Moving With Kids ~ 5 Tips To Changing Schools And Making It Easier

Moving or relocating to a new country can be daunting and especially so if children are involved. The primary concern of most parents to ensure that the kids get adjusted to the new environment, schools and friends. Here are 5 steps that you can take to make the transition easier for your kids:

Preparing Your Kids: One of the first steps that you will need to take is to have a frank chat with your child about the upcoming move. Talk to them openly and honestly about why the family needs to move. If it’s due to a career decision then articulate it in terms of the longer term benefits for the family as a whole, if it’s due to aging parents then let the children know that you are making some tough choices to be close to your parents. Ultimately their little world is going to change dramatically and it will help them if you can clearly lay out the reasons and benefit of the move.

Prior to talking to your kids you may also want to do research on some of the things that you know will come up. For instance, my son is an avid fan of American football. Now I knew that the place we were going to did not have too many people who followed the game. But I was able to research centers where kids play baseball (which is my son’s second favorite sport) and so was able to bring that up when he raised concerns about being able to pursue his sport. Kids need some reassurance about continuity so the more groundwork that you can do on the types of activities that they can pursue the better you can address their concerns.

Also, if you have a rough idea of the demands of the schooling system in your new destination and feel like your child may need some assistance in areas such as Math/Languages, you can start laying the ground work and enroll them in a Kumon or any such program before you leave.

Choosing the Curriculum: Depending on the demand for good schools in the place you are going to you may have more or less time to nail down the school for your kids. Some countries have long wait lists especially for Montessori, private or international schools. One of the first decisions you will likely have to make is choosing the curriculum – this is an important decision since much of the schooling experience of your child will be based on the curriculum. One of the factors that comes into play when choosing a curriculum are the length of time in a particular country – if you or your spouse’s job requires constant relocation then choosing a curriculum like International Baccalaureate (IB) or Cambridge may offer your child a more consistent experience . If you’re abroad only for a short while and are planning to return to your home country soon then you can choose to enroll your child in a school that offers the same curriculum. Alternatively, you could use the opportunity to let your child gain the experience of a different curriculum. For instance, I have seen kids who have moved to the US for a year or two being very happy in a local public school and then making a successful transition to another curriculum a few years later. The one thing you might want to keep in mind is that it’s important to make the transition as easy for your child as possible in the initial days. So choosing a curriculum that is of a similar style/approach at the beginning may be easier for your child to handle than plunging him into a totally different or a far more demanding system. For example, when relocating to Asia, I have seen some families placing their kids in an international school for a couple of years and then making the switch to a local curriculum once the kids were well-adjusted to the new setting.

Other factors to keep in mind are also are the admission requirements in schools. Even after assessments and interviews your child may not be guaranteed a place in a school if there’s a long wait list. In such cases, it’s important that early in the game you/your spouse talk to the Human Resources of the company you are moving with to see if they have any debentures associated with specific schools and if not whether they have some way to assist you financially or otherwise in the school process.

Try to Do A ‘Look-See’: To the extent possible, try to take your kids on a trip to the new destination before you actually move. Time and again, we have heard from parents on how it helps ease the transition and allay the fear of the unknown. Even if your company will not sponsor a trip it will help to go on your own and visit the prospective schools as well as homes. Some schools will allow your child to sit through a class so your kid can get a good feel of the environment. More than anything, a trip ahead of the big move can help set expectations and your kids will at least have a rough idea what it’s going to be like living in the new country.

Settling In: Kids will have their own timelines to adjust and settle in. It may take around 6-9 months (depending on their age) for your kids to feel at home in their new setting. While they’re very young, they may take their cues from the adults and if the parents are happy, it may make their adjustment easier. However, beyond 5-6 years, kids have their own personality and interests – so don’t assume that just because the rest of the family is happy, they will also settle down quickly. Give them the time to adjust and let them know that it’s ok to miss their previous home and friends. But in doing so, avoid telling your child that the move is temporary (if it is). Kids too will need to compromise to settle into a new place and if they get the impression that it’s only for a short period they may be unlikely to make the effort for instance, to overcome language barriers.

Keep In Touch with ‘Home’: Even If you’re relocating back to your own country, your child may still consider ‘home’ to be the country where he moved from. So try to keep in touch with some of the traditions, sports and other facets that your child associated with. For instance, if you are moving out of the US to another country try and see if you can celebrate occasions dear to children such as Halloween. Similarly, subscribe to TV channels that may show sports that your child has grown up with. The more you can help your child maintain touch with stuff that is familiar while trying out something new, the easier it will be for your child to ease into the new setting.

Moving to different locations and cultures provide excellent opportunities for your children to develop different perspectives and to learn how to get along with different people. It’s not always easy but as a parent there are a few steps that you can take. By being honest with them, doing your research, setting expectations and giving them time, you can ease their transition and help them settle successfully into their new environment.