Q.We recently moved 2,000 miles, from the Midwest to the Southwest -- a longtime career goal for my husband. As much as we wanted it, the transition has been rough, especially for our child.

Nothing prepared us for the loneliness of being in a place where we know absolutely no one. We go to storytimes at the library, to parks, to places where we might meet other 2-year-olds and their moms, but my son still longs for his Ohio friends. Yes, 2-year-olds do make friends and remember them.

While we have met some mothers and kids and hope to get into a play group on a regular basis, he seems very reluctant to play with them. He wants to be with me every moment.

He used to be very independent and always the center of any group of kids -- assertive, fun-loving, inquisitive -- a delight. Now he tells me, "I scared, Mommy."

This change in behavior is very disturbing.

He'll be fine for a few days, then lapse into clingy and sedentary behavior, usually accompanied by tummy aches and eating and sleeping disorders. In these periods he lies on the sofa watching "Sesame Street" and Charlie Brown movies over and over. He seems so sad.

He also has had more colds and diarrhea. His sleeping habits have altered (waking up with "bad dreams") and he's begun to stutter. His eating is erratic.

Unfortunately, we're still living out of boxes until we can buy a house, but his toys are in his room and he has his own kitten and our family dog as companions.

Because our house is a rental, we haven't met any of our neighbors. This is in marked contrast to our situation in Ohio.

My husband is very busy with his new job -- including some weekends -- and isn't around enough to help us cope. His parents are planning to retire nearby, however -- about an hour from us -- but they say they won't baby sit. We never assumed they would but still hope they will want to see our son on a regular basis.

I'm sure my own feelings of isolation have affected my son, although I try hard to be positive about our new situation. I had hoped to get back to my work in September, but am afraid it will affect him adversely.

A. No, you won't want to go back to work until you're sure he's his old self again, but that may be sooner than you think, if you change your technique a bit.

While you want to be upbeat about your new city, don't hesitate to let your child know that you miss your friends, too. A happy, outgoing 2-year-old is going to mourn when he moves, just like his happy, outgoing mom. You and your son have lost your friends, your neighborhood -- even your climate. No wonder you're sad.

Be sad together. Talk about your old friends, look at your snapshots, send postcards back home, arrange for him (and you) to make some low-rate weekend phone calls, so he can hear his little friends' voices. This won't make the depression lift right away -- any sorrow makes us go through the stages of grief -- but when you give yourselves the right to be sad, you'll feel freer to enjoy.

Neighborhood-hunting should be fun. When you find the area where you want to live, you can join the civic association, check out the day care and preschools and see if there's a good baby-sitting co-op -- or do that right where you are. There's no point in waiting for your new neighbors to come calling with casseroles and cookies; they may be so new they're waiting for someone to call on them.

It's southern hospitality time. By now you know who looks interesting. March to the door, bold as brass, and ask another mother over for coffee with an invitation to leave her child for lunch. Free sitting has great appeal. And if you don't jibe with this mother, knock on another door, and then another. It takes time to feather your nest.

You'll also want to do volunteer work in your field, one day a week, or in an area that interests you, like a political campaign. When you make friends with people because you like them for their own sake, you'll probably find you like their children, too. And so will your son.

If he still has the miseries, have his pediatrician give him a top-to-toe check-up. The stuttering is nothing to worry about -- it's common at 2 -- but the unhappiness could have a physical basis. Stomachaches, poor appetite and poor sleep could come from pinworms, an allergy to that kitty or many other minor problems.

As for your in-laws, don't be hurt by their refusal to sit. They're acting strange because they're nervous about moving. You know what that's like.