COPING WITH THE STRESS OF RELOCATION
By Alan Solomon, Ph.D.
January 2000 - Psych Bytes RELOCATION STRESS: THE WARNING SIGNS
February 2000 - Article of the Month THE STRESSES OF RELOCATION
Last month therapyinla.com published an article by Dr. Solomon, The Stresses of Relocation. This month Dr. Solomon offers suggestions for reducing the stresses associated with relocation. Editor's note.
There are many interventions to make to deal successfully with the stresses inherent in job relocation. A few efforts can be preparatory and anticipatory:
- Read some material about the city/region/country you'll be moving to: Find out about the history, geography and culture, so you'll have some preparation for the first few days/weeks. Pay particular attention to cultural differences about social interactions, expectations, politeness, and business dealings to reduce your confusion and feelings of alienation, and to help you prepare to interact more easily;
- Search for someone (a friend, relative, business associate) who has traveled extensively, and preferably lived for awhile, in the area: Set up an engagement (lunch, dinner, social occasion) to allow you to soak up some of their experience and knowledge, in terms of enjoyable, fascinating, and challenging aspects of living in the area; be direct that you really would like them to "lend you their experience". Ask them about any books they've read/movies they've seen that were really informative;
- Contact the human resource department/employee assistance program at the employee's company.
- Share as much you can with your spouse and selectively share this with your children, to help them prepare as well. Information for the children must be carefully aimed at their interests and level of understanding;
Once you have arrived in your new location:
- Keep reading: Check out local bookstores and community centers, which may have resources that were unavailable in your hometown.
- Seek contact with other transferring families: If the company does not actively help set this up, try to do so yourself by visiting community centers or international clubs. The support and understanding from others who have experienced a similar transition can be very valuable.
- Search for a "advisor": There may be someone who works with the employee, or another social contact, who is a local resident, friendly, and open to being of help. This person can answer your questions, help you understand cultural differences that are confusing, direct you to local resources, and be a source of support.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate with your spouse and family: Offer a lot of listening, understanding of the other's feelings/perceptions, and support. Minimize the explaining, moralizing, lecturing, and suggestion making. Problem solve together in joint efforts with small steps, small goals, and concrete actions in repeated conversations. Be open about the struggles you are experiencing with minimal blaming differences in how we each see situations and try to generate solutions without insisting that the other "see it our way".
- Lastly, if any of the more serious difficulties develop (depression, anxiety, alcohol/drug abuse, deteriorating behavior with children) seek professional help: Your growing network of local support may help direct you, or try the EAP/human resource program at the employee's company, or seek referrals from professional associations in the area (organizations of psychologists, social workers, counselors, or psychiatrists). Early interventions from a skilled professional can prevent more serious, long-lasting problems from developing.
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