Moving is a fact of life for most military families. On average, children who live with a service member move every two to three years. Packing up and leaving for a new town can be difficult at any age, but it can be especially hard on teenagers. Saying goodbye to good friends, being the new kid at school and worrying about fitting in are just a few of the challenges they face. Family is the one constant source of support in your teenager's life. Even if it doesn't seem your teen needs you, try to be available. Your teenager needs you now as much as ever.
Before the move
Whether or not your teenager is excited about the move, you can make the transition a little easier. Helping your teen prepare for the move early on may ease any stress he or she is feeling.
Settling into the new community
Getting used to a new duty station takes some time. You can help by encouraging your teenager to get involved in the community.
- Go to the installation youth center. Whether or not your teen wants to hang out at the youth center, just visiting will let you know what activities are available to teens on the installation.
- Become an active member of the installation community. Participate in family activities, clubs and other recreational activities to meet other families.
- Encourage your teenager to find a part-time job. If you move during the summer, a part-time job will keep your teenager busy and provide a way to meet people.
- Locate youth programs. Learn about the local Boys & Girls Club, 4-H Club, YMCA or other youth programs. The military and family support center can help you locate them.
- Look for opportunities in the religious community. Find out if the military chapel or other faith organization has an active youth group.
- Find out if your military and family support center offers a newcomer's tour for families.
- Tap into the service member's network at the new command. Ask co-workers and neighbors what their own teenagers do for fun. Remember, however, that it's important to be subtle in your attempts to help your teenager fit into the new community.
Settling into school
Going to a new school can be a real challenge - especially if your family moves in the middle of a school year.
- Make sure your teenager gets placed at the right learning level. Because of different requirements and teaching styles, your child may arrive at the new school either ahead of or behind his or her classmates. Arrange to have your teenager's school records sent well in advance of your move, or hand-deliver these documents as soon as you arrive. Put together a file with copies of your child's school records, letters of evaluation, immunization information and a portfolio of his or her work.
- Learn about the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunities for Military Children. This program discusses graduation requirements, course sequencing, testing and extracurricular activities.
- Find out about orientation. Encourage your teenager to attend a new-student orientation. If there isn't one, and if he or she is willing, arrange for a visit to the school to meet key staff. This will help your teen to be comfortable in the new school.
- Encourage your teenager to join a team or club. Though it may be hard to be "the new kid," joining activities right away is a great way to meet people.
- Keep communication open between home and school. Attend meetings of the parent-teacher organization. Ask teachers how they like to be contacted, and let them know how to contact you. Attend school events.
- Volunteer. These are all ways to monitor quietly what the school is like and how your teenager is fitting in.