6 Tips For Helping Your Child Adjust To School Abroad
As a parent, you’ve probably experienced or at least thought about the anxiety surrounding your child’s first day of school. You know that you’re leaving them in good hands, but you can’t help but wonder what their experience will be. A new environment, unfamiliar faces, and tons of new information all at once seem scary even for an adult, let alone a child that is still a newborn in your eyes!
When you add a new country, language, mentality, and all the other wonders of culture shock to the equation, you’re bound to feel overwhelmed. With that said, it is crucial not to let panic overcome you, as helping your child adjust to school abroad will significantly depend on how you prepare them for this complex experience. Remember, moving to a new country can give your child the advantage of growing into a socially adaptable adult, and that is something you can’t put a price on in today’s ever-changing world. While you can’t help them by going on this journey with them, or instead of them, you can make sure that you are well-informed and confident enough to hold their hand through the process.
If your child did not choose to move to a new country, they will likely be confused about why they have to leave their friends, teachers, and the comfort of being familiar with their surroundings. Talking about the relocation and explaining the reasons behind it will help your child accept the situation more easily. Let them have some time to process the information and acknowledge that this is a big step.
Try to get them excited about it – talk about the fun things they’ll be able to see and do in the new country. However, be careful not to force the excitement on them as this can have the opposite effect. It’s essential to have a lot of understanding for your child’s fears, whether they’re rational or not, because this will make them feel safe and protected no matter where they are. A healthy family environment is the foundation for helping your child adjust to school abroad.
Choose the right school
Depending on the nature of your relocation, it is important to choose the right school for your child. If you’re expecting to move again in the future, an international school where English is spoken would probably be an easier choice than a local school. However, if you plan to stay in one place, don’t make it too easy for your kid – it’s crucial for them to learn the language and integrate into the new community. This is an important decision that you shouldn’t be selfish about. Take your child’s needs, abilities, and opinions into serious consideration and let them have a say when making the final verdict.
Don’t expect too much
Burdening a child with what you expect of them is rarely a good idea, even less so during their adjustment period. You might notice that their grades are not as good as they were back home or that they don’t have many friends and all they want to do is spend time in their room alone. Think about what they have to go through on a daily basis – they might struggle with the new language, a school system they are not used to, or they simply feel like an outsider. Let them have video calls with their friends and family from home, and don’t force meeting new people. However, do encourage new relationships when you notice the time is right.
Make them feel at home
When the stress of real-life becomes too much, one antidote people often rely on is the comfort of home, sweet home. Familiar routines that include waking up in their bed or playing with their toys can feel almost healing to a child that has been ripped out of their comfort zone. While you’re probably looking to downsize so much so that you’re slowly turning into a minimalist, let your child choose a few select items to take with you to your new home. If the logistics of your international move make you feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, you might want to consider hiring someone to handle this important task. Doing so will save you from going through the stress of overpacking while still attending to your child’s emotional wellbeing.
Ask for help
It takes a village to raise a child, they say, and this couldn’t be more applicable when you’re trying to help expat children adjust to school abroad. Even though you are a superhero in your child’s eyes (well, at least until they reach puberty), you shouldn’t be afraid of asking others for help, particularly those who have gone through similar experiences.
Make sure the teachers are familiar with your current situation, and kindly ask them to encourage your child to participate in group projects or games, which will help them get to know other students and create a friendly atmosphere in class. Reaching out to other parents from the school can also make the transition smoother. Ask them to show you around town while your children get to know each other in a more intimate setting.
Don’t help them too much
It’s only natural for your protective instincts to go through the roof when you know your child is facing challenges. However, when helping your child adjust to school abroad, there comes a time when the best thing you can do is not help. Letting your child know they can depend on you when times are tough is important, but knowing when to let go is crucial. Remember when they first started walking? You’d hold their tiny hands at first until they realized they could run marathons around your living room. With that said, if you try to hold their hand for too long when adjusting to a new life, you might do more harm than good. Just don’t forget to love them and hug them when they (inevitably) bump their head along the way.