The first time we moved was right after I completed third grade. I thought we were going to live in our farm home forever. My grandparents were across the field. My best friend and I were glued to the hip. Yet there I was, 9 years old, going to a bleak, stupid town. My journal entries were full of hatred and disgust.
But then we moved again. And again. And again. Soon, I found myself excited. “I was done with this town anyway,” I’d tell myself. Better things were in store. Plus, while these kids had been with the same rural-sized classmates their entire lives, I had the unique factor of being the new girl. Whatever issues I had at the past school and town, I could shed them and start anew.
Remember. No matter where you go…there you are.
I have this on a Mary Engelbreit painting beside my bed. I’ve been to eight schools and lived in 11 towns. One thing is fairly consistent in all these different atmospheres—ME. I had the same insecurities, I disliked the same type of people, I had my heart broken, and I kept on believing if I could JUST run away to the next, it’ll be better.
Now, I witness the exact same phenomenon with my children. I inadvertently stuck to my rut of moving us often and now at ages 8 and 9, they’re starting their third school. The start to their educational life is actually beating my record. I have heard them have difficulties with classmates and say they can’t wait to start their new school, like all the issues with others will go away, and they’re going to have fun and beauty every day.
But no. There you will be, kids. And there will be the other kids who are so often not charming. You’re still going to feel out of place sometimes, hate certain classes and get sent to the principal’s office. There will be anxiety and no true escape from the new reality which resembles the old.
However, there are also coping strategies and intentional conversations to be had which strengthen the bond to the good ol’ you who is always your steadfast companion.
In the last few years, I’ve noticed that just like me, my kids have a hard time asserting themselves. They’ve likely observed my behavior and communication style and adapted it to their own. Yet if we keep issues to ourselves and avoid confrontation, we’ll never be comfortable anywhere. Here’s an added bonus – once I worked on assertiveness within myself and my children, I noticed we’re more likely to stand up for others, too.
Some tips that are useful for all kids, and absolutely necessary for kids who are relocating:
- Talk about what boundaries are and set appropriate ones. The word “no” is completely fine to use.
- Teach them I language instead of you language. You might have seen me mention this in my fair fighting article for couples – it’s helpful for kids, too! I messages work because they prevent the other party from getting defensive. “I feel hurt when I’m not invited to join your group in the lunchroom.”
- Discuss what they look for in a friend. Encourage them to exhibit those qualities
- Demonstrate a calm, confident voice when you express your views and navigate trials in life.
- Tell your kids people will often misunderstand them without assertiveness. No one knows what goes on in their heads without them speaking up!
- Show them respect when they practice healthy assertiveness with you, and listen to all their feelings surrounding your move.
- Encourage extracurricular activities (the sooner after the move, the better!)
- Place your child responsible for some decisions made both in the home, and throughout your move. This helps with excitement for the new area, strengthens their confidence, and eases anxiety.
Prior to experiencing moves personally and then through my children’s eyes, I would not have connected assertiveness with adjusting to a new home and school. I now realize it is imperative.
It’s not easy—I still have a very hard time setting boundaries and speaking my mind without fear of repercussion—but by approaching this now with my young children, I am operating with the hope they will not find this so daunting. I’m hoping they’ll acclimate to their new school, make friends they trust and can feel safe with, and best yet…not spend their whole lives running.
For any of us starting a new life (with our old selves) in a new place this fall, I wish you all the best. We got this.