Moving abroad can be an exciting and bonding experience for families, yet there are still challenges during the transition. Kids starting school in a new country experience some unique hurdles, like unfamiliar surroundings, a different education system, potential language barriers, and the pressure all kids feel to fit in with their peers. We explore some valuable tips for families to help children starting a new school after moving to another country.
Timing is one of the most significant factors when transitioning kids to school in a new country. When possible, making your move during school holidays allows your children to make a smoother transition when the time comes.
Even a few weeks of settling in and acclimating to their new surroundings will help. Having time to learn about the language and customs can help children gain a general feel for their new home and set kids up for success when starting school in their new country.
Steps for a smooth transition
Gather as much information as possible about the country and the school ahead of time. For parents, it is important to learn if the school charges fees for international students or any other parental expectations for starting in a new school.
Additional responsibilities may include proper documentation, placement testing, vaccines, or health information. Taking care of your responsibilities ahead of time will help your child feel more at ease when adjusting to a new school.
A few more steps for a smooth transition include the following:
Visit the school
Visiting the school before the first day can help ease your child’s anxiety about starting school. Seeing the building, meeting some of the faculty or their teacher, knowing where they will eat lunch, and how to pick up and drop off will work can help your child feel more confident on their first day.
Helping your child deal with first-day-of-school nerves with a school visit will help them focus on other things, like connecting with new friends and adjusting to new teaching styles and curricula.
Notice what students are wearing
Try to notice or ask what students typically wear to school. If visiting during a school break, ask if there are any current sessions you can observe or a recent yearbook. Noticing what students wear and carry will help ensure your child doesn’t stand out more than necessary on their first day. Finding out the dress code policy will help you shop for school clothes. Also, if the school requires a uniform, find out where to purchase uniform pieces for your children.
Make sure your child has the right supplies
Find out what supplies are necessary and make sure your child has all supplies ahead of time. Some schools may provide everything, some require a supply fee, and others may require your child to bring them all on the first day. Ensuring your child has everything they need in advance will help avoid awkward, stressful situations on the first day of school.
Understand the schedule
Being on time or a little early is imperative, especially on the first day. Find out the school schedule, including drop-off and pick-up times and procedures. Older children may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed having a parent at the school.
Understanding the schedule will help you and your student coordinate when and where to meet. Younger children may be more open to having a grown-up on campus, but arriving on time or a little early will help children of all ages settle into their new environment without any added stress.
Overcoming language barriers
Helping your child learn the local language can help them feel more confident, safe, and secure in their new surroundings. Children often quickly pick up a foreign language when immersed in a new culture.
While learning directions or simple phrases is helpful, conversational language will enhance their communication skills and build confidence. Language classes offer a structured learning environment where students of all ages can learn essential vocabulary and communication skills to help integrate into their new environment.
Making new friends
Making new friends is essential to starting a new school and transitioning to a new country. Helping your children establish new connections and find a few school friends will help them feel at home in their new surroundings while at school and at home.
Arranging playdates for younger kids or allowing older children to invite classmates over can help establish friendships. Going to local playgrounds or signing up for sports or other activities can also help kids make connections.
Parents and students are bound to face challenges when starting a new school in another country. Common challenges include language barriers, making cultural adaptations, establishing friendships, and academic expectations. Time and patience go a long way when facing these challenges with your children.
Encouraging cultural sensitivity and inclusiveness is crucial for a smooth transition into school and social life. Another common challenge families face when transitioning to a new country is homesickness. Missing home, friends, and family left behind can be hard. Open communication and creating a safe space to express homesickness can help children process their feelings.
Overall success for your children involves parents’ and kids’ willingness to jump in and learn as much as possible about your new country. Paying close attention to cultural differences, including behavior, customs, and fashion, will help a school transition. When moving to a new country, family and home life become an even more critical source of stability than before. Maintaining routine communication and staying patient during the transition will help set up your children for success in their new school.