distance, and whether the life skills that can result for your teen would outweigh the stability of staying put. Unfortunately, this choice can have devastating consequences on the parental relationship and a family breakdown can, sadly, result from the distance and strain of conducting separate lives.

For many, however, the mere thought of physical separation is an impossible scenario, and the family that moves together, stays together.

The positives of international relocation

An international relocation can prove a great learning and life-changing experience for all involved. Missing friends and family can be a major upset, but with technology and travel cheaper than ever, it’s easy to stay in touch.

Schooling is, of course, a large consideration, but the life learning could arguably balance any perceived academic deficit.

While the prospect of change and distance from a familiar life can be sad, the excitement of a fresh start and chance to explore a new culture can be alluring.

3 benefits of a move during teen years

  • Develops skills for life―learning to adapt, socialise, develop coping mechanisms and emotional resilience are but a few ways that moving abroad can truly enhance a young adult’s development beyond anything learnt from a text book. The ups and downs of any transition in life, learning to deal with insecurity, and building an awareness for emotions can stand any child in good stead for adulthood.
  • Embrace change―as the saying goes, the only constant is change. Coping with change is a necessity in today’s fast paced world. Handling this sooner than later forms independence and flexibility, both formidable attributes.
  • Cultural awareness―adopting a new culture early in life can develop a deep sense of empathy and open the possibilities of travel and simply the awareness of a wider existence beyond what your teen consumes in the media.

Even with all of the benefits, these may not be as well appreciated by a pubescent child with hormones surging. Acknowledging the perceived enormity of the transition, and the fragility of their time of life is absolutely key to a successful outcome.

The prospect of leaving their newly established existence beyond the family, and having to stretch their wings once could be devastating.

5 tips for family relocating with your teen

  1. Open communication―keep them informed of what, why and how. Share any concerns you may have to demonstrate empathy―and that this move is a new concept for the whole family. Stay honest and transparent at all times, and keep the communication timely.
  2. Involve them―whether it’s simply seeking their input, asking for their help with planning, or asking for the contribution to the decision making. All can help immensely to establish a sense of team.
  3. Replication―every relocation must retain a sense of familiarity for it to be successful. Keeping a similar housing arrangement, lifestyle, school and routine can be grounding.
  4. Novelty―at the same time as familiarity, a move and the fresh opportunities it can bring, is exciting―learning a new activity, language or skill can be something to look forward to.
  5. Keep promises―simple promises like a change in curfew, to a larger commitment like an annual trip to visit friends―be sure to stay to your word.

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