Many parents have had to make tough decisions about their family and their future in the past 18 months. Since the economic recession started, some families have had to make tough decisions about their homes. Some families have fallen into foreclosure and pinching pennies to get try and stay in their homes. Other families have had to downsize their lifestyle and others have had to take jobs – sometimes in other towns or states, jobs that mom or dad may be may be overqualified for, but take any way to provide for their families.
These problems have been faced by millions of Americans and often times, parents feel guilty for having to uproot their children from their school, friends, and other activities in order to make ends meet. But if a parent has taught their son or daughter well, a move can be a great experience bringing families together.
Due to my father’s job and my parents’ wishes to have their kids in the best possible schools, I moved several times growing up. I attended two elementary schools, two middle schools, two high schools and two colleges (which was my choice).
Sure it was tough being “the new kid” every couple of years, but kids have short memories and after a couple of weeks, I was no longer “the new kid” but “a kid” at school. Moving was also refreshing. It helped me develop social skills, approach people with ease and be more confident in who I was. Sure, moving affords you the ability to re-invent yourself at a new school to new people but it also forces you to make some decisions about yourself. Constantly changing your image or persona can be fun, for awhile, but eventually being you usually wins out. And who wants a group of friends that likes you for your image, rather than for you who really are?
The personality-building periods of moving during my childhood more than prepared me for adulthood. Transferring in the middle of the fall semester of my junior year of high school from a conservative Christian high school to a larger public high school in the outskirts of Michigan’s second-largest city was a great prep when I transferred from a small, Christian college in rural Indiana to a large public school in the Mountains of Western North Carolina before my second year of college..
I found that the key to making the best in a move is to have a good attitude and find a group, activity or institution you can connect with. In high school, it was Young Life and athletics. In college, it was becoming a founding father and chartering a new fraternity on campus. Seek something out that you will care about put your heart and mind into it. Chances are, people will notice and gravitate to you if you’re genuine and show a true passion for something.
I talk to people who’ve grown up living in the same house, with the same neighbors and friends and family members their whole life. While that’s the traditional way some prefer, I appreciated the different cities, states, cultures and people that have crossed paths with me throughout my life to shape me to be a more well-rounded and approachable person .
So if you or your family has had to make one of those tough decisions recently – pulling your kids out of private school because you can’t afford the tuition this year, a move down to a more modest house in a more modest neighborhood or maybe a cross-country move to a whole new community, don’t feel guilty, even if your kids come kicking, screaming or crying. They may not thank you now, but down the road, that speed bump will help them prepare for many of life’s larger peaks and valleys.
If that pep talk doesn’t work, just tell them what my dad told me:
“It builds character, son.”
Seth Stratton lives in Greensboro, N.C. and is a reporter and editor for The Dispatch newspaper in Lexington, N.C. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.