Moving your child to a new school in a new country can be a challenging experience, as your children may have to learn a new language and make new friends. While it is an exciting adventure, it’s natural to feel a little nervous about the big changes that come with it, especially for your children. As someone who has been through this myself, after my family relocated from the UK to France, I have some great tips to help your child adapt to a new school.
The stress of these changes can affect children in many different ways. Some may become more withdrawn, while others may start acting out. In my case, my daughter developed facial tics, which she had never experienced before. When we visited a local psychologist, he explained that these were all likely symptoms of stress caused by the recent changes in her life. However, we noticed that the long summer holidays helped her to adjust, and all the symptoms had disappeared when she returned to school.
As a parent, you play a crucial role in helping your children manage their anxieties and providing them with the emotional support they need during this challenging transition.
How can you help your child to adapt?
Here are some tips to help your child adapt to a new school:
1. Emotional support
Finding the time to talk to your child about what they are going through is really important. Be compassionate and let them know that you are there for them. This will help them feel heard and supported during this challenging time. Check in with them regularly. Share your own feelings about moving to a new country and how you are dealing with these emotions. If you feel that you need professional advice to help you work through any problems do not be scared to reach out for advice.
2. Be patient
Lower your expectations and go easy on the kids as they adjust to their new environment. They are under enough pressure at school and it doesn’t help them to be nagged or be stressed at home. Tell your child that you believe in them and that they are doing to do great. Be patient!
3. Focus on the positive side of moving
Remind your children about all the exciting new things you can do and experience in the new country and do it together.
Be mindful of what you say around the children about the move. If they keep hearing you complain about how hard everything is to deal with, then they are likely to adopt the same negative mindset. Bring your “can do” attitude out and share how you have overcome any challenges you have experienced and how that made you feel.
4. Make them feel involved in decisions
Take them shopping so they can select their stationery, school bag, lunchbox and everything they need before they start school. They will feel pride in picking it out themselves and feel prepared.
5. Help them build friendships
You can help children build new friendships by inviting classmates for playdates and arranging social events with other families at school. This will help your child feel more comfortable around the same kids in their new school.
You can also sign them up for extracurricular activities and holiday camps so that they can meet new friends who share their interests, and you can come up with ideas to try out brand new hobbies.
6. Help children get into a new routine
Choose and stick to their new eating, sleeping and playtime schedules. A daily routine is important to children because it helps them know what to expect each day and creates a sense of structure and predictability in their lives.
Make them draw or write out their new daily or weekly timetables. That way, they can always look back at it if they’ve forgotten anything and plan/pack accordingly for their day.
What if my child doesn’t speak any French when starting school?
I know how daunting it is to drop off your child on the first day at a new school with your child not knowing how to speak any French. I also know what it’s like to be a parent who doesn’t speak French and trying to navigate the school system, homework, parent meetings and even daily chats with the teacher/other parents.
Children are like sponges…
Children are incredibly adaptable and resilient, and their ability to learn a new language fast and adapt to a new way of life never ceases to amaze me.
Younger children tend to integrate more smoothly into a new school environment as they can learn French more quickly.
Older children may find it more challenging to follow the French curriculum as they need to learn new academic material in a new language. If feasible, hiring a private tutor can be a good option to ensure that your child does not fall behind academically while they are learning French. A tutor can either provide academic support in your child’s native language or teach them French, or a combination of both.
But, let’s be real, not everyone can afford a private tutor, and that’s okay! Have patience and remember that learning takes time. Your children will learn French in due course, and they will eventually adapt to their new environment. As parents, it’s crucial to create a supportive atmosphere for your children at home, where they feel comfortable making mistakes and learning at their own pace.
In conclusion, starting at a new school can be daunting for both you and your child. However, by following these tips and being there for your child, you can help them to settle into their new environment with confidence and ease. So take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy this exciting new journey together!