Relocating turns into one more major transition your student will make within a few short months.
There are many good, valid reasons to up and move right after one or all of your children leave for college, but understand the impact of this decision on them.
The reality By moving when your child heads off to college, acknowledge that they are likely leaving all their friends behind. Sure, most of these friends are off to college, too, but they will come back to town for school breaks when they’ll get together and catch up. Your teen will be coming “home” to a town where they will likely know absolutely no one their age.
“Generally speaking, it’s not a good idea,” explained Lisa C. DeLuca, MSW, a therapist in private practice. “Most people don’t realize that one of the difficult times in life is when there’s any kind of transition going on. You just got used to your college community, that was brand new, and now you’re coming to another community that’s quote unquote home and that’s brand new. There’s a lot of adaptation that has to go on.”
Christine and Bob Dorr had these concerns when they made the choice to move from Virginia Beach, Va., where they’d lived for 10 years, to Chattanooga, Tenn., the year their daughter, Suzanne, was graduating high school. Bob was looking for a new and more challenging job and an ideal opportunity came up in Chattanooga. “We were like, oh my gosh, she’s going to be a freshman in college, and this is a big change for her,” recalled Christine. “It’s all new and then we’re moving and we’re putting this on her and she can’t even have the comfort of coming home at Thanksgiving and seeing all her friends. As a parent you think of those things.”
Their son, Matthew, was already in college, but both kids would have to face coming home for their summer breaks with no friends around. When Matthew stayed at college that first summer to work and take a couple of classes, his sister was resentful. “She was like, ‘I can’t believe he’s not coming home,’” Christine explained. “Because they at least would’ve been able to hang out.”
The downside Part of the challenge is finding where you fit in, again. Your student had to do it at college, and now has to come home and face a similar situation. College breaks will be tough. “It was hard the first few weeks when she was home here,” Christine admitted about her daughter’s summer break. “She said, ‘I just wish I was there. Everybody’s going to the beach, doing everything we used to throughout high school.’ It was hard, definitely.”
Your college student will also be making several transitions in a year, which, according to DeLuca, can cause underlying anxiety and/or depression to surface. “There are a lot of emotions flying around and even if you’re not diagnosable, you might be having a really hard time,” she explained. “If you have a kid who is very attached to home, who’s having trouble leaving home, who has had anxiety or depressive illness, who you know is very resistant to change and has a really hard time with it, then, of course, you have to be more circumspect. Some kids aren’t like that. Some are more free and easy. So know your kid.”
Adapting will likely put a strain on your whole family, even if everyone is on board with the move.
All of you will be adjusting and finding your way. Adapting will likely put a strain on your whole family, even if everyone is on board with the move. “It doesn’t mean the kids are not going to get homesick when they leave,” pointed out DeLuca. “When a kid is going through a lot of changes, familiarity provides comfort, it’s a protective factor.”
Positive stress has an impact, too. It’s the amount, not necessarily the type of stress that matters. “You should pay attention to the stress load because these are major changes,” she added.
The upside A major move can be the perfect solution for a kid who never found a way to fit in to their community, had a bad high school experience, found their town boring or too competitive, etc. A change of scenery might be exactly what they need. A place where they can finally be themselves.
It helps if the new area offers activities and opportunities that interest your family. Like maybe hiking trails are in town as opposed to an hour’s drive or you’ll be living near the beach. The cool outdoor concert venue could offer the perfect summer job for your music major.
Teaching your kids to adapt isn’t the worst thing, according to Christine. “They may be doing that in five years when they graduate and moving to a whole new area,” she pointed out. “It’s kind of been a good thing for our kids to experience this, even though it wasn’t the perfect timing with her going away her freshman year of college. But they know this happens and it’s part of life. And nothing always stays the same. Things change for you. So you make the best of it.”
If you’ve made the decision to move, read my next post with more advice from Christine Dorr and Lisa DeLuca on a smooth transition.
Share your thoughts and experiences on the pros and cons of moving when your kids go to college in the comments section below.
So funny, we moved sooo many times that one more move was no big deal for our daughter (she was in the boat where she didn’t have close connections to neighborhood friends – and technology today helps big time). We ended up moving during her spring semester first year of college. So winter break we were in one home, and when she returned for spring break, it was all new to her.
She loves it though, we are now in a walkable town – we were not at all before. But, yes, it is a lot of transition if your child has lived in the same house their entire life, I can see how this would be a something to weigh.
Thanks, Christine. For a family that has moved often prior to college, it makes sense that a family uproot when a student heads off to college would have less impact. Glad it was easy for your daughter.