Relocating With High School Students

Article by Katherine L. Cohen, PhD, Founder and CEO of IvyWise, LLC and

High school is hard enough—for both students and parents—without all of the challenges of moving. Still, relocating, whether due to a new job or for personal reasons, is sometimes unavoidable. While my first piece of advice to relocating families with students in high school is always to try your hardest not to move, more likely than not, you’ve already done everything in your power to make your situation work in the place you’re already calling home.

But moving, as I’m sure you’ve told your children, is not the end of the world! In fact, it’s the beginning of a whole new one. Adhering to a realistic but positive attitude while following these tips should help ease your children’s moving pains and make the transition significantly easier for all of you:

Listen to your children
Luggage—you’re going to be carrying loads of it and so will your children. But while your actual luggage might fill up a moving van or two, emotional luggage is often the more burdensome. The moving process is ripe with opportunities to create more baggage; however, it can just as easily be used as a tool to tackle any unnecessary and lingering issues. Talk to your children about the place they’re leaving and consider the hurdles they may face in their new community. Ask them to share both their fears and goals and don’t be afraid to share yours. These conversations will not completely rid you or your children of excess emotional baggage, but it will help. At the very least, your family will feel like they’re going through this transition together.

Involve your son and/or daughter in the transition
A little talking goes a long way. Still, as the cliché goes, actions speak louder than words. Once you’re clear on each other’s goals and fears, make sure everyone feels sufficiently involved in the moving process. This means traveling, house-hunting, and investigating high schools as a team. Of course, the logistics are up to you, the parents. You know your monetary situation; you’ve researched probable neighborhood options. But, you must engage your children in finding the right high school. If your children feel they have a say in the matter, even if it’s a small one, they’ll find readjusting easier. The transition will be easier, too, if it happens during the summer. This school break will be more necessary than ever, as it will allow for your children time to become involved in their favorite activities before the start of school, an involvement that may even make them a few new friends in their new hometown.

Talk to their old and new guidance counselors
Once you have made the decision to move, you and your children should speak to their current guidance counselors immediately. This professional will help ease the academic transition as you keep in mind your son’s or daughter’s college aspirations. Then, when you and your children have decided on a high school, I encourage you to have a phone conversation with the new guidance counselor. Brief this counselor on your child’s background and college aspirations and encourage the new counselor to speak to the previous one.

When the school year begins, you and your children should meet with their new counselors in person. Your preparatory work will make this initial meeting productive. It will also give you a chance to talk logistics: course selection and availability, standardized testing schedule, the mechanics of extracurricular involvement, and tips on how to ease your child’s transition. Ideally, your first visit should end with a campus tour.

Iron out the details
Your children’s old and new counselors will certainly help you in this regard, but it also never hurts to be proactive. Double check that your children’s new school has received their transcripts and that there are no issues regarding the transfer of credits from one school to the other. Also, ask your children to get the email addresses of a few favorite teachers (who may come in handy as recommenders) and be sure they keep in touch. Request a change of address on your children’s most recent standardized test scores. And, finally, confirm that your children can, in fact, still tryout for their favorite sports teams and that there’s no unusual school protocol that may prevent them from being part of an organization (e.g. student council, honors clubs) they’d otherwise join. In the end, taking matters into your own hands may save you and your children a lot of grief.

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