Should We Move to Give Our Children Better Access to Nature? (Listener Question)

gender nonconformity kids

Parent coach and neurodiversity expert Zach Morris joins me to tackle a listener’s question about moving to a new environment — specifically from a big city to a more rural community — in order to proactively support their neurodivergent kids’ mental health. We dive into the complexities, discussing triggers, sensory needs, and the importance of involving kids in the decision, and stress tuning into practicalities and intuition, urging listeners to embrace uncertainty.


About Debbie Reber

Debbie Reber, MA is a parenting activist, bestselling author, speaker, and the CEO and founder of TiLT Parenting, a resource, top-performing podcast, consultancy, and community with a focus on shifting the paradigm for parents raising and embracing neurodivergent children. A regular contributor to Psychology Today and ADDitude Magazine, and the author of more than a dozen books for children and teens, Debbie’s most recent book is Differently Wired: A Parent’s Guide to Raising an Atypical Child with Confidence and Hope.

About Zach Morris

Zach Morris is a thought leader in education who is committed to helping people increase compassion, collaboration, and learning. Zach supports individuals, families, and organizations who aim to develop a greater sense of safety and empowerment in themselves, in their relationships, and in their communities. Gently guiding humans through the resistance they encounter is at the core of Zach’s work. Learn more about Zach here


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Episode Transcript

Debbie Reber  

Hey everybody joining me for today’s apparently new episode is educator and friend of the pod, Zack Morris of alignment learn. Zach specializes in working with parents and young adults who are navigating the complex dynamics of neuro divergent experiences. Zach is uniquely equipped to serve families with profiles of autism, especially PDA families that are navigating trauma and families in need of healing and repairing relationships. And he’s also a parent coach in mind differently wired up. So hello, Zach, thanks for being here.

Zach Morris  

Hi, Debbie. Thanks for having me. 

Debbie Reber  

Of course! I’m always happy to glean wisdom from you. So this question that got sent to us is an interesting one. It goes as follows. I think my question is dependent on so many variables, but I’m curious to know whether parents have found a benefit to moving to somewhere where there is more space, is there some general wisdom or expert advice, we live in London with family nearby, but we are agonizing over whether a move to somewhere with a garden would benefit our family, our children all love being outside. And my main motivation is that being outdoors is great for mental health. And that’s the ugly beast I predict will keep rearing its head within my family for many years to come. So the context is a listener who has two fantastic girls, an eight year old autistic girl with PDA profile, a seven year old who is currently experiencing emotionally based school avoidance, and but with no diagnosis yet and an autistic three year old. 

So I can start with this one, I have a couple of thoughts. And I’ll just say, a friend that I definitely have heard from families, multiple times who have up and moved to support their family, whether that’s like, because they need to escape from certain family members, or because they need a different school environment or because they need a completely different vibe in their environment for their kids. nervous system regulation, and mental health and all of those things. So you wouldn’t be alone. We moved. You know, many of you who’ve listened to our show for a long time, know that we moved from Seattle to Amsterdam, and my kiddo was nine and that kind of completely reset the dynamic in our family, it reset everybody’s nervous systems. And it really did. It changed things for us. Of course, we’ve now moved back to New York City, which has also been a big learning curve for all of us, because this is not a very calm place. And I’ve learned a lot through this shift. But anyway, just kind of putting that out there. 

So the things I would be thinking about are, you know, getting really curious about what your kids’ triggers are, and being really attuned to what their nervous systems needs, like in terms of an environment like what things are they sensitive to … energy? Sounds? Sights? Is it just a general vibe of a place? Spaciousness? Like, really start to understand what are the needs for your kids, and I realized with three different kids, you’re probably gonna have three different, you know, very different nervous systems that you’re looking at. If access to nature is something that helps your kids and that is hard to do in your current location, definitely that is something to consider. But I also want to throw this out there. Because this is something I’ve grappled with. Don’t forget yourself in this conversation as well, like we can so often prioritize our kids needs and make these big life changes for our kids. And I’ve done this many times. But I sometimes forget about myself in the process and what I actually need, and we matter in this conversation, so I just want to put it out there to make sure that as you’re grappling with this decision, that you’re really tuning in, what would feel good for me, what would feel good for my partner, if I have a partner would feel kind of overall good for our family, as opposed to just kind of focusing on the specific needs of your kids. Okay, Zach, so you’ve heard my initial thoughts. I’d love to hear what landed for you when you heard this. 

Zach Morris  

The first thing I think about is getting really clear on and sort of how collaborative of a decision this is going to be as a family, meaning like how impactful the voices of everybody will be on this decision and kind of like getting clear on that from the get go. Right. And, obviously, like, you know, we know, the ages of this family and sort of the younger side, right, this maybe changes for different families, depending on some of those ages, things like that. But, you know, the reason I bring that up is because for some of our kiddos, like how I may experience that decision being made, could have impacts for many years down there. I mean, this could, it could be the reason why they’re like I told you, that we shouldn’t have moved if we you know what I mean, that 10 years later, they’re still talking about right and like, and so like, there’s gonna be different sensitivities, you know, of different kiddos and like things that are going to really impact like, sort of the resiliency and just tolerance of making a shift like that, depending on how on board with it, they are from kind of the beginning, right? So this isn’t to tell you this needs to be decided in any type of collaborative form. But just as a parent getting really clear, like, are we deciding this as parents are how our kids maybe respond to this idea of going to gun to impact that right, I think that’s a really important thing to get clear from the beginning. 

I’m reminded, you know, of the, you know, the line, so many of us have heard, I’m not even sure where it comes from, but the sort of everywhere you go, there you are sort of line right, like I’m, I’m reminded of this, when I hear that end, I’m also reminded that our environment has huge impacts on our sensory experience in our processing, and therefore our decision making and our needs and our choices and all of that, right. So. So I say that to kind of, like, represent both sides of this is that like, it could be exactly what your family needs, right? It could get us so much more access to this resource outdoors that we know is serving that we see provides lots of value, right? It could also be that it shakes out a different way, for whatever reason? Infinite different reasons, right. So what I what I, what I often tell families, right, I interfaced with a lot of families where they’re, they’re trying to make decisions like this is if we if we found ourselves sort of in a similar spot of like, what we’re navigating now, would it feel okay to be over there doing it? Because if it feels like it’s only okay, if it works out over there. I think that’s a big risk to sort of, like make a move like that. But if I can go and I can say, Well, no, if we, if we go and it doesn’t lead to like all these fruits or support or help we’re hoping for and, you know, we just found ourselves in sort of the same situation we’re in like, that would be okay, we’d navigate that just like we’re navigating here like that often, I think can be can be really helpful in orienting like just how much stake we’re putting into it right? And how much like expectation we’re sort of putting into it. One last thing that’s coming up for me is I think it can be really helpful to just get so clear on what we’re giving up. And what we’re gaining. Like, what are we giving up from leaving this situation? Like, objectively, just like not value judgment wise, just very objectively, what are we giving up? Like? Yeah, perhaps we are giving up living in a town that has three movie theaters, and we’re moving to a place that has zero in our town? Possibly, right? I don’t know, right? Like, just what are those real objective things? And then yeah, we’re we’re going, what are we? What are we getting objectively? And also what is unknown? Because I think this is the meat of the conversation to be having with our children, as well around like, like, this is objectively what we would be leaving this is this is what we would be sort of getting over here. This is what we don’t actually know. And it’s all going to be part of the journey and the experience, right and again, because maybe you’re curious, like how does this land for your kiddos just even bringing this idea up? Like, are we bringing this idea up as something to talk about? Am I bringing this idea up to inform you, this is what we’re doing right? Like these, these really changed some of the timelines of how maybe even this conversation and decision gets made. 

Debbie Reber  

Yeah, you said so many powerful things there. And, you know, of course, bringing it back to myself here. You know, I remember we made our decision that we were going to move from Seattle to Amsterdam, and Asher had just no Asher was eight. When we informed Asher that this is what our family was doing. Weighing. And that was a point of contention for a very long time that we had not consulted, or, you know, looped him into that decision. So anyway, I’ve just that really resonated when you said that and our thinking was, well, this is really, really hard here, if it’s going to be hard, it might well be hard in Europe, like that took us felt like a better, you know, at least at least we’ll be in Europe, right. But I want to have a couple, I have a couple of last thoughts that are kind of jumping off of what you just shared. And I think it’s so important to, to remember that uncertainty piece, I know, people who’ve moved for their kids, and then things are still hard, or they moved for a school and then the school, six months later hasn’t worked out. Now they’ve made this huge life shift. And now they’re in a new community, and they don’t even have the school. And then there can be that sense of, I shouldn’t have done this. Now I’ve made things worse, it’s too hard to unpack at this point. So then there’s, then it’s feeling stuck and feeling all of those things. So I just want to like, say, or reiterate that we cannot control the outcome there. 

I also don’t believe that there’s any one right choice, you know, there’s, we can’t predict the outcome of anything that we do. And so in my book Differently Wired I talked about choosing things from possibility or choosing things from fear. And so that’s something I would invite you to, you know, anyone grappling with this kind of decision is to kind of, in addition to all that very kind of practical stuff, which I love, you know, what are we giving up? What are we gaining? And I think that is excellent. And also like, tune in, like, what am I feeling intuitively? And in my gut about this decision? Am I afraid to stay? Am I not choosing to make a move, because I’m afraid it’s gonna screw up my kid even more? Well, that’s, that’s fear right there. And that we don’t want to make, we don’t want that to be like the driving factor behind any choice we make. And so I think, getting kind of out on the table, the thoughts that you have around staying or moving, what are the concerns? What are the worries, what are the hopes, and really unpacking that? And then, you know, checking in with your body, like, what, what actually feels more like freedom to me, like what, what feels or and what makes me feel really heavy and weighed down? When I consider that. So I would weave that into the process. But again, I just want to say, Yeah, it’s really important to look at all of this as life, right, as an experiment, like we don’t know, we just don’t know how things are going to happen. And just embracing the fact that there’s no guarantees with anything that we do. So doing our own work and being as clear as we can about our intentions for choices we make, and then being curious and open to see how they unfold. That’s kind of, I think, the best recipe for potentially making these big life shifts.

Zach Morris  

Yeah, I love what you’re saying about tuning into the intuitive sense also because right, you’ve been as I talk about some of that very, like, hyper logical sort of objective, right? How do we think through some of this, that intuitive piece is so crucial, because to your point, there’s so many unknowns, I’m not gonna be able to logically think myself to a known, you know, of like, what that’s going to be like. So I think tuning into that felt sense is so important. That’s such a huge part of a decision like this is just what do I feel in my heart, like when I imagine even a certain experience transpiring over there? Like, what is that like to try to get into my body and sort of sense what that would be like? Because I may not be able to break it down logically enough to feel comfortable through a place of logic. 

Debbie Reber  

Yeah, absolutely. Great. I love that. So I hope this has been helpful for whoever wrote the question. And, and if you’re listening to this, like, shoot me an email, because I want to know what you decided, and if this helped kind of guide you in your decision. And I imagine, again, I think everything we shared also is relevant for any parent making a decision of whether to pull their kids out of school and homeschool or any of those kinds of big life decisions that can feel scary because the stakes feel pretty high. So thank you, thanks for your input and sharing your wisdom, or this conversation, Zach, and we’ll see everybody later.

Zach Morris  

Yeah, thanks to Debbie. Thanks, everyone. Bye. 


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