Are you moving overseas with your family?

Today, it’s very normal for teachers to move overseas with their families that include school-age children. Moving abroad is a big family decision, but it can give your child opportunities that they can't get at home, such as quality education, exceptional lifestyle opportunities, and a true international dimension to learning and life. Once you have decided to make the move with your family, how do you ensure that your child will cope with the transition? We share some tips:

Research the pastoral care provided at the school

Many international schools have an onsite guidance counsellor and/or a pastoral head of year, and many schools have a buddy system for new children. Some schools are much better than others at helping new children settle.

Arrange to meet the appropriate leaders of your child’s school

The more the school knows about your child, the better they can support them. At this meeting schedule follow-up meetings with the Headteacher and phase leader so that you can be sure of regular updates on your child’s progress as they settle into their new school.

Expect to be invited to school social events

If your child is joining an international school where many expatriate children attend, then expect the school to be the social, as well as the learning, centre for the community. Expatriate parents are often far more involved with school activities, there may be regular family-oriented events, and usually plenty of opportunities for parents to volunteer support. This helps everyone to settle in quickly and easily. Don’t be surprised if all the children in your child’s class are expected to be invited to birthday parties, not just a few! It’s also good to be aware that some parents use these events to discuss school issues.

Be prepared to offer ongoing support to your child

Parents often underestimate the impact that an international move has on a child – of any age. Your child may need more ongoing support than you think. The first few weeks are new and different which means they can be very exciting for a child. This is a time when you should help your child meet lots of other children outside school to find new friends. Making time for multiple playdates and social activities with other families with children of similar ages to your child is important at this early stage.

It can be a few weeks into term when the reality of the move kicks in. This can be when your child may find it most difficult, especially if they’re missing friends and family from home and are still finding their feet or new friends in their new location. That’s when they may need more of your help and understanding.

Learn some phrases in the local language

Once you’ve arrived in your new country, use the local language when you can and encourage all of your family to do the same. This will not only help you all to settle in with the local community but will also show your child what a difference making an effort with your local language can make.

Research local clubs and activities

With your child, research sport and social clubs in the local community that they may want to get involved with. It’s a great way to get to know people and it’s always fun to try new activities as well as continue with old favourites.

Plan a visit from a family member or a trip back home

When you move, you may want to plan some things for the near future to help your whole family make the transition easily. This may include a visit from grandparents, another family member or close friends. Or knowing when you will be returning for a holiday back home can be very important for a child. Usually, after they’ve been back home once, that helps a child to settle easier into their new surroundings. They could start making an album of pictures and clippings representing their new life to show everyone back home.

Occasionally grandparents accompany the family in the first few weeks of the move. This can be very helpful for parents, as there’s a lot of running around to do, and visits to various ministry departments, that are not that interesting for children.

Don’t forget it may be harder for teenage children to adjust

Don’t forget teenagers can experience more problems with making a long-distance move than younger children as they will be losing contact with well-established friends and moving from environments in which they feel very familiar and secure. Help your teenager to keep the communication lines accessible with their friends at home. Make phone, social networking and email communication a priority once you arrive in your new home but also encourage them to make time to meet new friends too.

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