Relocating to a new community can either be an exciting adventure filled with opportunity or a daunting dive into the unknown. If you are new to town, these tips will help take the stress out of your transition.
Give yourself permission to grieve
Whether your move is for positive or negative reasons, grieving what you lost will help bring closure. “During a move, you must let go in order to start over,” says Susan Miller, author of After the Boxes are Unpacked and founder of Just Moved Ministries (Just-moved.org). “Acknowledging the emotional ties to the old home, faces, and familiarity and then accepting the loss are both part of the healing process.”
Collierville mom of four, Becca Cooper, agrees. “Grieving the relationships and routines I lost in my relocation from Pittsburg helped me move on and start liking my new surroundings; I had to accept the loss of everything familiar to me before I could do that.” Cooper adds that she is deliberate about maintaining relationships with friends from her former city. “Realizing that we can still Skype, email, and talk on the phone was a tremendous source of comfort through the change.”
Say "Yes" to your new surroundings
When my own girls were invited to a play date soon after one of our relocations, I felt it was safe to let them go together. When the mother invited me in for tea, I said yes, but what I really wanted to do was throw my arms around her. Having a conversation with another mom brought refreshment to me that afternoon, and saying yes to her invitation was the beginning of a deep friendship.
“I found after I grieved the loss of my old support group, I had to find a new one,” says Cooper, who started by finding a church and getting involved. “I also helped out in my son’s class which connected me with other parents,” she says.
“Whatever it looks like for you, step out and join in,” advises Miller, adding that everything from parent groups to book clubs to volunteering is at the fingertips of new residents. “Determine that you are going to get out and make friends and you will be amazed at how much it helps.”
Photographer and mom, Kellie Conlon, says putting herself out there was the best thing she did after her relocation from San Francisco to Memphis. “In addition to finding a church, getting to know our neighbors by name was pivotal in our transition, and so different from living in downtown San Francisco.” Conlon adds that even though family is far away, she has been intentional about gathering with neighbors for holidays and special occasions. “We were just starting our family when we moved here and it has been great to make friends with people who were in the same season of life.”
I have lived in five states during my adult life, and with every move there comes a time that I stop, look around me and ask myself, “What am I doing here?”
“Panic is a normal part of moving,” says Miller. “Take a deep breath and put things in perspective, reminding yourself you are normal, not weird or crazy.” Miller adds that the panicky feeling is merely a natural result of being in an unknown situation.
One way to avoid hitting the panic button is to lower your expectations when you’re new in town. “Remind yourself to give it time,” says Miller. “We tend to compare where we came from to where we are, but it often takes a full year for you to build community and let the transition happen.”
Gratitude is another good defense against panic. “Staying grateful for what you have will help you live above your circumstances, because gratitude changes your mindset.” Miller adds that though circumstances may not be perfect, operating out of gratitude helps keep things in perspective.
Give your kids practical tips
In all of my moves, I’ve concluded that for me the hardest part of relocating is helping kids transition, as one of them usually hits a snag. “Proactive is the key word here,” says Miller, “and parents must get in the trenches with their kids, remembering that they do not have the same coping skills as adults.” One way parents can be proactive is by giving their kids practical tips on making friends, says Miller. For instance, I remind my children on the first day of school to break the ice and say hello right when they sit down beside someone. The longer you wait, I remind them, the harder it gets.
Allowing kids to have a say in different aspects of the move will help them feel they have a little control in otherwise unpredictable circumstances. “I made sure my kids were involved in the decision making,” says Cooper, “including when we were choosing a house.” Cooper adds that her kids have adjusted well to their new home, and she believes it is because they had a say in which home was chosen.
Another easy step: “Exploring the culture of your region will help the kids be positive about the move,” adds Miller. Find out what the Mid-South is known for and go exploring: the Mississippi, BBQ, music, the zoo; the list is endless.
Another way to stay positive is by keeping the traditions your family had before the move. “Our family has always enjoyed fishing together,” says Cooper, “so when we spot a place we like, we go back and try it.”
Staying positive, sticking together, and embracing your new surroundings will help your family see moving as the adventure it is.