When Your Teen Doesn't Want to Move to a New City

Moving to a new city family involves a number of concerns for each member of the group. It is essential to listen to each other.
When Your Teen Doesn't Want to Move to a New City
Sharon Capeluto

Written and verified by the psychologist Sharon Capeluto.

Last update: 29 March, 2023

Moving to a new city as a family is a challenge. It’s neither a simple decision nor an insignificant change. In these cases, the adaptation is done as a group, but also individually; each of the members must adapt to the new place, school, work, new friendships, and routine. In short, they must adapt to the new life.

In the best of cases, everyone agrees with the move, both parents and children. This simplifies things because the enthusiasm is shared. But, the truth is that sometimes the situation becomes more complex. In general, teenagers are more reluctant to leave their hometown when it’s not their own choice.

Moving as a family

There are several realities that can lead an entire family to move. Sometimes the decision is made because of job or career opportunities for one of the adults. In less idyllic cases, it may be due to economic or survival needs. Other times, it may be the search for an unforgettable experience.

Whatever the reasons for the move, they all involve stress, worry, and emotional baggage. Even more so when it involves moving to another city or country. In fact, when faced with this situation, people face what we call migratory mourning, the process of adapting to a new place while coming to terms with the loss of what’s left behind.

Although the last word is left to the adults, it’s essential to consider that the life of each of the members of the family will turn upside down. For this reason, parents must be careful when making a decision of this magnitude and communicating it. To do so, the context, age, and personality traits of each of the children must be taken into account.

A teenage girl angrily turning her back to her mother.
It’s essential to care for, validate, and respect the emotions of each family member. For this, it’s important not to hide information, but to make everyone an active participant in the process.

What if your teenager does not agree?

It should come as no surprise if your teenager prefers to stay in their town, where their friends are, rather than move to a new city . At this age, their friendships represent the reflection of their own identity, which is different from that of their parents.

Because of this, many adolescents reject the idea of leaving home and having to say goodbye to their friends. This situation becomes very difficult for them because they’re in an intermediate stage regarding independence. Although they’ve already gained a certain degree of autonomy, they’re still dependent on family decisions. As parents, it’s important to consider their condition and be empathetic with them.

Validate their emotions

It’s likely that your teenager’s first reaction will be anger and helplessness. At the same time, they may feel sadness and uncertainty. Therefore, validating their emotions is a necessary condition for them to feel safe to express their feelings without restrictions and to feel accompanied.

When we talk about emotional validation, we refer to the fact of accepting the other person’s emotional experience without judgment. Under no circumstances should we minimize what they feel or make them believe that they’re exaggerating.

A mother and daughter carrying moving boxes.
There’s no right or wrong way to approach this situation. However, it’s important for young people to be aware of the possible alternatives that their family can and does consider valid to offer them, as well as to listen to their concerns and points of view.

Listen to their concerns

Accepting and empathizing with their emotions also means being willing to hear their concerns. I’m sure you, too, have a fair amount of worries or concerns that stemmed from the decision to move to a new city as a family.

Tell them some of your uneasy thoughts and listen to theirs. If they can’t identify them simply, you can guide them with the following questions: Are you worried about losing contact with your friends, are you afraid of not making new friends, are you scared of changing schools ? It’s best for your teen to feel comfortable sharing their problems with you and that you can solve them together.

Offer alternatives

Each family is different, so each situation is particular. Depending on the economic, symbolic, and relational conditions of each group, certain alternatives may or may not be possible.

For example, some families may be able to visit their old city every month, but others may be able to visit once a year. Also, some may consider the dissatisfaction of the adolescent child and, perhaps, evaluate the possibility of them staying in the city together with another family member.

Moving as a family to a new city requires communication and empathy

There are many things to sort out before moving day. Paperwork, visas, transportation, and legal aspects, among others. Also, you have to decide what to take and what not to take, pack the objects, and make countless inquiries.

However, it’s essential that the whirlwind of moving management doesn’t cause the emotional side of each member of the family to be neglected. It’s important to give space and time to talk, to give and receive support and to say goodbye to friends, relatives, and important places. It’s a matter of making room for this symbolic process that every change entails.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Ayestarán, S. (1987). El grupo de pares y el desarrollo psicosocial del adolescente. Estudi General, (7), 123 135. https://www.raco.cat/index.php/EstudiGral/article/download/43434/56051
  • Jiménez Ruiz, J. (2022). La incidencia de los movimientos migratorios en la salud mental de los jóvenes migrantes. Trabajo fin de grado. Universidad Pública de Navarra. Facultad de Ciencias Humanas, Sociales y de la Educación.
  • Tonello, E. M. (2007). Influencia del clima social familiar sobre la relación del adolescente con su grupo de pares y con su mejor amigo. Revista Internacional de Estudios en Educación. Universidad Adventista del Plata, Argentina. 2007, Año 7, Nº 1, 27-41.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.