In a previous post, I detailed methods to create a less stressful workplace, and increase productivity for relocating employees. For teens, this issue has added importance because, when a family moves for a new job or a parent relocates for some other reason, the emotional toll can be severe. Acknowledging this fact, and doing everything to resolve this challenge, should be a joint effort among parents, employers and trained professionals.
According to this study from the American Psychological Association (APA), stress is "extremely common among teenagers." The proposed remedies, including more sleep and exercise, as well as talking to a parent, teacher or therapist, are critical to overcoming a variety of serious health problems associated with stress such as anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, obesity, and heart disease.
Sara Boehm, Founder and CEO of Essential Engagement Services, speaks to these issues in The Essential Moving Guide for Families: Practical Advice to Ease Your Transition and Create a Sense of Belonging. Even though relocations are fairly common—with 14% of Americans moving each year—the process is nonetheless fraught with anxiety for parents and teens alike. The book emphasizes that besides the logistical preparations for such moves, extra care need be taken for the likely fragile emotions of all concerned.
"Children and adults are both affected by a move; however, it may be more challenging for children, as they haven't developed coping mechanisms to deal with new situations. Whether it's a young child who needs structure and consistency or a pre-teen or teen whose social circles are of great importance, moving, like many types of change, upsets life's balance."
"While moving impacts the lives of everyone involved, if you have children, you worry about the long and short-term effects it will have on their lives. Your children will look to you for support in coping with the stress of the relocation."
What is clear though is that when efforts are made to help and support a child throughout relocation, the child greatly benefits."
Findings from APA's "Stress in America" survey underscore the matter. For example, more than a quarter of teens surveyed say they experience "extreme stress" during the school year, compared to 13% in the summer. And 34% expect stress to increase in the coming year.
These findings—derived from a cohort of more than 1,000 teens and nearly 2,000 adults—suggest that unhealthy behaviors connected with stress may start early and continue through adulthood. When this survey was released, APA's then-CEO Norman Anderson PhD noted that "The patterns of stress we see in adults seem to be occurring as early as the adolescent years—stress-related behaviors such as lack of sleep, lack of exercise, poor eating habits in response to stress."
Consider how a move compounds this pressure, putting a teen in a foreign social environment without the customary social networks necessary to foster relationships, forge friendships, and encourage stability at home and at school.
Suggested methods to help teens cope with this transition include...
1. Create an open and honest line of communication to discuss any struggles, insecurities, or worries
2. Supply them with materials such as Boehm's The Essential Moving Guided Journal For Teens.
3. Talk with their teachers before they join a new school and ensure there will be programs in place to help them acclimate to their new environment
4. Help them find clubs or teams in your new location that resemble the activities that they liked or excelled at in their previous community. Anywhere you can give them choice and a say in the matter helps to give them a sense of control during an otherwise chaotic time.
5. Teach them healthy and sustainable coping mechanisms to deal with their emotions and feelings. After all, being sad or upset is to be expected.