Voluntary Relocation

Our parents may decide at some point to move to a new place. This could happen for several reasons; they might just want to live in another environment, house or city, or have gotten a new job.

This can mean a lot is going to change in our life. Especially if we have to change schools as well. We might find it hard to leave your ‘old life’ behind.

However, if we find ourselves in this situation, remember that a move can always be a great opportunity for a fresh start with new friends and new beginnings!

Forced Relocation

Some people are forced to move to escape violence, conflict, persecution, extreme poverty, or a lack of basics such as food or water, decent work, education and health care. They move to escape from poor living conditions, with hopes for a more prosperous and peaceful environment for an opportunity of a better future.

This way of moving is even more scary and full of uncertainties. People sometimes suddenly have to flee, forced to take the bare minimum with them and they have a dangerous journey ahead of them. In addition to leaving behind familiar surroundings, there is no clarity about the future. They do not know if, when and where they can build a new life. You can imagine that this causes a lot of fear and grief, which can last for a long time.

If you have experienced a forced relocation and you are struggling with your feelings and coping with it all, it is important to reach out to a trusted adult.

A lot changes happen when we move. We leave behind our friends, school, daily routine and neighborhood. In other words, our comfort zone. We also have to get to know and adapt to a completely new situation, a new social environment and new relationships (with peers, neighbors, teachers, a family doctor and so on!). When we move to another country, we might even have to learn a new language. All of these changes can make it difficult to adapt, and we might feel that you don’t fully fit it. This can be especially true when we move to a country where the culture is very different from our home country. We might feel like we look, dress or sound different than everyone else. People may not know how to pronounce our name properly, might treat us differently or see us as outsiders. Sometimes, this can lead to exclusion or being bullied. If this is happening, refer to the section on bullying to learn more about how we can respond to this type of situation.

One situation may be more frightening and uncertain than the other; nonetheless having to leave and start over can have a big impact on our lives.

You might:

  • Miss your friends
  • Sleep poorly
  • Have less energy
  • Not feel like getting up and participating in school or activities
  • Act rebellious, disruptive
  • Feel irritable or angry
  • Feel numb, sad or down
  • Experience anxiety

As said, moving away is a lot to deal with. It is scary for everyone in the beginning. But, once we have found our new place, it will definitely get better with time. The more energy we put into our new situation, the better off we will be!

What might help us adjust:

  • Express our feelings to our parents or siblings. Together we can influence the situation for the better.
  • Make the new place a home for ourselves: with our own belongings, and new things that make us feel good.
  • Join our parents in the move. Express our preferences, think along with them and look for solutions together. This will make it feel more like our own experience as well, rather than something that is being done to us.
  • Find opportunities to try new activities. Chances are we will meet people there who like the same things as we do. For example, joining a sports team or committee of interest at school.
  • Open up; give school and new classmates a chance. Try to connect with new people. We will feel better, more relaxed and happier if once we connect with new friends.
  • Stay in touch with our old friends, for example through social media. Just because we don’t see each other anymore, doesn’t mean we can’t still play a big role in each other’s lives!
  • Look for positive things, that we are happy or grateful for. Encouraging ourselves to think of nice things makes us happier, more creative and allows us to come up with better solutions!
  • Set up a daily routine, perhaps one that is similar to our old routine.
  • Be patient with ourselves: getting used to a new situation, new people and a new routine takes time. Keep the faith that it will be all right!

If moving has created a situation for us where we can’t shake the feelings of sadness or anxiety, or has put us into a situation of being excluded, talk to a trusted adult like a parent, teacher, or school counselor. If bullying is occurring, call the nearest hotline to get the support you need!

  • Connecting is key here! Try to reach out to them and make friends with them. They are best helped by having friends and peers they can hang out with and talk to. We can make ourselves available, be interested and involve them in our life in any way we can.
  • Invite them to participate in (online) activities. Whether it’s activities at school, parties, sports, shopping or online gaming. Inviting them makes them feel welcome.
  • Sharing our stories and experiences. When we open up, we invite others to do the same. This immediately creates a connection! We show them that we are nice and safe and we will see that we have a lot in common!
  • Listen to their stories and experiences without distraction or judgment. We do not need to have answers or solutions; it is already very nice to be heard.