Moving with Teens

Parent Q&A

  • Looking for suggestions of places to move to (within California or to another state) with a top notch high school option (public or private), beautiful open space/nature (we hike and mountain bike a lot), nice people and more affordable housing.  It's overwhelming (after living here for 55 years) to consider all the options and we would really appreciate any ideas.   Also any input on how to decide if it's worth it to stay (we rent in Marin and the pandemic has made it so much worse).   Lastly how disruptive is it to move a kid between middle and high school?  Is that a reason alone to tough it out?  Thanks so much for any thoughts.

    This may sound crazy but New Zealand is where several people I know are relocating to! It is currently the envy of the world (0-2 Covid cases in the entire country!)

    New England is looking very attractive as the region is performing well in virus management. Public schools are very strong across the board and so many amazing colleges in the region. Private schools are also plentiful. In CT, literally every other town seems to have a private school. (I went to a boarding school in CT.)

    How disruptive it may be depends largely on the kid’s personality. It’s harder for introverts who don’t have a natural platform for social grouping based on interests. 

    The weather and lack of sunlight could be an issue if you are born and raised in CA. I personally vowed never to shovel snow again, so I am staying in CA.

    Our friends moved to Montana with Middle and high school aged kids. They report how happy kids are with the huge house and backyard with horses and whatnot. It sounds lovely and I fantasize about life in Montana...

    I’m really into Ashland, Oregon! I went there once and loved it. Some snow in winter and hot summers. Very outdoorsy and artsy. Also mellow and the real estate is very affordable. I’m at your age and tired of worrying about money. I’m also looking for a slower paced life. 
    Not sure how schools are though, and diversity. But since it’s a college town it might be okay. Will also be checking out Bend, Medford and areas around Portland-all  pretty affordable. Camas Washington is across the bridge from Portland and pretty cute. Our friends live there and there son got into U of W from an extremely good high school.

    You don’t say how your kids are doing but I imagine they are, to some degree, struggling with the same issues that my middle school age kids are dealing with: battling social isolation  and anxiety, fear of the upcoming school year, sadness at missing out on important life experiences and rites of passage. For our family, this would be a bad time to voluntarily uproot everyone; the kids are clinging to whatever sense of normalcy and routine they can (my 12 y.o. completely fell apart when I mentioned getting a new sofa). Also from my perspective from Oakland, Marin seems pretty great: you have great schools and immediate access to beautiful nature for hiking/mountain biking etc which is important to you. Yes it is expensive and I’m sure there are intense social pressures generated by the extreme “haves” to be quarantining in opulence. But if you have the means to stay put, I think this is a very hard time to be starting over in brand new place, especially for most teens. 

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Moving 13yo to the South Bay to join my new husband

June 2011

I have a 13 yr old son and am thinking about moving from the south bay to berkeley to live in my new husband's home. I'm waiting until my son completes middle school. I have heard that a move to a different town to live with a stepfather may breed resentment in my son. While he and my husband like each other as an uncle type relationship my son is understandably unhappy with the idea of leaving friends. I'm concerned that my son will blame me and my husband for making this move and be miserable to live with throughout high school. I do have a choice to stay in the south bay but would prefer to combine households which would give me more time to parent without the distraction of work and work-related travel.

I know each circumstance is unique but does anyone have a sense of how well or poorly a teenage boy will adapt to living in a stepfathers home? Ps. No other kids are involved. Thanks for any insights.

My recommendation is that if you really do have a choice here, don't move and make your son relocate his life for high school. Hang in there a few more years and do it once he is grown and off to college or capable of living on his own if he wants. My ex and his wife did that and I am convinced that it really was best for our children. Especially our son who was the only child at home as his sister had gone off to college already. Or why can't your husband move to be with you and your son? High school years can be difficult enough for moms and sons without a kid having to start a new $.02 grateful to my ex and his wife

Moving to Spain for a school year

Dec 2010

We are thinking of moving our family of 4 to Spain for a year abroad. Both my husband and I have jobs with enough flexibility that we could make it work. We'll have a 10th grader, and a 4th grader. The 10th grader is currently a freshman in the IB program at Berkeley High. Does anyone have any experience with or insight into this kind of move, from what kind of school to enroll the kids in, to what Spanish city to live in, to tips about renting out the Berkeley house for a year. We're interested in Barcelona most of all, but we're still researching. Our kids don't speak Spanish well enough (at this moment) to go to Spanish schools, but if there were some recommended institutions we could start them in intensive language lessons now. Thanks for any and all advice. hopeful mom

Do it! We spent an academic year in Kenya when our kids were 9 and 13. It was hard on the 13 yr old, but I am still really glad we did it.

I wanted to be sure they kept up with their math, so I found out what textbooks they would be using and bought those to bring along.

One small suggestion is think ahead about all the holidays you will miss and bring along a little something to help you celebrate in an American way (a box of birthday candles, a pack of Easter egg dye if you celebrate Easter, etc)--keep these items as a surprise.

We rented out our house and it went very well. It was stressful because it wasn't lined up until just before our departure, and I started finding all kinds of paid services to list it, but in the end it was craigslist that worked. have a great time!

We took our high schooler to Italy during Sophomore year. Worth it but socially it was really difficult as their students' grasp of English was poor. Also the teaching methods very different, lots of rote learning; student had to memorize physics lessons by heart in Italian,etc (on the plus side English was a breeze). Also not much break in the grading; and one of the teachers had some problem with student and didn't believe in grading easier. The big impact was in the grading. They, as in other European countries, used a 1-10 system, where a 10 is a kind of Super-A, of which very few, or none, are given out in the school year. Our student received eights and sevens, similar to A and B grades, but her Bay Area High School interpreted them as mostly Cs because they insisted 10 was an A, 9 was a B and 8 was a C, and it lowered a straight A average in High School and then grade point average for college admissions. (Someone had mentioned this before we went abroad but I didn't pay much attention to it, thinking we could contest the grades, and we tried but...) There were private English-speaking schools we could have tried, but they were expensive. I think she would have actually made good friends there and gotten better grades. The advantage of sending her to the local schools was that she learned to speak the language and it was affordable. I still think going abroad was worth it, but had I really realized the social and college consequences of attending a local school, I would have done things differently. Been There

Moving back to Japan - leave teen here to finish school?

Nov 2010

We are from Japan and we have a 14-y.o. boy. There is a situation where both of us, need to move to Japan.

But we aren't confident that our son can be adjusted to the new school environment in his new country. The high school here is already a challenge to him and he is behind in classes. While he speaks Japanese, he would have to learn new classroom vocabulary , new style of teaching, literature and history of Japan, etc. We thought about enrolling him into an American school, but they seem to have a high academic standard and they may not let him in. The extremely high tuition is another problem.

There are host families for foreign exchange students. We are wondering if a similar arrangement can be made for kids like him who want to finish high school while the parents need to move to other countries. TK

I wouldn't leave my child behind with anyone. Leaving him behind isn't going to help him get caught up with school. Can you get the home school curriculum from your local american school district and tutor him while you are in Japan? If not, maybe you can get a tutor in Japan to tutor him with the local lessons? My advice, take him with you and let him do the best that he can. Anonymous Mom
Twenty years ago our friends faced moving their children from the US to Japan. They had been living and working in the US, and both children were born in the US and had begun schooling there. Their children were much younger, but were already culturally not able to fit into the Japanese schools that they would have preferred. Instead, their daughter ended up graduating from an American high school in Japan, and the son from St. Mary's International School (I just came across his graduation announcement). Both graduated from US colleges, and are now cosmopolitan young adults, comfortable living in both the US and Japan, as well as other countries for shorter stays. Lots of value from transnational education
There are fabulous boarding schools all over the US. Check this option.
I lived in Tokyo for 11 years so I understand what you are going through. You don't say if you are returning to Tokyo or another area of Japan. A couple possibilities to consider: 1. Have your student stay in the US at a boarding school. This option may be expensive. 2. There are many international schools in Japan beyond the American School in Japan and they all don't have academic requirements as high as the American School. Some have large numbers of returned students such as your son. Some offer financial aid. This website lists many schools Check out If that doesn't work for you because of geography, contact them for advice. 3. Some areas such as Nagoya have special programs for returned students. Understand what you are going through
Have you considered a US boarding school? The idea of leaving a high schooler on his own (or with a family you don't really know well) who is already struggling just sounds like disaster waiting to happen. Many boarding schools have international students and are used to that extra layer of support and oversight. One to consider that would be closer to Japan is Hawaii Preparatory Academy (HPA) on the Big Island of Hawaii that has day and boarding students. It has great academics. JV

2 teenage sons and a move back East

April 2007

For many years my husband and I have discussed moving back to the East Coast to live closer to family. It has taken a while to work it out so that he can remain with his company. We finally have that piece worked out, but the problem is we have 2 teenage sons. Our oldest will be in 10th grade in the fall and the youngest an 8th grader. California is the only home they have ever had, but they do love hanging out with their cousins and grandparents on the East Coast. While I have always wanted this move, I am suddenly very apprehensive, especially for my older boy. Can anyone shed who has either experienced this themselves as a teen or who has moved teens far away shed some light on their experience? I would greatly appreciated any words of wisdom. Thanks. marti

My family moved me from California to the Suburbs of New York when I was 13. It was very traumatic. It might be easier for boys and yours are a little older so it might be fine but it was very difficult for me. The East Coast is VERY different than the West Coast and making new friends in High School when cliques are already formed can be tricky. It was freeing in some ways because I could reinvent myself but I also lost the grounding history I had and had to quickly learn to navigate a whole new culture and social structure at a time when I was still learning who I was. I also did not want to move and hated the freezing winters so if your boys are on board it might go more smoothly. I definately blamed my parents for several years. Wouldn't move my teens
Many centuries ago (1968, to be precise), my parents moved from the Bay Area to a town that shall remain nameless (okay, it was Winnetka, Illinois) in the summer before I started my junior year in high school. It was probably the worst year in my life, even though (we had been a military family until 1964) I had been used to frequent moves/new schools/etc. During that year, I would have given ANYTHING not to have moved. In retrospect, it probably made me stronger (although also, some might say, emotionally distant) but ... IMHO, what you should look at is how similar or different the area you would be moving to is compared to where you are now. In 1968, suburban Chicago and the Bay Area were different worlds. Here, we had Mario Savio and the Free Speech movement at UC; there, I was ostracized on day one for the horrible faux pax of wearing white cotton socks. Really! As you can probably tell, it still rankles. Maybe nowadays the differences aren't as great, but if you're blue state folks moving red state, it could still be challenging. Of course, if you're talking about moving to Boston or Providence or something like that, it might be no problem -- and, if you're moving to the same town as the cousins you mention, it would certainly help to have built-in connections rather than being a complete stranger. I guess one other thing I would mention is the difficulty a young man can have getting to know girls in a new town. That, I expect, has not changed over the years. I would ask your older boy (and the younger one too) exactly how they feel about the move. Not to say they should have a veto power, but they should be willing participants and not conscripts.
In response to the mother who was considering the effect that moving her teens across the US to the East Coast, I would have written earlier, but we have so much to do out here in the East that I have been very busy. We moved almost 2 years ago from Berkeley to Frederick, Md ( 45 minutes Northwest of Washington DC ) because Bechtel Corporation moved their last remaining divisions out of San Francisco to join other previously displaced divisions.

Having never considered leaving my family in California or wanting to relocate to the East Coast, the move was a difficult choice. Our two oldest children are in college and working, so didn't even consider leaving California. BUT--- the people are friendly here, with a good mix of liberal and conservative, rural and urban, churched and non churched. The country side is breathtaking, and spring and fall have new meanings here. We did however have to make a few modifications in our lifestyle to feel comfortable here. We bought a house in the country surrounded by farms which gives us a 10 minute commute to work. My son goes to a great public high school. We joined a church in Washington DC that was recommended by our Berkeley friends, and that means that each week in DC after church we can choose a gallery in a Smithsonian Museum or one monument to vist at a leisurely pace. We can drop into the National Zoo or walk the National Mall. One Sunday we decided at the last minute to go pay tribute to Gerald Ford as he lay in state at the Capitol Building, and protest marches are every other week.

To keep our son busy we also joined Scouts, and found him a good music teacher at the local community college. He has been in the marching band - which is so not Berkeley High, but does get to be in the Jazz Band spring semester. He does miss his friends, but we flew him back to visit with them, and he does IM and phone talks. He felt that going from having 2 siblings to none was a little on the oppressive parent side, as in too much parental attention, so we hosted a student from Costa Rica for year through AFS. That gave our son the chance to share some of the wonders here on the East Coast and evened out the adult/teen ratio. Public transportation is horrible outside of DC and the roads are not well suited for biking or walking, so we do drive much more than we did in Berkeley.

After two years of being an East Coast transplant my son has a job at the local pizza place, is doing great in school, volunteers at the local baseball stadium, plays basketball with the neighbors, has made many friends around the county and in Virginia and in the District. We've had lots of new opportunities here, but still feel that California is our other home. I recommend moving with your eyes wide open. I decided that I was going to like my new home and put in the energy to find new delights. Best wishes and come visit! Ellen

13-year-old and unexpected move across the country

November 2002

i am interested in hearing from parents who have had to deal with unexpected moves to another state (one side of the country to the other). specifically, ideas on how to approach a 13 year old girl who is very happily settled with her current life and set up. thank you

we moved here from Michigan when our daughter was a Junior and we did hear many times, then, that we were going to totally ruin her life.... and i must say that it was really hard, she had an awful time adjusting to Berkeley High but there was no option for us.... except the one of a friend offering to keep her there through the end of high school which i did not want because i felt that i would lose her right then.... instead of when she went to college. looking at the whole experience 4 years later.... it was a hard moment but absolutely worth it. yes, you'll have a hard time seeing her miserable for a while but life goes on.... we did give her unlimited phone calls and plane tickets to go back to visit & it made her feel a lot better and in the long run did not cost us too much! good luck! catherine