I’ll admit, I had it pretty easy. I grew up in the same house, from the age of two until I “officially” moved out at age 20. For many people, 18 years in the same place is a long time. That level of housing stability and familiarity is known only to a small percentage of individuals as the world society becomes more and more mobile.
We have transitioned from a society where our jobs mandate where we live or move, to an off-site work context, where instead of moving with a job, we can stay home and work remotely. At the outset it might appear this modern way of work reduces the number of individuals and families relocating. What we are seeing, though, is that with no ties to a physical workplace location, individuals are now free to move at will. That means that if instead of relocating with a company, an employee is able to work from home, he or she may choose to pull up roots and move to the most appealing (and affordable) location available. It could be due to climate preferences, school choices, or lifestyle indulgences. Whatever the reason, we are seeing people now with the ability to literally “work from anywhere” and they are taking advantage of that luxury.
My dad didn’t really have that option. As a first-generation college student, I watched my dad struggle nearly every day as he worked his way from a literal cornflower-blue collar work-shirt with his name patch-sewed on the front to white-collar leadership roles. Due to his work-ethic and ingenuity, my dad was sometimes pursued by other companies, but I will never forget his reasoning for saying “no” time and time again – stability for me and my brother. I can remember my dad weighing the pros and cons of making a move and always coming back to not wanting to move my brother and me from our school and friends we had known our whole lives.
Looking back I really appreciate my dad’s kind consideration of how tough a relocation would have been on me, even if we were only moving a few hours away.
But I also know that one or more relocations might have strengthened my ability to quickly make new friends when entering a new community. Don’t get me wrong, I am forever grateful to my dad for the incredible level of stability he gave me as a kid. But for some families, relocation is just a part of reality; it has happened and is going to happen again.
Kids carry a sometimes silent burden through family relocation. Leaving friends, teachers, and teams can be especially difficult for young people, no matter their stage of development. Before moving, they had life in order, but as the new kid in town, he or she must find a way to start in earnest what came so easily back home – establishing an identity among peers. As young kids we yearn for acceptance by our peers. Ironically this often does not change upon adulthood. We want to fit in, but that does not always happen, at least not as quickly as we would like in new contexts.
I was not a psychology major, but it doesn’t take a genius to observe just how tough life can be for the new kid. So sorry for those who read this and get a chill down their spine as they mentally and emotionally relive this experience. I saw it first-hand. No, I never experienced this first-hand, but I saw my share of new kids and the vast array of ways in which they were treated. If they were extremely different from the norm at my school, they were immediately shunned. If they were very similar to us, they were immediately shunned. Why, because they presented competition in the “cool” marketplace that was my small midwestern U.S. middle/high school. Okay, we weren’t cool, but we sure thought we were. You see the challenge here; even for the most gregarious of new kids, transition to a new school is just plain tough.
Therefore, it is in part our role as parents to help our kids navigate these choppy waters. It is very easy to become engulfed in a new work assignment, nesting in a new home, or figuring out your own haze of relocation difficulties. These are all good things; we need to take care of ourselves. But if we are not attentive to the special hardships placed on kids during a major life relocation/transition, we are missing out on opportunities to guide our kids toward success. Success that will have lasting implications. If you are taking your family on a relocation adventure, keep these tips in mind.
Pre-Departure (Before the Move)
- Recognize that relocation is tough for the whole family
- Pursue intentional conversations with each family member regarding what to expect
- Seek professional counseling focused on this major family-life transition
Post-Departure (After the Move)
- Schedule bi-weekly check-ins/sit-downs with each family member separately
- Hold family convos to talk openly about challenges (don’t try to fake that this is easy)
- Find solutions together than can help alleviate some of the major stress points
- Focus on empathy over justification (don’t be defensive)
- Continue the counseling
With these tips in mind, make the most of your relocation so that years from you, your kids will look back and appreciate the extra efforts you put in to secure their health and wellness during a tough life-change. Who knows, may 20 years later one of your kids will write about the stability you provided at home, even when home moved locations.