by Janet Farley
Moving is hard on adults but it can be particularly difficult on children.
As if packing up all things familiar and saying goodbye to good friends isn’t hard enough, they also have the added challenge of meeting and making new friends in a new place.
While expert opinion differs on whether it is easier for your preschool or elementary-aged child to move and find new besties than it is for your tween or teenager, such opinions, while theoretically interesting, don’t always apply in the heat of a tearful moment, do they?
What does matter is your individual child’s ability to meet new friends and begin to feel a sense of belonging and home, however temporary, regardless of age.
Of course, you know your child better than anyone. You may know, for example, that an extroverted and highly social child will be just fine and make new friends in no time at all without any outside help. A more introverted child or one lacking savvy social skills, however, may benefit from a little stealthy parental assistance.
In either case, the following strategies may apply:
If you have orders in hand and know where you’re moving to, begin to research the social possibilities for your children virtually. For example, if you have budding soccer star in the family, find out if there are potential clubs or teams available in your new community and connect with them now to ease the transition when you get there.
Model positive behavior
Younger children or those pushing the edge of adulthood, are smart and often take their cues from the socalled grown-ups in the house. If you spew forth negativity about your new duty station or even your own lack of success in quickly making new friends, then don’t be surprised if your kids by Janet Farley Making New Friends in a New Place Moving is hard on adults but it can be particularly difficult on children. www.AmeriForce.net 27 exhibit a less than positive outlook in their own efforts.
On the flip side of that, if you model good friend making skills yourself and frame the whole PCS move and adjustment period in an positive manner, then your kids will see that all may not be lost after all. This can actually be an exciting time giving everyone an opportunity to reinvent themselves in a new setting.
Get them busy quickly
Once you’re physically in your new home, get your kids involved in age appropriate activities as soon as possible. For little ones, that could mean attending playgroups or inviting the similarly aged neighborhood kids across the street over to play with your kid. For teens, that could mean diving head first into school sports or clubs. Check out options at area schools and at the on installation child and youth services.
Offer your heartfelt support
It can be painful to see your child struggle to make new friends in a new place. When that happens, be there for her in a way that will be meaningful to her. Let her know that it can take time to find new friends and tell her not to give up. Encourage her to continue doing things that interest her at school or in the community as that will put her into contact with others having similar interests.
Stay connected with old friends
Technology is a beautiful thing. Depending on how much your child uses it, it is a great way to maintain older friendships and that can be a particular comfort to your child in a new place as he tries to find new ones.
Connect routinely with them
Check in with your kids frequently to see how they are doing in the friend-making department and really listen to what they say.
Keep tabs on how they act, too. Sometimes those actions speak louder than words. For example, have you noticed a significant change in his behavior, perhaps happening so that he feels more accepted by a new friend group? Is that a healthy thing or not? It never hurts to remind your children to be their genuine selves. Real friends will accept them for who they are.