Q&A: We've moved and my teenager isn't coping. How can I help her?
By psychologist Angie Willcocks
Do you have any more advice on moving with teenagers? Our oldest isn't handling this move well. After eight months there is still lots of crying and hating of school. She isn't finding friends like she has in the past. All of her hobbies are solo activities, and they are just not offered in small towns. I'm starting to worry ... all she wants to do is go back to our old town. She is so upset. I am struggling to find information to help her. Can you help?
Thanks for your message. First of all, it’s important to check if your daughter is perhaps suffering from depression, rather than just having a hard time adjusting to the move. Sit down with her and have a look at a depression checklist, like this one at youth beyondblue: http://www.youthbeyondblue.com/depression-and-anxiety/depression-checklist/.
If your daughter is depressed, it’s important that the depression is acknowledged and that she gets some help. It’s really hard to get interested in anything at all when you’re depressed, let alone anything new in a new town with new people. If your daughter is depressed, treating the depression first and foremost will help her see things in a different, more positive way. You (or your daughter) could also see the local GP for help, or contact Kids Helpline. There is also a fantastic online program to help treat depression, called Mood Gym, and this is a great way for teenagers to access help for depression because they can do it from the comfort of their own laptop or tablet! See https://moodgym.anu.edu.au/welcome for more information.
Also, the following things should help your daughter, whether or not she is experiencing depression at the moment. (You might have already done some of them):
- Talk to the school: most schools are accustomed to kids who hate school and refuse to go, and many schools have programs in place to help kids cope with going to school.
- Let her hang out with you: Lots of parents I speak to are worried when their teenager wants to hang out with them all the time. We hear so often about kids who want nothing to do with their parents, but that is only part of the story! Lots of teenagers feel safer and more secure if they spend lots of time with mum and/or dad, and that’s fine. If your daughter wants to hang out with you, just act casually about it, and enjoy it while it lasts.
- Make a lot of effort to engage with her: If your daughter has withdrawn from you, don’t just accept this as part of being a teenager. I know you can’t force an adolescent to do anything, but you can persistently and strongly encourage her to get out of her room and come and do things with you. Make it fun – get some DVDs and spend the day on the couch or buy a Zumba DVD and tell her you need her help with the moves.
- Let your daughter do her solo activities but take a big interest in them, and see if you can become involved. See if you can steer her in the direction of some feel-good solo activities. If your daughter is a reader, see if you can find some inspirational books for her to read (or at least some without dark themes as many teenage novels tend to have!) If she likes taking photos, have a look at the original gratefulness project (http://365grateful.com/original-365-project) and see if she’s interested in doing something like that either alone or with you.
I hope at least some of what I have suggested helps and I wish you and your daughter all the very best.
To read other columns written by Angie Willcocks during her six years with Mining Family Matters, please click here. And remember that we offer a free email Q&A service with our psychologists, so just click here to ask a question about relationships, parenting or your career. All advice on Mining Family Matters is for general information only and should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. To talk with a trained volunteer telephone counsellor at any time of the day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. To contact the info line at beyondblue: national depression initiative, phone 1300 22 4636.