Moving your family to a new place can be a challenge. From missing your old home to settling in, here’s how to cope with feeling depressed after moving.
I’m pretty lucky: both my family and my husband’s are all here in Los Angeles within driving distance to our home. We also grew up here, went to colleges nearby, held jobs in the area, and still have our friends to hang out with.
I can’t imagine moving to a new place and losing all the roots and ties I’d developed all these years.
But for many people, this is a reality. They move from everything they’ve ever known and settle in to a brand new place, with little to remind them of their past. My parents moved from the Philippines to Chicago—in the middle of winter—decades ago for my dad’s MBA, all while raising my two eldest sisters on their own.
SSBE reader Maria could relate. She wrote about moving for her husband’s job and describes the struggle of adapting to this huge change in their lives. She’s uprooted from the only life she knew: her friends, her job, all the familiar and comforting places.
Now, more on their own than ever, she finds herself feeling frustrated, depressed and impatient with her children and husband. She feels lonely and cries for the familiarity she left behind.
And the most painful part? Yelling at her children. Despite meaningful attempts to start each morning with a promise to parent with calm and patience, her days don’t always end well. She wants to carve a new place for her kids, parent more peacefully, and keep her family happy, as we all do.
How to cope with feeling depressed after moving
It’s no wonder parents like Maria who move from far away find themselves feeling down. If you can relate, you’re not alone.
These are huge changes, not only of settling in a new place, but saying goodbye to the old. Leaving everything you’ve known to come to an unfamiliar environment with no one you know is a challenge few people ever experience. It’s only understandable that it takes a toll on you and affects your interactions with your children.
You may be aware of how your behavior doesn’t line up with how you want to raise your kids. That awareness itself is key: Progress starts with knowing where you are and where you want to be. Then, keep in mind the following tips I suggest to help you get through it:
Accept your grief
As moms, we put a lot of pressure on our shoulders. We feel responsible for keeping our families intact and our households humming along just fine. When difficulties arrive, we feel obligated to carry most of that burden and shield our kids from things they don’t need to know about.
So it can be hard to let out guard down and reveal our vulnerabilities. We put on our strong faces only to lock ourselves in the bathroom to cry alone.
But then we allow the difficult emotions to build up so much that they explode, whether in a resentful comment or harsh words to our loved ones.
Give yourself permission to grieve for your old life. Cry as long as you need to, whether alone or with your partner. As terrible as it is to feel down, don’t deny that you feel this right now. Then, remind yourself that emotions come and go, that you won’t feel stuck this way forever.
Accept the sadness in saying goodbye to people and places you’ve known all your life. Reassure yourself that settling into a new place isn’t easy, that it can feel downright lonely and frustrating.
Rather than brushing our emotions under the rug, accept them for what they are—normal feelings many people in your shoes would feel.
See your family as people on the same side
For many parents, a big move came because of their partners’ circumstances. Maybe you’re like my parents who moved because one of them pursued a post-graduate degree. Or you could be like Maria, whose family made the big move for her husband’s job.
When the reason for the move falls on someone else’s agenda, it’s easy to cast the blame on them. If only he didn’t take this job, I wouldn’t be here, you might think.
And while resentment and frustration are normal, they’re also unhealthy. They pit the most important people in your lives—your partner and children—on the opposite side.
Instead, see your family as people on the same side as you. Even though the reason you moved was because of your partner, he likely feels just as lost and lonely as you. In fact, he may even feel more pressure and guilt for bringing his whole family to a new place because of his circumstances.
Begin to show empathy by imagining what it’s like to be in your partner’s and your children’s shoes. What it’s like to be the reason you’re all here to begin with. What it feels like to be the new kid in school, or to not grow up with the same family ties you may have been lucky to have as a child.
The more you see how they feel, the more you’ll realize how united you are in this new journey. You’re all on the same side, going through the same challenges. In banding together and reaching out as teammates instead of adversaries, you begin to open up, be more patient, and find solutions.
Find your triggers
Yelling has always been a challenge for me. I think I’m doing a great job keeping my cool, but after a long day, I find myself yelling and saying things I shouldn’t have.
And when you’ve just moved from far away, when you’re already tired from so many changes as it is, yelling becomes harder to stop.
It doesn’t help that we often yell at the very people we love the most and would do anything and everything for. At that moment, we lose all composure and raise our voices, maybe even assuming it’s the only way to get through to our kids.
One of the best ways to break the habit of yelling is to find your triggers. Like all habits, we yell as a reaction to something that happened. Each time you yell, ask yourself what happened right before you did that made you do so.
At first, the reasons can seem so scattered, from the kids fighting about the same toy to throwing a tantrum because they don’t want to go to school. But after a while, you’ll notice common themes among the events that set you off. These are your “triggers.”
Once you defined your triggers, give yourself an action plan of what you’ll do when they happen. This is the “pause” you give yourself between when the trigger happens, and when you typically yell.
It’s in that pause you can then replace your old reaction—yelling—with a new, more positive one.
Stay in touch with old friends
Keeping in touch with friends and family from a distance is never the same as having them nearby, but even this little tie can make a huge difference. With so many ways to reach out—email, video chat, phone calls—make it a daily or at least weekly habit to reach out to your loved ones.
Not only does regular contact remind you of your old life, it also allows you another place to open up about how you feel. Be honest with your friends and family about your struggles, and remind them how important they are and will continue to be moving forward.
I’ve had several friends move away over the years, but each time we reconnect, it feels like we picked up right where we left off. Don’t let distance convince you that friendship isn’t possible when you’re miles away. Often, your true friendships will grow stronger because of it.
Build new social ties
No one will replace your friends and family, but that shouldn’t keep you from making friends in your new home. It may be difficult, especially if you’re like me who can find it hard to approach people in person. Other times, you feel like you’re imposing yourself on other people, especially if they’ve known one another for a while.
But even if these new relationships isn’t the same as your old ones, continue to reach out to others for company and support. You’ll feel less isolated and will have a support system, no matter how new. And if the thought of making new friends scares you, remind yourself that all friendships had to start somewhere.
A few suggestions include:
- Meeting other parents at your child’s school. Many schools offer volunteer opportunities, whether it’s working on the school garden or walking with a group of kids to school. I’ve met a few parents both ways, especially those in my child’s class.
- Set up play dates. Has your child made new friends at school or other activities? Invite his friends and their parents for a play date. While the children play, you can chat with the adults. Another option is to find mommy groups with children around the same age as yours. Meetup.com is a great place to start your search.
- Attend a meet up with people from your old area. Whether you came from another country, city or state, see if you can find social gatherings of people who came from back home. Try Meetup.com again, or find festivals or events nearby.
I can’t imagine what it was like for my parents to travel from a hot, humid climate with everyone they knew to cold, snowy Chicago, raising two girls alone. But many parents—perhaps you included—experience a similar change every day.
Feeling depressed after moving is common but not permanent, especially when you take a proactive approach to settling in. Begin by showing empathy towards your children and partner and see them as being on the same side as you.
Then, don’t deny your own grief, and instead accept it, as well as the fact that it will pass with time. Find your triggers to keep yourself from losing your temper. And maintain old friendships while making new ones in your new home—both will remind you that you’re never truly alone.
Get more tips:
- To You, Newborn Mom: You Are Not Alone
- Be Kind to Yourself
- One Technique to Finally Stop Yelling at Your Kids
- Be Where You Need to Be
- Remembering the Ordinary Moments
Tell me in the comments: What has been the biggest move you’ve made? How did you cope with its challenges?
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