Moving as a teenager can be really hard
An expat teen shares her tips to ease the transition
Many expatriate families choose to move at the end of summer so that children can start their new school year in their new location. International Schools have recently ended their academic years and will start new terms by the end of August. Catherine, a bright 15-year-old, is visiting us just before she is due to fly back to her hometown in Georgia, USA for her summer holidays. She has been in Europe three years now: two in Geneva, one in London.
“I was 12 when my mom told me we were moving to Switzerland in three weeks’ time. At first I could not believe her, then I was sad and excited at the same time. Sad to leave those friends I grew up with, excited about the idea of meeting new people and living in a different country. It took me a while to adapt to the new school, but when I finally took it upon me to make an effort to engage with other people I quickly made new friends.
When I was told we were moving again I was really mad at first. It was such a sudden corporate decision that came as a shock not only to me, but to my parents as well who had planned to stay in Switzerland many more years. I quickly realized that this time round it would be easier as I was going from one international school to another, so, in a way, I already knew what to expect. Now I love living in London, still I very much look forward to spending my summer back at home,” she adds with a smile.
Catherine continues, “If you are about to move to a new country, prepare your teen ager children as early as you can. We don’t have a say in the move, so it can be very difficult to accept that suddenly the world as we know it will disappear, but we can at least make the best use of our time and come to term with the transition awaiting us.”
To any teenager moving at the end of summer across the country or across the world I would suggest to:
- Take the time to say goodbye to your friends and family, take plenty of pictures and make sure you have ways to stay connected via Skype and Facebook. In our connected days leaving does not mean becoming estranged any more. Teach your grandpa to use Skype on an iPad if you need to!
- Connect with some of your new schoolmates before you arrive through email or social media so that the new place will feel more familiar from day one.
- Explore the area where you are moving to, find places to look forward to going to as soon as you arrive.
- Choose something you love to take on your flight and let the packers take care of the rest, don’t overload yourself with stuff you most likely will not need.
- Be curious and open-minded even if, at first, you are understandably upset about leaving what’s familiar.
- Accept it will take some time to adjust and make an effort to jump start new friendships
- Look forward to the move, as it is a great opportunity. It’s a new adventure after all.
If you have moved with teenagers I’d love to hear your story and for you to share any DOs and DON’Ts you may like to pass on to other families about to make their first big moves.